One of the few sports in which statistics might actually lie about the quality of performance from a team and player is soccer, and to think Frank Lampard performed well last season for Chelsea because of the number of goals he scored would be a misleading fact.
You don’t score 15 goals without being any good, even if quite a lot of these goals came from the penalty spot. Lampard was threatened by managers of finding his way out of the club all season long, but eventually lasted the season and ended up lifting another European trophy along with John Terry.
But as much as his goals were important, his declining ability to influence the match in the middle of the pitch, playing in a role he’s less comfortable with which has a lot to do with defending and being less adventurous with the ball stood out more to those who weren’t blinded by the scoring.
Lampard was a huge part of Jose Mourinho’s first era of success at Chelsea, even though he wasn’t signed by him. It’s hard to believe Mourinho will forget about him completely once the season begins, even if he hasn’t brought on a quality central midfielder to help the team in their weakest area from last season. However, his role will continue to reduce, as expected from a 35-year old.
Frank can’t play 60 matches like he did before, but the quality of the player and what he represents for the way I like to play football is exactly the same. He’s intelligent, he’s open, he has a very good relationship with me. He knows that I’m very experienced and he knows what I did, for example, with Makelele at Chelsea. In the last two years of Makelele’s time with us, he played a lot of games in the end years of his career and had success.
I believe he is the same player now, but there is a difference. He is 35 and the time needed to recover from match to match is not the same for a man of 25 as a man of 35. That’s the only point. Now we have to analyse the fixtures, analyse the matches, analyse the week we have and to make a few choices.
But it’s not just about the amount of matches Mourinho uses Lampard in, but about the roles and the opposition he faces. Lampard played in a more attacking role before the arrival of Juan Mata, and being pushed back to central midfield might help him go a bit more unnoticed as he pushed up into the box, but it can be a tactical weakness for Chelsea and even more than that, as his ability to handle strong midfield units in terms of physicality and speed has never been a strong suit of his, and it’s gotten worse with time.
Lampard has a part left to play, but a small one. Maybe his influence and leadership are the best things he has left, because no matter how Mourinho spins it, if he plans on playing the best footballers he has, on most days Lampard won’t be included on that list.