The 2014 summer transfer window saw Chelsea legend Frank Lampard released from the club after manager Jose Mourinho felt that he was done with all that he had to offer on the pitch. In a move that is still being cleared up by the FA, Lampard started the 2014-15 campaign as a part of the Manchester City set up and hasn’t let the club down with his performances. Joseph Solomon talks about the difference in roles that Lampard carried out at the two clubs and the impact that it has had.
A hot topic in the papers right now, Manchester City’s Frank Lampard has created quite the reputation for being a game changer. The 36 year old has been City’s saving grace in more than one occasion, most recently the 3-2 win over Sunderland, wherein the Englishman’s 73rd minute header proved to be the decisive goal. Lampard’s form has taken a U turn since his arrival from Chelsea via New York City, and has finally proved that perhaps for once Jose Mourinho was wrong – not that he would admit to.
There is no doubt that Frank Lampard’s career at Chelsea is perhaps unparalleled in the Premier League era, but the way Lampard’s career was heading downhill towards the end of his time at Chelsea raised questions as to how the same Lampard has delivered more often than not for another Premier League outfit, Manchester City.
Although, many Chelsea fans would rarely want to admit Lampard’s withering form at the end of his stay in London, when looked at from an un-biased view, it was sufficiently evident that Lampard’s form was spiraling downwards. 8 goals in all competitions for Chelsea in his last season is perhaps evidence enough of a down slide suffered by a man who always entered double goal scoring figures for the London club.
Played as a pivot, alongside John Obi Mikel or Ramires, Lampard never did really deliver for Chelsea towards the end. Of course, there were those stellar assists and those trademark Lampard style goals, but Lampard was not the Lampard we knew, and this was affecting the stability of the Chelsea team. During Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea, Lampard could be blamed for goals, as his defensive duties withered with every forward touch of the ball.
Even for Mourinho’s Chelsea, Lampard often enacted the pivot role, and this is perhaps the major reason for his crumbling form at the end of his stint with Chelsea. A defensive pivot is expected to run, and given Lampard’s age, he seldom could do that. Left exposed by a bombarding Ramires, on more than one occasion, Lampard’s inability to cover ground resulted in the Chelsea defense being exposed – a sight uncommon now due to the pairing of Fabregas and Matic. Even when paired with a more stationary John obi Mikel, Lampard often staryed to his role as a box to box midfielder, seldom tracked back, resulting in the back four being exposed. Mourinho, a fixer of things, a protagonist, surprisingly here, fixed this situation by often letting Lampard warm Chelsea’s posh benches. Although Lampard did bag 40 appearances for Chelsea in his last season, it still were 10 less than the season before that.
And perhaps this is where Jose Mourinho got it wrong and Manuel Pellegrini, got it right.
Lampard, was once again deployed as a pivot, in his first appearance for Manchester City against Arsenal. Hence, when Manchester City got overrun in the midfield, for the better half of the game, the problem was evident. Lampard. The former Chelsea man, failed to do his defensive duties and rarely contributed to the offensive side of things too. The 36 year old, was consequently substituted at the half way point for Samir Nasri, which meant that James Milner would be pushed back to play as a pivot alongside Fernandinho.
Pellegrini, was quick to realize his mistake of deploying a 36 year old, without steam, in a position which requires substantial work to be done. The Chilean, swiftly made alterations to his whiteboard and Lampard’s withering form was back in one piece, before the end of the calendar year.
The changes he made were not inclusive of rocket science formulas, but were very simple. Lampard, was restrained in terms of game time and when he came on as a substitute he patrolled City’s attacking third. This was pretty much evident in the very next match against Chelsea, when Lampard was brought on as a substitute, created opportunities and finally scored his trademark goal, which handed City a hard earned draw.
Pellegrini, technically incised Lampard’s playing time, which according to his age is perhaps agreeable, and started to deploy him in a more attacking role. Thus, in minimum playing time, Lampard’s started giving maximum output. The aforementioned trait, was perhaps the fusion of the team around the former Chelsea player and his technical abilities.
Often, emerging as a second half substitute, Lampard enjoyed full freedom to haunt Premier League defense, without worrying about the defensive aspect of things, largely due to the presence of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho. His attacking prowess also provided another goal scoring channel for Manchester City as Lampard’s late run into the box enabled wingers to pull back the ball. His ability to pluck defenders out of positions has added a delightful cherry to Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic’s cake.
In terms of pure statistics, Lampard has played at an average rate of 24 minutes per games. In that, the former Chelsea man has scored five goal (Premier League), with 80% of his goals coming between the time marker of 70 and 90 minutes.
Frank Lampard’s form has emulated Midas’ touch, and that is largely due to simple Pellegrini tactics, of using him as an impact substitute. Despite age catching up to him quickly, it is always nice to see players being brought back from a slump.
Written by Joseph Solomon