Frank Lampard scored two goals in England’s opening World Cup Qualifier against Moldova on Friday night, as well as scoring a crucial penalty for England against Ukraine, to salvage a draw, demonstrating that he still has a lot to offer to both club and country. People have criticized Lampard but his form must be considered in context. His goal scoring form has been prolific as England’s 12th highest goal scorer with 26 goals, only Platt has scored more for England from midfield with 27. His 12 goals in World Cup Qualifiers make him England’s most prolific qualifying scorer, ever. He is also England’s fifth highest competitive goal scorer with 18, behind Lineker, Rooney, Owen and Shearer.
Rise and fall
Despite an obviously glimmering record for club and country Lampard has had his detractors in recent seasons, particularly in the context that most fans (in my view wrongly) deem Gerrard to be superior. (The stats comprehensively suggest otherwise, whoscored.com also show this). England fans have long blamed Lampard for the failings of the so called ‘golden generation’ who struggled to meet expectations.
With regards to goals scored Lampard has outscored Gerrard in all competitions over the last 6 seasons, but what is more striking is that in terms of chances created between 06-11 Lampard created more chances than any other player in the top 5 leagues other than Fabregas and Xavi with 452, Gerrard created 396, in which period both players played a very similar number of games.
Despite this, and his aforementioned impressive international scoring record Lampard has been much maligned by England fans since the 2006 World Cup, often being booed as well as being dropped by McClaren and Capello. Lampard could easily have retired as he is now 34, but he continues to carry on performing for England when called upon. He did not hit the heights some expected but a better than 1 in 4 goal scoring rate is very good, especially as he was never given the same attacking license that he had for Chelsea.
Lampard has adapted his game recently, especially under di Matteo into a more defensive midfielder. His performances involve him shielding the back four and rarely getting forward in attack. Below is his heat map against Wigan:
As you can see Lampard spent almost the entire game in his own half. We used to expect him to burst forward and link the play, but now he is playing a role screening the back four alongside Mikel, a role he performed so brilliantly in Chelsea’s successful Champions League run. In that run Lampard completed 2.3 tackles per game, 2.5 interceptions and 2.4 clearances, demonstrating his defensive capabilities. He still managed 16 goals last season in all competitions despite being sidelined under AVB, an impressive haul in the context.
The same can be said of him for England. Against Moldova and Ukraine he sat alongside Gerrard in relatively defensive positions, barely losing possession as he stroked it about sensibly. He doesn’t attempt a huge number of tackles but plugs gaps and picks up opposition players in a pragmatic manner. At 34 he has had to adapt his game with his previous lung busting runs not as easy, as well as a result of tactical shifts in the game. The fashionable 4-2-3-1 that Chelsea play, as well as England to an extent, doesn’t suit a box to box midfielder. The midfield roles are for two holding players and the further forward player needs to be more mobile, Lampard is not. Resultantly he has gone to the base of midfield where he can ping it about, as shown above, barely leaving his half. His passing stats indicate this as he has gone from 82% accuracy in the 2010/11 season to 85.6% accuracy so far this season in his more defensive position. Despite his age, he showed brilliant composure to slot away the penalty to level the score against Ukraine. The importance being more that it prevented Ukraine from gaining three points, rather than getting England the 1. In the grand scheme of things that could prove a crucial goal.
With his experience, professionalism and goal scoring ability Lampard certainly still has a role to play. For England it is clear that Hodgson rates him, preferring him to Carrick over the two qualifiers. His role for Chelsea might be a bit more as a squad player, despite the absence of Meireles, due to his age and the demands of a long season. If we review his England career it has also been a lot better than some give him credit for, despite him not hitting the heights that he probably should have. Lampard will be 36 at World Cup 2014, but with a lack of emerging talent and injury concerns for Wilshire, Lampard could well be in with a shout to be on the plane to Rio unless his form considerably drops. For now, one would expect him to continue to play a role in the qualification phases.
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