Frank Lampard’s omission from the first eleven against Swansea represents a watershed for him and for Chelsea FC itself. Has his time come to an end? Or is it all a storm in a teacup with Frank just being used more sparingly and wisely? It’s probably a mixture of both.
Yet it’s not just a question of whether Frank has outlived his usefulness. Is it not also a question of whether the team under Andre Villas-Boas has moved on?
Under Mourinho we played deep and used a powerhouse midfield to wear down the opposition. Under this system Frank would run box-to-box and drive forward mopping up any loose balls. His main weapon, one that helped earn him the silver award for the Ballon d’Or in 2005, was timing his runs into the area perfectly and rifling the ball into the net.
The Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba axis became the backbone of our most successful team of all time. Central to its success was Lampard who, aside from his average of 20 goals a season between 2004 and 2010, was voted the Premiership Player of the Decade using the Premier League’s own statistics.
Fast forward to 2011 and it appears that the style of football demanded by Abramovich and implemented by AVB renders Lampard a far more peripheral figure. The swift pass-and-move style, somewhat reminiscent of Barcelona (albeit in its beginning stages), does not ideally suit Frank’s game in the same way that our style in 2006 didn’t suit Shevchenko when he arrived.
That doesn’t make Frank any less of a player (although the media would like to think so) it’s just that this change in style has coincided with Frank’s age starting to catch up with him. Both factors combined have impacted his performances and have seen him dropped for both England and Chelsea.
So where does it leave him, Chelsea and us? It all depends on whether Frank has the maturity to realise that his pivotal role at Chelsea has come to an end and his importance to the team has diminished. Note that I have said ‘team’ and not ‘Club’. Indeed Frank has been a monumental presence as our Club vice-captain and represents himself and the Club impeccably.
If Frank can stomach his declining influence in the same way that an aging rock group can gracefully embrace the downward trajectory of their album sales (Rolling Stones anyone?) then Frank still has a long term future with Chelsea both as a squad player and, eventually, as a coach and manager (or ambassador).
It all depends on whether he is willing to come to terms with his slow decline and not be swayed by media provocation –the media would like nothing better than to hammer Chelsea with a barrel load of ‘Lampard crisis’ stories as typified by The Mail on Sunday’s back page non-story.
Fortunately, Frank possesses an emotional maturity far beyond his years and, in Villas-Boas, he has an equally intelligent manager to oversee the final years of his career. These two factors alone will ensure an excellent future for Frank both as a player and an ambassador for our Club.