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Why Abramovich is so determined to drive Lampard out of Chelsea

If any Chelsea fan is baffled by Roman Abramovich's approach to Frank Lampard's contract, they need just look across town to White Hart Lane.

After an early stumble, Andre Villas-Boas is doing everything at Tottenham that Abramovich was convinced he was capable of as Chelsea manager. And whether it was by fault or design, Lampard has been fingered as part of the clique that stood in the way of the owner's grand plan of regeneration.

Where AVB was met with resistance at Chelsea, he's been encouraged by the senior players' group at Spurs. In contrast to the confrontation and ridicule he suffered through at Stamford Bridge, there's been understanding and professionalism from the Spurs squad.

It won't have been lost on Abramovich that unlike his Chelsea counterparts, Brad Friedel not only accepted being phased out for Hugo Lloris by AVB, but actually publicly supported the decision. The Portuguese is now winning over a skeptical London press. Indeed, just in the last week he left a great impression on the world-weary pack when asking after Brian Glanville's poorly wife at the end of his regular presser.

The Spurs manager is showing all the qualities that Abramovich's own research had led him to paying Porto a record £13.3 million to bring the former scout back to London. Add the £8 million shelled out in compensation to Villas-Boas after his dismissal - and its been a massively expensive failure for the Russian.

But, despite the huge outlay, for the billionaire, it was an even greater personal blow. AVB was his bet. Jose Mourinho was recommended by super agent Pini Zahavi, ex-chief executive Peter Kenyon pushed Luiz Felipe Scolari's name and Carlo Ancelotti was recommended by former football director Frank Arnesen.

Villas-Boas was Abramovich's man. Before his appointment, the pair had sat down to discuss overhauling an ageing squad, driving through a new club culture and improving the style of play. But they hadn't reckoned on the hold the senior players had on the club.

At Spurs, free of the obstruction, Villas-Boas has thrived. Making it all the more frustrating for Abramovich is that he's doing so without the need for a football director nor chief executive, which had been partly blamed for his problems at Chelsea.

It all comes back to the player culture at the Bridge.

The Champions League triumph only delayed the inevitable. Didier Drogba was quickly escorted out the building. Lampard and Ashley Cole will be next - and John Terry's days are also surely numbered.

Perhaps the behaviour at Chelsea was no better symbolised recently than by Terry choosing to warm-up for the game immediately after Roberto di Matteo's sacking by wearing the Italian's former No16 shirt. It's staggering that, for all the warnings making their way to the local press from club sources, Terry should still make this show of defiance. How else can Abramovich read the gesture other than a protest against his decision-making? And so similar to all resistance Abramovich saw Villas-Boas experience the previous season.

With less than 18 months on his contract, the fate of the club captain is likely to follow the same as Lampard and Cole's.

The fear that Abramovich's stand will leave Chelsea devoid of leadership is overblown. A quiet transformation has been underway within the Blues dressing room since Drogba's departure. New leaders are emerging. It was Petr Cech who could be heard berating teammates after their defeat to West Bromwich Albion earlier this season. While last week, Branislav Ivanovic had to be calmed down by coaching staff after his calamitous display against Swansea City. Even the intelligent, engaging Juan Mata was spotted gesticulating and demanding better from teammate David Luiz during victory at Stoke City.

A new breed of leadership is developing at Chelsea and if Abramovich gets his way, a new club culture.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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