Merson still convinced Chelsea are title contenders despite Lampard struggles

Paul Merson reckons Chelsea are still in the title race – despite their Premier League form having dropped off a cliff.

Frank Lampard is under pressure ahead of Chelsea's visit to Fulham on Saturday, with his side seemingly in freefall after losing four of their last six games.

The West London side head to Craven Cottage in ninth place, six points behind the top four and 10 points off the summit, having topped the table themselves at one point.

That is despite a summer splurge of more than £200million on players including Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who have so far struggled to adapt.

Merson believes in any other season, Chelsea's points tally would see them in hot water. But with all the main contenders having dropped points, he says a run of wins will put them right back in the mix.

"The way the season is going, if you can win three games on the trot, you're back in the title race," the former Arsenal and England midfielder said in his Sky Sports column.

"Teams are losing games and dropping points left, right and centre. If you put a run of five wins together, you're probably top of the league. That wasn't the case last year."

He added: "If this was Chelsea's points tally last season or the season before, I'd say Chelsea are in trouble. But not this season. They're still in it, big time.

Merson pointed to Manchester United surging to the Premier League summit after being 15th after a dismal start to their season.

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"Manchester United have come from nowhere, chipping away, and all of a sudden they can spread eagle the field if they beat Liverpool. They've just had that bit of luck, starting in November against West Brom, who had a stonewall penalty.

"That's why I still don't think Chelsea are out of it. Whoever you are, put five wins together and you're in it."

There has been speculation in recent weeks that Lampard's job is under threat, with former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko touted as a potential replacement.

But Merson says the club need to have a plan in place that gives Lampard time to work with his expensively assembled squad.

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"If Chelsea don't beat Fulham, should they sack Frank Lampard?" Merson said.

"It depends what Chelsea want this year. It's all right saying: 'Let's get rid of Frank' but who comes in?

"Do they go back in for Rafa Benitez? If you're going to bring in Andriy Shevchenko, what's the difference? It's the same as Lampard – he hasn't managed world-class players, and will need time.

"It's not like you can bring in a Carlo Ancelotti for a quick fix. Sooner or later, there has to be a plan at Chelsea. You can't spend £200m and think you're going to win the league – it doesn't work like that.

"Lampard did a great job last year, and it's the first time he has worked with world-class players. Give him a chance."

Fulham held Tottenham to a 1-1 draw in their hastily rearranged derby on Wednesday.

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