Thursday, May 21, 2009

Europe's Best 'Johnny on the Spot'

I have often been unfair on Frank Lampard in the past and I have perhaps gone to the extent of deriding his talents, especially when comparing him with Steven Gerrard, but with Lampard having another cracking year in the middle of Chelsea’s midfield, I must admit I have warmed to the extraordinary skills that Lampard possesses. Over the last few years, Lampard has proven to be one of the most consistent players in Europe with his goals from midfield contributing immensely to Chelsea’s success. His goals may not be quite as spectacular as the ones that Gerrard conjures up, but he certainly has the unique ability to find space in the opposition’s box, which ensures that he enjoys one of the best goals to games ratio in Europe for a midfielder. Lampard has this outstanding ability to arrive late in the box and in the process find just the kind of space that can cause maximum damage. Lampard’s finishing may not be the best, but his undying work rate ensures that he constantly supplies his teams with the goals.  Always barraged by opposition fans, Lampard has managed to go about his football with minimum fuss and with magnanimity unknown to the majority of today’s stars.

I must state that it is no more than mere coincidence that I have managed to eulogise Lampard a few days after Sir Alex Ferguson has waxed lyrical about the Englishman. That apart, I believe it is time to recognise the supreme ability that Frank Lampard contains. A box to box midfielder, Lampard rarely gets into disciplinary trouble and is quietly dignified in his on-field behaviour, something which cannot be said about some of his teammates in the Chelsea line-up. I have always felt that Lampard falls short of Steven Gerrard, in terms of ability and that the two are incompatible with each other meaning that they cannot be picked to play together in the English team. I must admit though that Fabio Capello has proved many of the sceptics such as me wrong by implementing a system that is capable of utilising the talents of both Gerrard and Lampard.

Much of this new found compatibility has come from Lampard’s increased tactical awareness and ability to adapt to different systems of play. I didn’t think Lampard would be able to add an extra dimension of discipline to his midfield play, but over the last year or so, the Londoner has certainly managed to mould himself into one of the most complete midfielders of the world. In a day and age when teams are moving towards striker-less formations, goals from midfield could be more crucial than ever before and there is perhaps nobody better than Lampard at providing that. I opined in one of my earliest posts that Lampard and Gerrard are far too similar to play in the same team, but with Lampard adding a great deal of discipline to go with his terrific dynamism, as Capello has shown, there could well be a way to accommodate the talents of these two extraordinary footballers. Although this accommodation has seen Gerrard pushed to the left for England, come the World Cup, we could well see Rooney occupying the left wing with Gerrard supporting the centre-forward and Lampard holding in the centre along with either one of Carrick or Barry. Playing these magnificent footballers together could cause some of them to give up aspects of their play, but it will at least ensure that their supreme abilities are not put to complete waste.

In spite of Lampard’s absence from the PFA Player’s Player of the Year Award shortlist, I would agree with Lampard’s own assessment that this season has been his best thus far. He has always had the goals in him, but the current campaign has seen him mature into a more tactically aware footballer which is making him contribute to Chelsea in a range of manners. Managers have come and gone at Stamford Bridge, but Lampard continues to remain Chelsea’s metronome. Lampard’s relentless hunger and determination could prove crucial not only in Chelsea’s quest to regain dominance, but also in England’s mission to put up a performance of repute in next year’s World Cup. 

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