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Player Focus: Is Frank Lampard Showing Serious Signs of Decline?


Player Focus: Is Frank Lampard Showing Serious Signs of Decline?


At Chelsea last season, there were two basic narratives: firstly, the fans hated Rafa Benitez, who it seemed won the Europa League almost to spite them; and secondly, Frank Lampard’s contract expired at the end of the season and there seemed little prospect of a new deal, despite a series of excellent performances in the spring. Whenever he was asked about Lampard, Benitez would smile beatifically and point out he was only the interim manager and so couldn’t be expected to know about that kind of thing.


Lampard eventually signed a one-year contract the day after the Europa League final but there have been a couple of moments this season when it’s been hard not to wonder whether that was the right decision. Lampard is 35 now and the problem when you reach your mid-thirties as a player is that any misjudgement leads to the suspicion that “his legs have gone”.


The incident midway through the first half on Sunday, for instance, when Lampard clattered into Fernandinho and was booked seemed irrefutable evidence. The foul wasn’t malicious or cynical: he just got there a fraction later than he needed to. Coming after a couple of less than stellar performances for England in the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland (as a substitute), it’s only natural the question of whether he is now over the hill should be asked. And, equally, it’s only natural that we be wary of the availability heuristic that dictates that because we’re aware that there may be a narrative of decline, we remember the evidence that supports that case.


Looking at Lampard’s data for this season and comparing it to the previous four, the most striking detail is how much less involved he has become in the final third. In 2009-10, he averaged 3.9 shots per game and 3.2 key passes, both of which figures have shown a basic pattern of decline to stand this season so far at 1.8 shots per game and 1.3 key passes. That, of course, reflects Lampard’s progress back on the pitch. Four seasons ago he was still a dynamic box to box player, usually operating to the left of a midfield holder in a 4-3-3; now he sits deeper, as the more attacking of a holding pair in a 4-2-3-1.


Player Focus: Is Frank Lampard Showing Serious Signs of Decline?


Lampard’s general involvement had also gone down – again, as would be expected as he took on a more withdrawn role – from 53.4 passes per game in 2009-10 to 42.9 last season, and from 2.1 tackles per game to 1.2. Both those figures, slightly surprisingly, have shown an increase this season, to 49.7 passes per game and 2.0 tackles per game – which may reflect that Jose Mourinho’s side has not yet managed to control games in midfield as Rafa Benitez’s did.


But what seems genuinely significant is how Lampard’s interceptions per game have gone down: 1.0 in 2009-10, 1.2 in 2010-11 and 2011-12, to 0.9 in 2012-13 and just 0.6 this season. Perhaps the deeper role offers fewer opportunities for interceptions – although that doesn’t seem immediately intuitive, but it could also be that, because of his declining pace, Lampard is incapable these days of the burst that allows him to steal in and intercept – that, in turn, might explain the increase in tackles this season, if he is having to try to dispossess opponents when they already have the ball rather than taking it shortly before it reaches them.


That theory is given credence by the story of Lampard’s fouls per game. He committed 0.7 in 2009-10, falling to 0.4, then 0.6 and 0.5. This season, he is up to 0.9 per game – a clear sign of a player who, as he did on Sunday, keeps arriving just too late. One foul per game is not a huge number – Victor Wanyama commits three – but it is the trend that is telling. It’s not to say Lampard has nothing to offer Chelsea to say that age is beginning to catch up with him, as is reflected in his WhoScored rating: 7.94 in 2009-10, falling steadily to 7.05 this season. That is still the 80th best player in the Premier League, but Lampard is falling increasingly far from the top of the charts that he used to frequent.


Are Frank Lampard's performances getting noticeably worse? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below

Comments (14)

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  • Like some other posters have mentioned it's because like you said Lampard is playing in a different role now, as 1 of the 2 pivots in a 4-2-3-1 instead of the most offensive 1 in a midfield trivote. Not to mention that whoscored ratings have always given a higher weightage to offensive stats, when was the last time a defender ever had a perfect score without scoring or assisting? Of course the reason why Lampard is playing in a different role in the first place is because he has gotten older so decline isn't exactly wrong, but it's nothing new and I still feel the title is misleading.

  • You also have to remember football is a team game. We've been having managerial issues since Ancelotti left the club and we all remember the problems between AVB and Lampard. We ended up 6th in the league under the hapless AVB. We also had problems with RDM who wasn't ready for the tax at hand and we sunk quickly before Benitez steadied the ship. This also corrolated with Lampard playing like a madman and scoring and creating all sorts of goals in the process, breaking Chelsea's all time goal-scoring record. These things are huge contributing factors and are more important than stats because when the team suffers, players suffer.

  • "Four seasons ago he was still a dynamic box to box player, usually operating to the left of a midfield holder in a 4-3-3; now he sits deeper, as the more attacking of a holding pair in a 4-2-3-1." You made your own point. He plays a different role for Chelsea nowadays. He is still the best passer we have in the anchor positions and one of our best players. Of course it's difficult to for a 35 year old to impose himself in the big premier league games because of the high intensity.

  • zzzzurzolo@ you can't comparate two players with two different field positions

  • Lampard has had an average rating of 7.42 when he has started this season. That's not bad for 35 year old right?

  • he's playing as a holding midfielder?? he's a natural attacking midfielder and prolific goalscorer, he's been playing alongside Ramirez, your rating is farce. Steven Gerrard playing same position in Liverpool

  • Frank has balls. That's all.

  • Yet another reason Francesco Totti is the better "Frank". He's nearly 40 and leading Europe in assists while Roma dominates.

  • not only has he adjusted his game to play a deeper role to maintain his effectiveness, but still managed to score more league goals than anyone else at Chelsea last season -- 5 more than the two strikers combined.

  • he is older, but there really ist anyone they have that they can replace him with. If they want someone more defensive minded then they got Mikel. Van Ginkel is out for like the next 5-4 months and he still has a lot more developing to do.

  • Frankly speaking! frank has gone past his best. He passes are poor, tackles are reckless, discipline is zero, his pace is weak. He is only leaving on his past and I would be so pleased to have other younger players like Mikel or Luiz start ahead of him until we are able to get a more reliable player for the position

  • dont act too surprised, he's 35!!!


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Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Jeremy Menez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Scott Dann Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Martin Stranzl Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata James Tomkins Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Dimitri Payet Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Mehmet Ekici Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio England U21 Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Pedro Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Fernando Muslera Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Robinho Rudi Garcia Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Roberto Mancini Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Carlo Ancelotti Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Lassana Diarra Jurgen Klopp Lucas Barrios Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb Cameron Jerome

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