The Blues went into their winter negotiating period intent on adding a striker but they couldn’t complete any deals after talks with Paris Saint-Germain over Edinson Cavani and Napoli for Dries Mertens both went nowhere.
Olivier Giroud remains at the club despite having offers to leave and wanting to depart because Chelsea couldn’t sign a replacement.
The situation is harder to take for the Chelsea manager, who has seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer add one big signing at Old Trafford in the form of Bruno Fernades.
After delivering one of his shortest press conferences of the season to the Premier League broadcasters ahead of his side’s trip to Leicester City, Lampard ultimately opened up on where his club stand after the transfer window shuts on Friday night.
“Every time I look at the television another player signs for a club, that’s the transfer window,” Lampard told reporters at Cobham Training Centre.
“But if I’m looking at it with my business head on and looking around us in the table and I look at Manchester United obviously signing a big, big player, a world-class player, in my opinion. The teams around us, Sheffield United making fantastic signings, Chris Wilder’s job is incredible because he’s had years to work that group and now they’re adding where he sees fit.
“Tottenham have signed a few and they’re not far behind us. And not only have they signed a few, but a couple of players have left were obviously – not being too crude about it – the situation was they were towards the end of their contracts and maybe weren’t happy being at the club any more.
“Sometimes that’s as important as bringing players in. It’s changing the feeling of the group if players are not wanting to be there so that’s obviously smart business on that part.
“Now what remains to be seen will be seen and from my view – and this is not to talk down ourselves because we’re six points clear in fourth – now we become probably the underdogs and the outsiders to some point because the teams around us have strengthened. It’s a fact.”
Chelsea have been inconsistent in January but have managed to maintain a six-point lead on United, Spurs and Wolves, who haven’t been able to capitalise in recent weeks. Still, their extra bits of business are hoped to make the difference in their chase to get in next season’s Champions League.
Lampard predicts some tough times ahead towards the end of the season but he wants the club’s fans to stick by his long-term plan after missing out in a ‘crucial’ transfer window.
“I don’t think there’s any specific point where a deal falls down,” Lampard continued. “It could be early or towards the end but if we haven’t got anything done, that is all that really matters. I’m not surprised because this is football and nothing should surprise me.
“I went through a January window last year [at Derby County] – different circumstances and it was difficult to bring in players. Everyone has their own difficulties in different ways. Let’s not forget it’s a difficult window. I get that.
“And probably for sure the fact we missed the last window made it a bit more crucial for us. Now we have missed two windows. I talk about the trust of the fans there and I still feel it.
“When we lost at home to Liverpool I have never seen a reaction to a home defeat like that. Because the fans are saying, ‘We get it, the players are young and there is a transitional feel about that’. We need that trust more than ever.
“For the next four months because as we have seen in recent games, there have been times when little elements aren’t coming off for us. Finishing being the main one.
“And with young players, as much as I want to sit here and drive and drive them, we have to accept that sometimes there are players who are young, were playing football in the Championship last year, or youth football last year and coming into the first team is very tough for them.
“I know our fans will give us that trust and we certainly need it to keep pushing for that this season. The reality is I have an idea here as well of where I want to get to and I don’t think any knee-jerk reaction from myself or from the club would have been positive either.
“If you are not going to improve and it’s late like that, I don’t even want to listen to that. I want to work to a longer-term plan and have trust in that. Now if you look at the history of clubs, and this club, there are lots of players who moved in that last moment and it didn’t work out and maybe they are on loan, or maybe they are sat in the squad three years later and not playing. And that’s not what I want.
“I want everyone here to absolutely be able to put a shift in and be a positive for the squad. So yes, I wouldn’t want that knee-jerk reaction late signing, if it’s not better than what we have got, for sure.”
Chelsea’s dip in form came after the international break at the end of November where the fixture list gets even more hectic. Some bad displays include matches against lesser opposition like West Ham, Southampton, Bournemouth and Brighton have left some supporters frustrated at their own players.
Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and even 15-goal striker Tammy Abraham have all had periods where they are primary targets of criticism this season. Lampard admits he has had to use them more than he would have liked due to not having the players he wants in all areas of the pitch.
“Possibly there will be that situation. I’ve asked a lot already. At times I haven’t been able to rest in certain areas of the pitch,” he continued.
“If I do rest people question why because some of the young have been the top performers. But I don’t want to make it just about the young. Everybody has to react. Whatever your situation at the club or thinking that’s football.
“Everyone is in a different situation individually. Everyone has to push and be on edge. It can’t be nicey nicey now for us until the end of the season. In every training session and in every game we play, we have to be absolutely on top of ourselves if we want that fourth place.
“I have to be the first person who remains positive, no matter what, and I have to be truthful when I speak out loud. Chelsea fans are sitting listening and I respect them for that and they want the best. We know that recruitment is huge for a team that wants to be successful.
“Look no further than Liverpool and Manchester City in recent years. But it’s a fact. People will get bored if I keep crying about that fact. I have to work. The players have to work. I think at the start of the season a lot of fans, a lot of pundits from the outside, nobody had us in their top four. Nobody.
“I think people were saying ‘maybe if you’re in the top eight we understand, top 10 maybe we understand’. Obviously not fighting relegation but we understand.
“I think now probably because there was a period where we were ahead of the curve expectations were ‘ooh we’re hanging on in fourth that’s not good, that result’s not good’ because expectations change. I get that.
“Expectations change. But the reality is that now that we’re in fourth but it’s going to be a real big fight. And we have to be up for that challenge. Young, middle, more experienced players. But the first person that’s up for that is me.”
Chelsea’s frustrations in the transfer window are further compounded by losing their recent debutant from the academy Tariq Lamptey. He joins Brighton in a £3m deal after having just five months left on his contract and Lampard said the 19-year-old made a choice to push for his exit.
“It’s Tariq’s choice,” he concluded. “Because of his contract situation, it’s his choice if he moves on because he’s out of contract in the summer. It’s something we can’t really control, I suppose.”