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Chelsea Legend Appears To Be Rapidly
Approaching His Sell-By Date
Can Chelsea continue to ‘carry’ 35-year-old Frank Lampard?
Writing off Frank Lampard can be a
dangerous game, and one that’s been
played before. On previous occasions he’s
managed to prove people wrong, but his
performances so far this season have been
particularly poor. Goals aren’t always the
best way to judge a central midfielder, but
Lampard is an exception; two from 19 is a
pretty poor return for him, but crucially,
the rest of his game has also dipped.
If you were to judge Lampard’s football on
pure numbers, he’s had a hugely successful
career. He is Chelsea’s leading goalscorer with
205 goals, the highest scoring midfielder in
Premier League history with 155, as well as
chalking up the second highest number of
assists with 94. You can’t take anything away
from those achievements but there’s always
been a bit of a question mark over the rest of
If you’re a winger or striker, the most
important thing is the end product – goals and
assists. That’s what you’re in the side for. For
a central midfielder, these should be seen as a
bonus. A midfielder’s main job is to control a
game, and this is where Lampard often comes
up short. For some reason, his goals and
assists often means people gloss over his
inability to control games. The same thing
happens with Ryan Giggs when he plays in
central midfield, while Raul Meireles was
another who often contributed very little but
popped up with key goals.
In his prime Lampard was always helped by the
4-3-3 formation Chelsea employed, which
played to his strengths – an incredible engine
and great finishing ability. It didn’t matter if
he wasn’t defensively strong or couldn’t
dictate a game’s tempo, as he had Claude
Makelele and Michael Ballack alongside him.
He could focus purely on getting in and around
the opposition penalty box. Another huge asset
was having someone like Didier Drogba who
could hold the ball up for Lampard, or take
multiple defenders away with him.
Over the last couple of years, Chelsea’s change
of system and his ageing legs have meant he’s
played deeper. He’s been given more defensive
responsibility, asked to try and control the
tempo of games, whilst still occasionally
getting forward. To some extent he’s adapted,
and was still able to contribute goals last
But against top quality opposition, his
weakness in this system gets found out. A
prime example was the Champions League
Final against Bayern Munich – until the penalty
shoot-out, he was totally anonymous and part
of the reason Bayern controlled the game.
In last season’s FA Cup quarter final against
Manchester United, Chelsea only started
gaining a foothold after he was replaced by
John Obi Mikel – the Nigerian’s greater
defensive nous allowing Ramires to push on.
Against Newcastle at the weekend, Lampard
was again played in the double pivot. His pass
completion rate was only 72% and he made a
grand total of zero tackles – both are
unforgiveable for someone playing in that role.
He could quite easily have popped up with a
crucial goal, been hailed a hero, and his
performance would have been forgotten (by
the media at least), but surely Jose Mourinho
should now realise there are better options for
He is unlikely to feature against Schalke on
Wednesday night and in Ramires and Mikel the
Blues have players offering more energy and
stability. They also have Oscar who has been
tipped for that position – not only does he
have a good defensive workrate which
Mourinho loves, but his creativity could give
Chelsea something they don’t have in the
middle of the park. David Luiz is another
option, although like Juan Mata, he doesn’t
seem a Mourinho favourite.
Somebody else who might want to consider a
change is Roy Hodgson. Leaving Lampard out
of the World Cup squad may seem unthinkable
and would be a sad way to probably end his
international career. But the 35-year-old
basically plays the same deep-lying role as
Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick – and
those two are far better equipped.
There doesn’t seem any point in taking all three
of them to Brazil, when a spot could be given
to a different, more unpredictable type of
player such as Ross Barkley or Ravel Morrison.
Hodgson should also bear in mind that
Lampard flopped at his two previous World
Cups in 2006 and 2010 – not only were his
performances poor, but even his trademark
goals were missing. And to be honest, if
Lampard isn’t scoring, he’s not offering
anything others aren’t.