Chelsea is in the middle of a forced – yet eventually necessary – transitional period. And during this weird season, the most reliable player so far is the guy who is on the opposite side of change.
Frank Lampard keeps scoring when it matters but apparently that trait doesn’t matter to Andre Villas-Boas. Lampard scored the winning goal in the 82nd minute against the Premier League’s newest super power Manchester City on Monday, putting in motion storylines about the league being wide open (no, it’s not) and how Lampard justifies his spot as a starter (yes, he does).
But Lampard still isn’t starting and according to him there isn’t a reason. “I want to play, simple as that,” said Lampard after Monday’s win. “I’m 33 – I understand that – but I want to keep playing regularly because I’ve got a lot to give. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. I’ve been in a good run of form and now I’ve not been playing. I haven’t spoken [to Villas-Boas] so I don’t know [why], simple as that.”
Lampard’s deal is similar to the entire season. The entire Chelsea season has been under a microscope to the supporters and an almost non-issue to the rest of the league. United, City, Arsenal, Tottenham, even Newcastle and Stoke City have better story lines then the transition period, while also competing for every title mentality at Stamford Bridge. Instead, Chelsea have been a mixed bag of media hype, old vs. young, whether the manager is staying, and who isn’t performing this week.
Because of this uncertainty, only one solution is needed for the club. Heading into the transfer window Chelsea is going to have to either go all-in on changing the style of the team, or staying with the hot hands that they have. Lampard is rumored to go to Real Madrid (under old manager Jose Mourinho) and LA Galaxy (a very good pickup for the league as a whole). And if AVB really has an issue with starting Lampard, then he needs to get as much cash value as he can right now. The supporters will rightfully kill him over it, but if he has the vote of confidence from the board, then he would have to include Lampard with Anelka and Alex.
Should he keep Lampard, which in my mind is the correct choice, AVB should effectively realize the momentum and start Lampard. A midfield consisting of Lampard/Meireles/Ramires can be an attacking force, and having Lampard remain can work in several ways, including being an influence on Oriol Romeu, a stabilizing influence on Mikel and an interesting part in a more creative midfield consisting of perhaps Lampard/David Luiz/Miereles.
The strangest part about Frank Lampard’s 2011/12 season is the fact that he has been consistent enough in his play to warrant his starts. Coupled with his reputation, his England caps (another story for another time) and what he means to the club, it is surprising that he is even having a problem getting into the first team at all. With Torres becoming the Andy Carroll of Chelsea (and Liverpool fans can say that in reverse as well), Lampard to Drogba remains in effect, and Daniel Sturridge has proven that he can score no matter what the play is.
If Chelsea want to win anything this season then playing Lampard is a common sense move. Change is still going to happen – it has just been delayed.