If the reports over the last few days were to be believed, Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard was facing the axe from Fabio Capello’s starting lineup in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales on Saturday.
Despite the midfielder leading out England as captain in the last international against Denmark, there had been speculation that Lampard’s time in the Three Lions had reached its twilight as Capello was keen to move the side in a different direction.
Yet, at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday, Lampard displayed the class and consistency of a seasoned pro and put to bed any lingering doubts that remained over his performances for England, after opening the scoring from the penalty spot in a 2-0 win over Wales.
Lampard has featured in 66 of the 69 England internationals that he has been fit enough to play in since 2003 and with 20 goals in 84 appearances, it would seem that Lampard’s consistent presence in the side is to be taken as a given. Yet with the emergence of the youthful and enthusiastic Jack Wilshire and the fine form of the under appreciated Scott Parker, Lampard’s position in the team is under scrutiny and his flaws and inconsistence’s are being highlighted like never before.
There has been a view long held amongst followers of the national side and journalists alike that the midfield pairing of Lampard and Liverpool’s talismanic captain Steven Gerrard is unworkable at international level. Neither player has the discipline or restraint to alter their own marauding individual games to suit the rigid, tactical constraints of the national side it is said. They are simply crushed under the psychological pressure of playing in the Three Lions and the weight of expectation that accompanies them away from the sheltered sanctuaries of Cobham and Melwood.
Yet whilst neither player has excelled as regularly for England as they do for their respective clubs, both have demonstrated that they possess the mental strength and fortitude to prosper in spite of the failures, near misses and bitter disappointments that continue to shackle many of England’s brightest talents. The frustration and disillusionment of the World Cup in South Africa last summer and Lampard’s own neuroses resulting from his wrongly disallowed equaliser against Germany could have broken lesser talents, but Lampard prevailed.
Lampard ‘s premature obituaries in the press this week and his subsequent performance have only served to highlight the midfielder’s importance to the national team. The new found flexibility of Capello’s 4-3-3 formation played to Lampard’s strengths and with his supposed ‘replacement’ in Scott Parker screening the back four and excelling in the holding role, Lampard had the freedom to roam and express himself. Fortune had it’s part to play in the winning of the penalty that Lampard duly converted but that should not take the shine off what was and impressive display.
With Lampard joining his Chelsea team mates John Terry and Ashley Cole in withdrawing from the England squad to face Ghana in a friendly fixture in midweek, the Blues midfielder can turn his attention to domestic and European matters back at Cobham. Chelsea fans can be hopeful that his fine form continues as he looks to lead the club forward into an enthralling title run in and the all important Champions League clashes against Manchester United.