Frank Lampard has never been far away from mass debate both on and off the pitch. His selection for the England national team and whether he could operate with Steven Gerrard was usually the biggest selection headache Lamps faced. But now a new era has begun at Chelsea under new gaffer Andre Villas-Boas (AVB) and people are starting to question Lampard’s role in the Chelsea side, and even suggesting that his days at Chelsea are coming to an end despite AVB reassuring everyone Lampard is part of his plans.
For me there is no doubt that Frank Lampard helped establish the benchmark that exists for today’s Premier League midfielders. Since the formation of the Premier League the demands on players as athletes as well as footballers has reached a level never seen before. Lampard, along with Scholes and Gerrard, have carved out a legacy as box-to-box midfielders that can chip in with as many goals as a secondary forward but also pick up the ball deep and influence attacking play.
It seems complete midfielders were hard to find pre-Premier League, players like Paul Gascoigne, Paul Merson and John Barnes were flair midfielders who got goals, but were never in the same category as the all-round midfielders who grace out Premier League now. The game has moved on but is Lampard in danger of being left behind?
Frank Lampard is now 33-years old and an aging relic of a Premier League that has harder physical demands than ever before. The emphasis on physical condition is as important now as a player’s technical ability; if you cannot compete, you have fallen at the first hurdle. Frank may have carried the label ‘Fat Frank’ throughout his career but he is one of the fittest and hardest trainers at Chelsea, so his fitness shouldn’t be in question. However, Lampard only made 30 appearances in all competitions last season, his lowest amount of since the 2007/08 season – this could be the beginning of the end for Frank.
We have seen Steven Gerrard starting to pick up more and more injuries as he approaches the twilight of his career. Paul Scholes had to adapt his game to become a more low-lying midfielder, operating in deeper positions and he also quit England aged only 29 which no doubt helped extend his career; whilst teammates were travelling and playing, he was resting and recouperating. Lampard has already come out and said he still wants to continuing playing for England, but the reality is, like Beckham before him, despite his talent his tenure for England should come to an end if he wants to keep performing to a high standard for his beloved Chelsea.
So, physically he seems pretty fit, despite the odd injury here and there, so is this recent negativity surrounding Lampard just a case of squad rotation? Well this for me is the most likely argument, but in saying that, go back 3 or 4 seasons and what manager would even think about not having Lampard in their team? He has been one of the first names on the Chelsea team sheet for a number of years so something has changed. Players have arrived, but after missing out on Modric the central midfield area should still be all about Lampard in the absence of Essien.
Frank has had his fair share of off-field problems: He had a lot to deal with after his mother passed away and this was a tough period for him, as you would expect. We have also seen Frank in and out of the papers for his off the field antics and his latest relationship with TV presenter Christine Bleakley seems to be a new priority in his life after the pair got engaged. Women can always make men take their eye off the ball, but Lampard should be experienced enough to deal with this by now, as well as the increased media attention.
There is no doubt Frank Lampard’s performance levels have slowly declined over the past season. As to why, we can only speculate. Lampard himself is very honest with himself and aware about his body and that he has to look after himself now more than ever. For me I think times are changing at Chelsea, AVB has initiated a new routine that probably clashes with both Terry and Lampard’s roles behind the scenes at Chelsea.
Lampard has always been on the top table with Terry at the head of Chelsea’s internal hierarchy, maybe this is a big change that we as public cannot see. Despite his public persona, behind the scenes Frank used to swan around the training ground like he owned the place, eating in just a towel as the rest of the squad sat in their tracksuits, expecting people to clear up after him. Maybe it is the influence that AVB is having on the club that will have the biggest affect on Lampard. Whatever the reason, Lampard seems to be on the way out, so enjoy one of the greatest midfielders the Premier League has seen whilst you can.