Frank Lampard is a Chelsea legend. He is and will be in the Chelsea hall of fame. He has made some incredible achievements in his 10 seasons at Chelsea which would be hard to beat for any player – 164 consecutive premier league appearances, more than 100 goals, three times Chelsea player of the year, runner-up to the world player of the year award, second in the all-time premier league assists – he’s had an illustrious career and we’ve been a big beneficiary of the same.
I like him very much. I think of him as a model professional. Trains hard, plays hard, makes no excuses, delivers consistently, acts with class and grace – he’s a top professional in this football world where 18-year olds talking and behaving like they’ve won the world cup thrice and as many ballon d’ors.
Basically, I’ve tried to established three things here: (a) We, Chelsea fans and Chelsea FC, owe a lot to Frank Lampard (b) He’s a great bloke, class footballer (c) I love this Lampard. Just wanted to get these things out of the way because obviously this piece is meant to be a critique of the effectiveness and contribution of Frank Lampard these days.
I remember writing a post in August 2007 titled ‘Frank Lampard – How good is he nowadays?’. That was four years back. Lampard was 28 years old then. Jose Mourinho was our manager then who was picking Lampard to start match after match. The question was the same. Excerpt from that article of about 4 years back is below:
If he is not in form, why do we have to play him, especially when you have multiple options for his central midfielder role. Mikel, Diarra or Makelele can be used and given the current set-up they would return the same output that Frank returns. When Ballack returns from injury, only Lampard’s merit, and not anything else, should find his name on the teamsheet. Jose did say that he does not pick the team but the players (and their performance) picks themselves. If this is truly the case, either Lamps should improve or see himself on the bench. And ye, if he has an injury, then what’s he doing on the pitch? He should stay away from playing and aggravating his injury.
What hurts is not his lack of goals or assists but only his loss of possession and that too in very crucial areas that would normally have the opposition cut through you. Someone playing in the midfield role should be lot more wary and careful of what damage they can do to their team. With two in-form wingers and in-form strikers, do we need an attack-minded midfielder or a neutral minded one?
For sure, Jose seems to be thinking the former way and that’s why you still see Frank on the pitch and that too as the captain. If I were Jose, I’d rest (not drop, mind you!) Lampard for a few games and let Essien and Mikel marshal the midfield. But Jose can’t whip him like to does to Mikel. We certainly have to respect a player of Lampard’s calibre and also for his contribution to our achievements. At no cost, Lampard should feel ill-treated for a short loss of form, as he knows he was in top form for successive seasons and he has certainly built up loads of goodwill to his advantage.
In short, rest him for awhile and let someone else play but he’s still a very important player and he is part of the core of our team because he is one of those players who has it ‘in the blood’!
After the above, he returned to form and produced some brilliant performances and even won the Chelsea player of the year award in 2009. By criticising or questioning his performances, neither is he being disrespected or nor is he being written off. Frank should and would come back to form but what’s not acceptable is keeping someone beyond any sort of criticism. Even Terry has been subject to a lot of flak for various reasons including footballing ones. Whereas Lampard has been almost untouchable – both from a selection point of view as well as from a criticism point of view.
I think we’re at a stage where we no longer have the luxury of not talking about this. There are some very important questions that needs to be answered. The way I see it, below are the statements or questions to be considered on the Lampard situation.
Frank Lampard is not in form
Let’s not beat around the bush. He’s not in form. And he’s not been in form for some time now. Different people have different measuring scales for players being in form. For a central midfielder, in my view, what matters is the influence he exerts on our team and our play. Of late, Frank’s influence has been waning. As a key midfielder, he needs to operate as the fulcrum of the team as he has before. Right now, he is mostly invisibile, leave alone influential.
His contribution to the team has been dwindling
Franks’s goals have dried up and so are his assists. If my memory serves me right, he lost his venomous long shot from 06-07 season itself where Essien had to play in defence during our injury crisis in defence. He no longer scores from distance. His free kicks have become very poor that each time we get a free kick I’m hoping with Drogba or Alex takes it. His corners don’t go past the first defender half the time and if they do they’re not threatening. He’s not tackling as much as he used to. Overall, his hard contributions have come down.
He holds too important a position to be not contributing enough
Lampard’s role is so crucial to our playing style. When we’re on the ball, most probably Mikel wouldn’t get involved so much which means Lampard and the other midfielder need to organise the attacks. We can’t afford to have someone at his position/role stay out of form for too long. All those matches where we think we didn’t create enough opportunities, watch out for Frank’s movements and passes.
Are we getting value for the speculated salary of £151k a week?
How many top players can you get at £151k a week? Doesn’t it work out to roughly £8m a year for one player just in the form of wages? That’s a lot of money even for Roman Abramovich. Are we getting performances worth £151k a year? This might sound like a very cold question but trust me at some point these questions will be asked by the club too.
He should be treated with respect and grace
Without doubt. Like I said, he’s a club legend. He needs to be treated with respect. He can’t be told in the morning that he’s not playing in the afternoon. There’s a way to treat legends and he should be dealt with in the same way. We should do it in such a way that undermines his contribution to the club and its successes.
A short break or a rest from starting would definitely rejuvenate him
It’s a simple but effective solution. Anyone who’s going through a rough patch will be benefitted by watching the game from the bench, unless it’s an issue of confidence. For Frank, in my opinion, it’s neither ability nor confidence, it’s just that he’s going through a rough patch just to prove that the law of averages does catch up even on the most consistent performers.
He need not be a constant starter
At 33, Frank should be not be surprised if he’s told that he would be a squad player going forward. That pretty much means that he’s not guaranteed to start every game. He shouldn’t be surprised if he’s not chosen for a game. He should be comfortable to come in as a sub. He should try to contribute to the team whenever he’s given an opportunity.
The one big question is – “Is Frank Lampard so indispensible to the playing eleven that he needs to start every single match?”
Sir Alex has his way of deal with big personalities at Man Utd. We know what he did with legends like Keane, Cantona, Beckham, Nistelrooy etc. Pep Guardiola did it to Eto. Jose Mourinho did it at Inter to Stankovic and Ibrahmovic. When Jose came to Real Madrid, he told Raul and Guti in clear terms that they are not in his first team plans and let them leave. Raul for Madrid is much bigger than Lampard for Chelsea. Probably, Lampard is in the same situation as Raul was, in 2010 August.
The responsibility of dealing with this situation is not with Frank Lampard though. It’s firmly with Andre Villas Boas. The important thing here is Andre Villas Boas is not as big a personality as a Fergie or a Jose or a Pep. He doesn’t have the pedigree as that of those managers to take a big decision in his early days over a fans-favourite and a club hero.
We know that Boas has made some very impressive moves in his first couple of months. He’s taking Chelsea FC in the right direction. I’m extremely excited about Chelsea’s prospects under Boas. One of the key steps in building the Chelsea FC squad for the future is to find a workable solution for the senior players. Players like Frank Lampard are not only the crowd-pullers and the shirt-sellers but also the talismen and symbol of this club. We need their guidance and experience but we don’t play millions just for that. We need performances on the pitch too. Therefore, it’s not going to be an easy job for Boas to resolve this situation.
I know what Boas needs to do. He needs to tell Frank Lampard that he might be a squad player going forward and would be used not as frequently as before. Frank needs to stay motivated and continue to train like nothing’s changed and support and guide the players that are competing for his place. I don’t quite know how Boas would do it. That’s his job. I’m fully confident that he’s very competent and he would deal with this situation very very well. That said, all this is not going to happen in the next few days. It might take weeks. One more midfield signing would almost force the situation.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful. This is not a shameless show of ingratitude. I like Lampard myself. I still have and wear the No.8 jersey. He’s still my screensaver on my macbook. He’s on my lock screen on my iPad and iPhone. I love to play as Frank Lampard in PES. He’s my most favourite Chelsea player. I want Frank to do well, but when he’s not, particularly for long periods, I want that situation to be dealt with.
Now, I’d like to know what’s your take on this topic: