After 10 games, one might think that Frank Lampard, the engine and inspiration behind most of Chelsea’s offensive production over the past 5 seasons, has run into a torrid patch of form. This is mostly due to his low goal return – one in the Premiership and one in the Community Shield. Most fans expect 3 or 4 goals by now, especially against the relatively weak opposition that Chelsea have faced thus far in the Champions League and EPL.
But before we condemn Frank Lampard, let’s wind back our memories to the summer of Real Madrid spending. Carlo Ancelotti arrived and sought Andrea Pirlo to be the visionary passer in his midfield diamond. The Italian didn’t arrive, and nobody filled his role. According to some.
According to me, Lampard is now positioned as an advanced Pirlo (who doesn’t score a tremendous amount of goals, but is the offensive heartbeat of AC Milan). The goal drought is more due to formation and position rather than a failure of Lampard’s or bad form.
In Mourinho’s 4-3-3, the wingers knew they couldn’t only rely on crosses to Drogba and cutting inside to take the occasional shot to win games. Enter Lampard. He excelled at arriving and providing a lethal 3rd option. Thus the 20-goal seasons.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea plays a midfield diamond, with Lampard supposedly at the top. But he lacks the right qualities to fill this role and has dropped a little deeper than players who naturally can fill this role like Kaka. Nonetheless Chelsea play the diamond.
The change in formation requires less goal return from the midfield because two strikers lurking in the box will both score more goals and require service. Both of these will drain the midfield of its goals, but not its productivity.
Frank Lampard already has four EPL assists in 7 games. Last season he recorded 10 in 37 games. One could argue that Lampard has adopted a Pirlo mindset, but not quite his position. As he fans out dangerous passes to the in-form Malouda, Anelka, and Drogba while staying a little deeper, Lampard is actively contributing to Chelsea’s good start to the season. For this, he is labeled as out of form.
Granted, his finishing has suffered under Ancelotti. He seems to be missing chances that three or four years ago, he would bury ten times a season. Perhaps he is uncomfortable in his new semi-trequartista, semi-Pirlo position. In any case, I’m not sure Chelsea fans have a great cause to be worried. The system seems to be working for the rest of the team, and even if Lampard won’t get his 20 goals, he’ll rack up many more assists. If the sort-of-diamond can bring back the silverware of the EPL title or the Champions League, even Lampard won’t complain.