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Why Frank Lampard Hinders Both Andre Villas-Boas and Juan Mata

If we know anything about Andre Villas-Boas, it’s this: He wants Chelsea to play at a quick pace. It’s the reason he was tabbed by Roman Abramovich to lead Chelsea’s transformation away from the pragmatism of Jose Mourinho, whose impact is still felt around Stamford Bridge.

If we know anything about Frank Lampard it’s this: He doesn’t play at a quick pace. He likes to spend time on the ball and pick out the right pass—usually to the center of the pitch—before bombing into the box. Is there anything wrong with Lampard’s style of play? Of course not, but in an AVB side, that style of play just doesn’t fit.

Take Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Wigan for instance. Some might say that the flat, impotent performance by Chelsea was due to the inevitable let-down after the win against City, but there was more to it than that.

Oriol Romeu played his worst game, by far, and was pulled after halftime. Juan Mata was ineffective and had little impact on the game. So what changed from Chelsea’s run of wins? Lampard got the start over Ramires, moving Raul Meireles over to the right. Chelsea clearly missed Ramires’ energy in the middle, as did Romeu, and Lampard’s introduction completely changed the dynamic of the team.

Take a look at Lampard’s chalkboard (via the Guardian) in the Wigan draw compared to Meireles’ against Wolves.

The two thing things that jump out are the number of pass Lampard plays and the direction of those passes. As you can see Lampard spends a lot of time on the ball, meaning Juan Mata is spending less time on the ball and less time creating, something Lampard, for all his virtues, does not do much of. Meanwhile, Meireles spends little time on the ball, attempting only 34 passes, a majority of which were direct, lateral passes to Mata on the left.

There was a time when Lampard was the epicenter of the Chelsea team, but that time has passed. When Chelsea play through Mata, they are simply a better side. Unfortunately, when Lampard is in the side, it’s hard for Chelsea to do that—the left side of the pitch just isn’t big enough for the both of them. Simply put: Mata’s best games—and not coincidently, Chelsea’s best results—have come with Lampard on the bench.

If AVB is going to implement his system, the system Abramovich wants to see, he needs to get rid of the “slow”—not in terms of running speed, rather ball-circulating speed—players that Torres complained about in the infamous interview with El Pais. Along with Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, Lampard certainly falls under that category.

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  1. Kevin Cadden

    January 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

    good statistical anal, regardless meireles, who, was down right not good enough to play for Liverpool, and mata are not as good as frank lampard has been so chelsea will only go backwards with them players like ramires luis etc. its sad when he is cleary better but doesnt play

  2. Franco

    December 21, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Just what i was expecting…. He(lampard) always gets the rod on the back when chelsea drops point… U so called ”press people” piss me off…

  3. GiovaNYC

    December 21, 2011 at 12:16 am

    True analysis, if sad for Lampard.

    If Lamps had not forced Mata to give him the penalty kick against ManC, in a game where Mata had worked his butt off all game and Lampard had just been introduced as a sub, then he would not have had the goal that forced ABV to put him back in the starting lineup.

    Lampard is great, a legend at Chelsea. But if he can’t accept a sub’s role, ship him out. I say do so without too much feeling. Lamps is a very good player, but he’s benefited tremendously for years from the cold, hard, Russian cash that was spent creating winners at Chelsea. If he is now sent out and replaced by an expensive, shiny new player himself. So be it.

  4. google

    December 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    typical …..blame it on Lampard !! chelsea’s games (this season) are always lost by defense mistakes ,not because of lampard !! check the stats

  5. Hart

    December 20, 2011 at 11:04 am

    AVB direct fast connection, Mourinho physical Quickcounter…..

  6. Forrest

    December 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Dumping Anelka and/or Malouda is one thing…moving a man who is a legend at the Bridge is an entirely different decision. I’m not saying that it’s not the right move but it’s definitely not one that can come as quickly as letting Anelka head abroad.

  7. Dominic

    December 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Yes, it’s going to take time for AVB to implement his preferred style of play, hard pressing, high defencive line and as you say quick circulating of the ball, but I would also say from watching AVB at porto he also like a pace in term “of running speed” also, high intensity all around.

    If Chelsea are to progress they need to hold onto AVB for a few seasons, and I think it’s obvious they’ll do this. AVB needs new players who can work with his styles…. they’re an aged team and the remenince of past glories but with the majority of the players he has now, that’s all it will be, past glories… until he get’s in the right personel.

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