Lampard must turn his Chelsea disappointment into a positive
Andre Villas-Boas’ first season at Stamford Bridge has seen mini soap operas within the main narrative. Within Chelsea’s flagging performances there have been David Luiz’ erratic displays, Fernando Torres’ alarming depravity of confidence and Frank Lampard finding his new manager’s selection policies mainly disagreeable.
Lampard was left out of his side’s Naples outing on Tuesday but returned to the starting line-up against Bolton. He complemented his return by notching Chelsea’s third goal, as he continues to strive towards proving Villas-Boas wrong. It is hard for any manager to satisfy more experienced players as their desire for playing football does not diminish with age, and club legend Lampard is no exception. Villas-Boas’ own youthfulness as a manager - he is 34 - is often cited to his detriment as the former Porto manager continues to come under heavy pressure and struggles to win the trust of some supporters. The Portuguese, as to be expected, is attempting to put his stamp on his new project, but trying to inject his footballing ideology has meant less match-time for more established players like Lampard.
Many have observed that Lampard has not taken his relegation to the bench with grace, something his body language and general demeanour only enhance. It can also be argued however that Villas-Boas’ tendency to omit him is only spurring the midfielder on. Lampard’s consistency has never been in question and is one of his strongest assets. It is relevant that his latest strike means he is the first Chelsea player to reach double figures in the Premier League. He now holds this record for Chelsea for nine consecutive seasons. With age however comes an unavoidable regression in fitness and such players are inevitably used more sparingly. Lampard should look to players such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher as examples. Each of them accept that their name will no longer be etched on to their manager’s team sheet as a matter of permanence, and therefore make the transition into squad rotation.
Villas-Boas’ inaugural domestic campaign has been turbulent and unless his team can discover, ironically, some Lampard-like consistency then the manager will continue to be barraged by criticism. He is in a tough position as he tries to shape his own side out of the skeleton left behind from his much-idolised former mentor Jose Mourinho. Along the way Villas-Boas will more than likely upset some of the Special One’s former pupils. It’s Lampard’s consistency that has wedged him firmly in Chelsea supporters’ affections and Villas-Boas must perform a real balancing act to keep all corners of the club satisfied. A performance like Lampard provided against Bolton is just the sort of response that will please his manager and the club’s vice-captain must now make himself un-droppable, by driving his side forward at every opportunity.
Lampard is the club’s top scorer this season and his manager is fully aware of such statistics. The 33-year-old must learn to take his natural disappointment - when not first choice - and use it for both personal and collective gain when next selected.
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