By David Lynch at Goodison Park
It was telling that, 90 minutes into a game in which he had scored two goals, 34-year-old Frank Lampard was the only Chelsea player sprinting across the pitch to cover a gap in midfield created by a cross-field pass.
This was a man who has always given his all proving that there was still plenty in the tank – a truth which doubtless applies to the long term as his career reaches its twilight. The Blues would do well to heed this reminder; one which arrived just 24 hours prior to the Englishman’s contract entering a stage at which he can negotiate with other European clubs.
His whole performance at Goodison Park, as daunting a venue as the Premier League provides, typified the qualities which still make him a valuable asset. His work-rate, touch and intelligence shone through during a game which was largely fought out with brawn rather than brains, as his clever contributions transcended the battle of wills taking place around him.
|LAMPARD'S KEY MATCH EVENTS|
In fact, much has been made of the importance of Benitez solving the ongoing Fernando Torres problem, but the work which has gone into remixing the midfield blend has had a far bigger impact on his team.
The introduction of the energetic David Luiz and use of Juan Mata as a hard-working attacking midfielder rather than a genuine No.10 has galvanised a previously problematic engine room. Lampard is now free to work as a ball-recycling middle man – a job which he arguably does better than anyone else when on form.
Of course, there are several other upsides to reinstating Lampard beyond just his obvious quality as a footballer.
He evidenced one important characteristic – calmness under pressure - as those around him lost their heads following Steven Pienaar’s early opener on Sunday afternoon. Chelsea could quite easily have been rattled and gone on to lose the game after suffering such a blow but were dragged on by their captain’s hard work and lucidity on the battlefield.
The Romford-born playmaker also represents a vital ally to Benitez as he looks to win over a dressing room which has been ‘lost’ eight times since September 2007. Lampard, along with John Terry, is a big personality and a vital part of the social dynamic at a club he has so long represented, he could be key to ensuring Benitez remains longer than his title suggests.
The fact that the 52-year-old will be well aware of that hints at his adroitness for dressing room politics and man management – a talent he has been wrongly criticised for lacking in the past. Regardless, the Madrid-born tactician will care little what is thought of him if Lampard and Chelsea continue to fire.
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