A fifth defeat in eight league games has left Frank Lampard teetering on the brink at Chelsea.
The threat of Roman Abramovich's axe weighs heavily on the manager's shoulders, with the Blues languishing in eighth - nine points behind leaders Leicester, and five adrift of the Champions League places.
Lampard has coaxed little improvement despite a huge £230m outlay on glittering new talent last summer, with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz struggling in particular.
After going top with victory over Leeds on December 5, it has been a worrying slide for Chelsea, who have lost five of their last eight games.
There are winnable home games against Wolves and Burnley coming up before the end of the month, but they may come too late to save Lampard.
Sportsmail take a look at how Lampard is coming up short in the Stamford Bridge dugout...
No improvement after big investment
After navigating through Chelsea's transfer ban and delivering continued Champions League football, Lampard achieved the minimum requirement in his first season.
Spending £230m in the summer raised the bar of expectations, and Lampard was not blind to this in September.
'I'm very aware that a club like Chelsea, even though we had a transfer ban, even though the year was difficult, expectations are going to go up hugely,' said Lampard.
'And I just have to accept that as part of the job, and try and go about my job as well as I can... Because the tough times will come.
But now he is rowing back, insisting the difficult times were inevitable because 'it's not a club ready to compete'.
After defeat at Leicester he said: 'We are not in the same position Chelsea were when we were winning titles. The consistency, the robustness, the level of experience of winning Premier Leagues is not the same.'
Chelsea are three points worse off than at this stage last season and, crucially, they were in the top four after 19 games in 2019-20, instead of lagging behind as they are now.
On the surface of it Roman Abramovich is simply not seeing any discernible return on his investment. Lampard is no stranger to the board room dynamics at the club - he saw plenty managers come and go on his watch as a player.
Still no home for Havertz
Chelsea beat competition from across Europe as they splashed out a club-record £89m on Kai Havertz in September.
Signing the 21-year-old was a statement of intent from Chelsea, the surest sign of the shift in expectations from 12 months before.
But the former Bayer Leverkusen wonderkid looks utterly lost in England. A bout of coronavirus in November certainly did not help, as Lampard has been all too keen to stress.
'Just as Kai was just coming to terms with the Premier League and he had some really good performances with us he got Covid and he had Covid quite severely as I think people are really starting to open up about now,' he said earlier this month.
'He definitely has had a bit of a fallout with that physically and I speak with him a lot and we know that. It is something we are trying to help him to deal with.
'Yeah, the expectation around him you have to put context into the story. Kai's talent is undoubted. I see that every day. Giving him the time to adapt to the Premier League and to our team is crucial.
'I have full belief in him. We need to give him that time, particularly because of the Covid situation, that is a problem. That is not a non-issue; it is an issue that is related beyond his illness.'
Havertz has only one goal in 16 Premier League appearances, and Lampard seems no closer to working out how to get the best out of one of the most exciting talents in world football.
He has been shunted around midfield and the forward lines, while Tuesday night was his first start in the league in over a month. It looks more and more like Chelsea exploited an opportunity to gazump their rivals by splashing out on Havertz, rather than identifying him as a part of a wider grand plan.
Werner out of position and shot of confidence
Timo Werner was an early acquisition in the summer, announced in June even before the Premier League season had restarted following the initial covid hiatus.
At 24 and after 95 goals in 159 appearances for RB Leipzig, he looked ready to explode at the next level.
But, as with Havertz, it seems that Chelsea's planning for how to get the best out of a a dynamic, pacey and lethal finisher was limited. Werner is Chelsea's most expensive forward player following his £53m move, yet the forward line has hardly been built around him.
He has often found himself playing on the left-hand side, with Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud used in the middle. He gained his reputation at Leipzig as the main central striker, or even playing deeper just off a focal point.
There has been little of that at Chelsea and it is having a visible effect. He looks sheepish and there is little aura around him now. His miss at Fulham, when played through on goal, was startling.
It was not his first big miss of the season, but showed that what was considered to be his bread and butter is becoming harder and harder. His confidence has been shot to pieces, as seen in two cameo appearances off the bench in the last two games.
Lack of consistency in defensive selections
Chelsea's fourth-place finish last season came in spite of any semblance of defensive solidity. Lampard's men were brittle at the back and conceded a staggering 54 times.
Summer spending initially concentrated on accentuating the attack instead of plugging the holes at the back. Ben Chilwell finally arrived to provide attacking thrust from the flank, Thiago Silva was brought in on a free transfer as the veteran leader to sort it all out and Edouard Mendy was the solution to the volatile world-record goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Reece James impresses when fit, and seems to have usurped captain Cesar Azpiliceuta as first-choice. He, along with aforementioned trio, have become mainstays, but the identity of the fifth member of the unit is a lottery.
Fikayo Tomori has been bombed out and looks set to leave this month, a move that has been met with skepticism and outright fury by supporters. Antonio Rudiger was relegated to fifth-choice and on the verge of being pushed out of the door in October, but has suddenly reappeared and started three of Chelsea's last four Premier League games.
Andreas Christensen started the season, but has played in only one league game since October. Lampard seemed to have plumped for Kurt Zouma as Silva's regular partner, but has been benched for the last two.
Lampard will continue to be undermined the longer he doesn't find and stick to a consistent formula in defensive selection.
As if five centre-backs doesn't prove the point enough, Lampard just has too many players on the books.
Jose Mourinho was the master at keeping everyone happy and on side during his first spell at Chelsea. But Lampard is struggling to have the same impact. The treatment of Rudiger and the bust-up with Marcos Alonso after he was hauled off at half-time of the early season draw at West Brom point to problems behind the scenes.
Pedro and Willian left, but no other senior players departed in the wake of the major summer outlay.
From Hakim Ziyech to Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi there is a surfeit of wide players, without taking into account where Werner has operated for much of the season. Werner is also competing with Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham for the role of the lone striker.
Both Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso are jostling for the back-up spot behind first-choice left-back Chilwell. Kepa is the most expensive goalkeeper in the world but warms the bench. Jorginho is still vice-captain at the club but struggles to get a consistent run of games together and was heavily linked with an exit last summer.
Reluctance to take responsibility
Lampard has been keen to protect his players throughout his time at Chelsea, but the mask has slipped in recent weeks as the results have nosedived.
Defeat at Wolves in December, which followed the loss at Everton which snapped the unbeaten run, saw Lampard publicly call out his players for getting complacent.
'At 1-0 we should see the game out. If you're not playing that well – which we weren't tonight – then hang on to 1-0. Play and control the game, don't allow counter-attacks and we did.'
'Performance. Performance is what gives you results and we were playing very well, long unbeaten run, and then maybe the lads think we're playing well. And the minute you think you're playing well, things like this can happen.'
A brutal Boxing Day defeat at a previously woefully out-of-form Arsenal prompted Lampard to brand his players as 'lazy'.
'Not good enough. First half not good enough. Second half, yeah, good enough, but mountain to climb and when you attack a game the way we did – attack is definitely the wrong word – but things like the Saka goal happen, because you don't deserve luck.
'We fought second half, the people that came on added speed, energy, intensity into our game, but that should be a given from the start. I don't know. That's one for the players. I'll take responsibility on the outside, but the players have to take the responsibility.
'The message was clear: this is a dangerous game for us, talented team, back against the wall, London derby. We were in a good position where we could go second, and they're in a position where they're maybe looking downwards.
'That's a dangerous combination, the players knew that, we prepared for the game. But if you go out and play at 60 per cent or 70 per cent, or a few players play at that level, you're not going to win any Premier League game.'
The following weekend Chelsea found themselves 3-0 down to Manchester City inside the opening 40 minutes. Lampard's decision to almost dare his players into a reaction has not brought any upturn in performances or results.
No match for their rivals
Most damning of all for Lampard is Chelsea's limp showings against their rivals.
This season they have scored just once against the top six - a consolation goal in stoppage time against Manchester City, who had already eviscerated them on the break in the first half.
And they have won just once all season against a team in the top half - which came against West Ham at home last month, a team hardly famed for consistency of position or results.
Liverpool swatted Chelsea aside on the second weekend of the season, with Lampard's men providing meek resistance once they were reduced to 10 men. Arsenal were at their lowest ebb under Mikel Arteta before Chelsea showed up at the Emirates over Christmas. Arsenal are now only two points back on their London rivals.
City obliterated them at Stamford Bridge, while Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cancelled each other out earlier in the season out of fear of losing. It was a similar story when Jose Mourinho's Tottenham came to town.
Vulnerable at set pieces - and opponents know it
Chelsea's vulnerabilities become even clearer when they are so openly talked about by the opponents.
James Maddison's words after the game on Tuesday night are damning, and should embarrass Lampard, when he revealed that Leicester had spotted Chelsea 'switched off' at set pieces.
In the sixth minute, the Blues fell asleep when Maddison and Marc Albrighton worked a short corner on the right, with the cutback eventually reaching Wilfried Ndidi, who crashed the ball in from just outside the area.
Maddison admitted: 'We worked on it. We looked at Chelsea, little short corners — they switch off sometimes from set pieces and we knew that was something we could pick up on.'
It was a point reinforced by Jamie Redknapp after the game, when he opened fire on Reece James, that Chelsea's players are forgetting the 'basics of football'.
He said: 'When you are a right back, Gary Neville's first thought would have been what is the worst-case scenario? James gambles - you cannot gamble as a defender.
'I'm not trying to dig him out, he is knowledgeable, but it is the basics of football - he walks, then jogs, then sprints because there is a panic.
'I see players flying forward but jogging back, too many times that happened. If he wants to get better, he needs to learn from this.'
It points to a wider mentality problem that is simply not being addressed by the manager.
Leaky on the road
Shipping two at Leicester took Chelsea's total number of conceded goals in away games under Frank Lampard to 50 in 29.
That's a staggering 1.7 per game. The improvements that first arrived when Edouard Mendy replaced Kepa have disappeared.
It was only four months ago that Chelsea were 3-0 down at West Brom inside 27 minutes and had conceded the most goals on the road of any Premier League team since the 2019-20 season.
It points to Lampard's wider struggle to find the right balance between attack and defence. There were encouraging signs in the goalless draw at Old Trafford in October, but it came at the abandonment of any attacking ambition.
And when that onus is on them, the errors and sloppiness return.
No style or identity
After 18 months at Chelsea what is there that distinguishes Chelsea, and specifically Lampard's Chelsea, from others? It is hard to say.
There is a base inclination to play attacking football, to be aggressive without the ball and remain on the front foot. But there doesn't feel like an overarching commitment to it.
Roy Keane said this month that Lampard 'won't get the time that Klopp got', which is true. It is also true that Liverpool had shown far more evolution and developed far more of an obvious identity in 18 months under Klopp than Lampard has managed at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard is not the first manager to struggle with imprinting a philosophy on this club. Andre Villas-Boas was sent packing within nine months and Maurizio Sarri was despised, despite delivering Europa League glory.
Keane also said: 'He's new to it. He's 42 years of age. Klopp came from Dortmund and won big prizes over there. He's up against all these managers – Ancelotti, Mourinho, Guardiola. These guys have got CVs behind them.'
Again, this is true. But all the managers he named, bar Ancelotti - whose distinguishing feature is more expert man management - had developed identities and were making strides at this stage of their careers.
Lampard's struggles against his peers points to this. Finding the balance between attack and defence has proved beyond him. They either create nothing and grind out draws - like at Old Trafford and against Tottenham - or leave the door wide open and get torn apart - like against Arsenal and Manchester City.
He has wanted to commit to a back four all season, and refused to revert to the back three which seemed to better suit his personnel last season. In the opposing dugout on Tuesday night was Brendan Rodgers, who has shown time and time again he is one of the leading lights among young British managers. Lampard still has a way to go.