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Unloved but undroppable: Lampard still the man to rescue Chelsea's season

Unloved but undroppable: Lampard still the man to rescue Chelsea's season

Frank Lampard, Chelsea

The relationship between the England international and Andre Villas-Boas appears tense, but the Blues boss must recognise the midfielder is key to him retaining his job in London

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By Ryan Benson

Ever since the summer of 2000, Frank Lampard has been a mainstay in the Chelsea team, becoming one of the most successful players in the club’s history and he currently stands on the brink of being only the sixth player to score 150 Premier League goals.

His first two seasons at Stamford Bridge are the only two years that the England international has failed to reach double figures in the league with his goals for the Blues, making him arguably the main driving force of Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era.

This season has hardly been a smooth ride for Lampard, however. The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as the club’s new manager was met with optimism and the expectation that it could only have positives for the future of the club, as people automatically assumed the young Portuguese boss would be able to impose his style on the team.

Villas-Boas’ preference for youth seems to have affected the role in the squad for many of the senior players, with a power-struggle apparent, but despite the manager’s often over-eagerness to drop Lampard, he keeps proving his resilience and determination by fighting his way back into the side.

TOP OF THE CHARTS

TOP SCORING MIDFIELDERS | 2011-12
PLAYER

LAMPARD
BALE
PILKINGTON
VAN DER VAART
SINCLAIR
GOALS

10
9
7
7
7
The 33-year-old has come in for criticism from the media and pundits alike this term, with the suggestion being that he hasn’t been as effective as perhaps he has been in recent years, and maybe that is true in terms of his involvement in the team’s general play, but his stats still make for impressive viewing despite approaching the twilight of his career.

From 22 league matches Lampard has four assists and 10 goals, making him Chelsea’s top scorer and their best source of goals. He already has as many strikes in the Premier League as he managed last season and has played two matches less, but still his manager seems less than impressed.

Throughout the season, Villas-Boas has reiterated how his players are behind him and the media have exaggerated any stories of disharmony, but Lampard admitted himself that the relationship between the two is “not ideal” and now he is the player who the Portuguese coach must place his utmost faith in if he is to save his job.

The change in leadership appears to have made the once indispensable Lampard dispensable, but he remains their one true match winner. Didier Drogba has endured an impotent year, grabbing just four league goals in 16 appearances and the less said about Fernando Torres, the better.

Daniel Sturridge, although exciting on his day, has too often been on the periphery of matches to be held in the same breath as Lampard, and Juan Mata lacks the power and constant goal-threat the England midfielder possesses.

The changing regime at Stamford Bridge seems fairly obvious to those outside looking in. David Luiz’s recent comments to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo are testament to that, as he felt the need to declare that no player had the right to hold a privileged position in the team, with Lampard said to be one of the players in question. At no other time in the Abramovich era have such comments been necessary.

The 90-times capped England international has also fallen out of favour for the national team, with Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry and a fit Jack Wilshere all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order, but he continues to go about his business and is the highest scoring midfielder in the Premier League this season.

Earlier in the season Lampard saw himself sit out the 4-1 win over Swansea. He was back in the team in the Champions League tie against Valencia days later and scored. A few days after that he started against Bolton and bagged a hat-trick in a 5-1 triumph and he once again scored against the Trotters last week following the disappointment of being left out in the defeat to Napoli.

There is the possibility that Villas-Boas is chopping and changing to keep Lampard hungry, making him go out with a point to prove every now and then. It has worked on a number of occasions until now, but there is only so long you can play with fire before you get burnt, and the more the young coach insists on messing Lampard around, the sooner he’ll decide he has had enough.

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