Posts Tagged ‘Frank Lampard’


Chelsea’s Frank Lampard – should he stay or should he go?

By Stefano on February 10th, 2013

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do? ponders Frank’s future

Plenty in life baffles me. Like, why it is that, at the slightest outbreak of anti-American snippiness, freshly-minted US flags are set alight in market squares througout the West-hating world. What efficient supply chain ensures this? Is it un-advertised inventory of the Mailboxes Etc. chain? Does every branch keep folded, fresh and flammable Stars & Stripes flags under the counter, next to the porn, just in case someone comes for a protest?

Then there’s Frank Lampard. What is it about one of the most successful, prolific and naturally gifted midfielders England has ever produced that draws scorn from opposing fans and blinds his own club management to the value he can still bring to the game, even four months shy of his 35th birthday?

Is it is Lampard, himself? Perhaps each morning, on his 40-minute drive down the A3 from Kensington to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, he is playing The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go? over and over again on his Ferrari’s 1000-watt JBL sound system.

The vexed truth of the matter is, no one seems to know. In any given week for the last several months, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that Lampard may sign an extension to his Chelsea contract, while in the same week, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that there will be no extension and Lampard will be free to take his current superb form elsewhere at the end of the season.

In January, Steve Kutner, Lampard’s agent, made it clear that Chelsea had told him his contract would not be extended under any circumstances. Last week, Kutner was saying that there had been no change in the situation. And still, the claims of an Abramovich U-turn go on.

Depending on who you read or who you believe, it’s either Lampard’s fault for wanting, allegedly, a two-year extension, or Chelsea’s fault for wanting to prune it’s expensive roster of over-30s. Take another view, and he’s been offered a one-year extension, like Ashley Cole (who accepted), but has rejected it wanting the 24 months.

Either way – and who am I? – there should be some grown-upness injected into these proceedings. Lampard’s strike against Brazil on Wednesday was no fluke, but an example of the sublime quality Lampard has been demonstrating for Chelsea in recent weeks, a goal-scoring form that has only been undermined, seriously, by the general malaise surrounding the club under Rafa Benitez.

A couple of months ago, Daniel Finkelstein, The Times’ political leader writer and hobbyist football statman, calculated that Lampard was, de facto, the Premier League Player of the Decade. His methodology, which involved correlating various parameters of in-game performance, calculated a league table of individual players, based on their contributions to the games they figured in. Cutting a long – and, admittedly, mind-boggling story short – Finkelstein’s conclusion was that, ahead of players of positional consistency (led by the base of Chelsea’s spine, Petr Čech), or points generated for each minute they were on the field of play (Cristiano Ronaldo), general excellence (Steven Gerrard) or game-changing impact (yes, Darren Bent), there could be only one ‘Fink Tank’ Premier League Player of the Decade: Frank Lampard.

There is only one Frank Lampard. There is only one player who is just five strikes away from equalling Chelsea’s club record of 202 goals, currently held by Bobby Tambling. And this is a midfielder we’re talking about, not some prolific, hits-’em-in-for-fun show-pony striker.

Equally baffling, and frustratingly so, is the treatment Lampard receives from England fans. It’s to be expected that West Ham fans, in their own little world of bile and steam, still consider it necessary to boo and hiss Lamps 12 years after he moved to Chelsea. But whatever cretinously petty issue exists behind this pantomime animosity, (and it is, sadly, as cretinously petty as the fact that he dared quit the club as it was taking one of its regular exits through the Premier League trap door), Lampard has gone on to be the most consistently effective midfield player in world football for more than a decade.

Yes, some of his England performances – with or without the Gerrard combination conundrum – have been disappointing, but his 94 caps have been totally justified. His goal against Brazil on Wednesday was his 27th in national colours, itself an achievement of prolific endeavour. And he has more to offer: “I understand where I am in my career,” he said after the Brazil game, “but if I can continue playing for Chelsea then I am getting nearer to 100 [England caps]. It’s certainly a target for me and, yes, I will try to keep playing at a good enough level to get there.”

Which raises questions about where he plays next. David Beckham has demonstrated that a move to LA Galaxy, and a move to the US MLS, is the equivalent of dropping a couple of divisions in terms of quality, although it would probably be the equivalent of going up two in terms of wages.

The difference between Beckham and Lampard, however, is that Beckham has been able to build the ‘brand’ to maintain his profile. How else would a 37-year-old whose best years are long behind him manage to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in a blaze of publicity that managed to eclipse PSG’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović not so long ago?

Frank Lampard has built a profile to fit Frank Lampard. He’s an eloquent, intelligent footballer. Never the nightclub jockey, and now with a celebrity girlfriend who appears to have successfully mastered the art of being a glamourous WAG and girl-next-door TV sweetheart at the same time.

Privately educated, thanks to father Frank Sr.’s desire for Frank Jr. to have a good foundation, this has been matched by Lampard’s dedication to the game. While still a West Ham apprentice, Lampard was known to take extra training sessions, largely because of the discipline drummed into him by his father, and largely because he felt that with Frank Sr.’s brother-in-law Harry Redknapp in charge of the club, he had more to prove that he wasn’t there through nepotism.

Even today, Lampard Jr. continues to put the hours in on the training pitch. It’s an effort that kept him off the treatment table for successive seasons, a record that has only really started to unravel in recent years as age has inevitably started to catch up. And it is why I’ve never understood the ‘Fat Frank’ barbs: for a football crowd whose diet consists mostly of pies to call Lampard “Fat” is like Kim Kardashian raising questions about Paris Hilton’s career aspirations.

Lampard insisted that he retains the fitness and drive to play at the highest level for another two or three years, suggesting he is not yet ready to accept a lucrative quiet life in America or the Far East. Publically, he has repeatedly stated his desire to end his career at Stamford Bridge. Privately, he may have accepted that if he can’t have the deal he wants at Chelsea, he’ll get the deal he wants at another club. And there certainly won’t be a shortage of offers, be it LA Galaxy, PSG, China or – swallows something hard and jagged – even Manchester United.

“I’m not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much,” Lampard has said recently. “I want to be involved. That’s my character. I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.”

Which comes back to the Chelsea question. I get the point that with rules on club finances coming in, you’ve got to tighten the belt accordingly. And a £160k a week for a player in his mid-30s is a lot of money. But then so is spending £50m on Fernando Torres, and how’s that working out?

If Ryan Giggs at 39 is young enough for Manchester United, a relative whippersnapper like Lampard should – and obviously does – have a lot to still give Chelsea. Current form and history combined, it really would be madness to let him go. But, then, when has sanity played any part in the revolving door of managers at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, let alone players coming and going?

Article originally published here.


Opinion: Wake up Roman! Chelsea are becoming a Pantomime club

By Stefano on January 18th, 2013

Simon Poulter edits What Would David Bowie Do and is more than a little unhappy with event at The Bridge

I can’t verify this, but it is possible that the under-communicative oligarch Roman Abramovich is currently still enjoying the good life on St. Barts. For it is there that the Chelsea Football Club owner has been – and may well still be – enjoying an extended New Year’s holiday with his pregnant girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova. And good luck to him. Everyone needs to take time out to spend with their nearest and dearest every once in a while.

Unfortunately, while Roman has been sunning himself on his Nimitz-class yacht, his football asset – managed by a hapless Rene-from-’Allo ‘Allo lookalike – has acquired the sort of toxicity that turned Erin Brokovich from struggling single mother living in the Californian desert into the subject of a blockbuster movie.

Your season – it is behind you

It is, though, still the pantomime season in Britain, which means that seasonal booing and hissing is a national ritual at this time of year. So, as matinee audiences of Cub Scouts and church outings boo soap stars and game show hosts playing Baron Hardup in provincial theatres, Chelsea fans are booing anything not nailed down at Stamford Bridge.

First, there is Rafa Benitez, the ruddy-cheeked, portly Spanish restaurateur who, despite being as popular as a fart in a spacesuit before he was appointed “interim first team manager”, has succeeded in galvanising his unpopularity via a variety of methods: 1) getting out of bed in the morning; 2) turning up for matches; 3) picking star striker Fernando Torres; 4) not picking club legend Frank Lampard; 5) winning some games handsomely while drawing or losing quite disastrously others.

Is it all Rafa’s fault? Oh no it isn’t

It’s not all Rafa’s fault, of course. The club’s reward for Lampard and Ashley Cole continuing to be, respectively, a prolific goal scoring central midfielder and the world’s still-finest left back, is to show them the door at the end of the season and not extend their contracts. Meanwhile Torres, who these days permanently carries the demeanour of a sulking 15-year-old girl, is not even responding to diagrams of cow’s backsides and instructions on how to hit one with a banjo. Demba Ba, the crock-kneed Senegalese brought in from Newcastle for a fraction of the Spaniard’s money is, however, scoring goals everytime he smell a goalkeeper’s boot polish.

Into this background is the club’s extraordinary approach to fan engagement – i.e. to not have one. This is a club that would rather do its business in private, with the owner “advised” by a coterie of people whom, it would appear, are no more qualified to advise about running a Premier League football club as I would be about running a hospital. Unless you regard Michael Emenalo, the former Nigerian defender and now Chelsea’s technical director as being of distinguished experience in the game.

Thus, the rare on-pitch appearance of club chairman, Bruce Buck, making a pre-match presentation to goalkeeper Petr Čech, results in the sort of sustained and vitriolic booing chancellor George Osborne earned when turning up at the Olympics last summer to give out medals. Booing the chairman may sound like impudence bordering on frustration, but the fact that the fans were bothering to boo a club executive they’d never actually bothered about at all previously says a lot about where fan sentiment at Stamford Bridge is at the moment.

There are those – including club executives – who will continue to dismiss the religious singing of Roberto Di Matteo’s name on 16 minutes each game as rambunctious fandom, even considering it morale-boosting collective sprit. It’s not. Most of us do genuinely regard the sacking of Di Matteo as counter-productive, and the appointment of Benitez as poisonous as opening a Spurs club shop opposite the Emirates Stadium.

The singing for Di Matteo, even the singing for Jose Mourinho, is not just a rallying call. Chelsea – and for that we must assume Abramovich – have miscalculated too often the depth of stakeholder sentiment. It is, of course, a valid argument that Abramovich’s decision to sack managers has often produced the results he’d hoped for – an improvement in form and silverware – but it would appear that with this latest act of petulance, there won’t be a happy ending.

Despite a few impressive results, like the pre-Christmas mauling of a pathetic Aston Villa, who barely seemed to have turned up, Benitez is still struggling to make impact. Torres is a waste of space, although Ba has become a bright spot, but the defensive frailties that Di Matteo was suffering with are still there, if Wednesday night’s embarrassing 2-0 lead turning into a 2-2 home draw to Southampton was anything to go by.

And so, as Chelsea go into a weekend when they face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge – a fixture rich in both turbulent entertainment and sour disappointment over the years – there is a creeping deflation amongst supporters of the West London club.

Most Chelsea fans have never had a problem with the club being unpopular with other fans. We don’t really care. We’ve been perfectly happy with our club long enough – whether courting 1960s celebrities, being seen as a bunch of Fancy Dans in the 1970s, being pretty rubbish in the 80s and almost bankrupt, or being regarded as a home for ageing internationals in the pre-Abramovich, latter Ken Bates era. We have worn the “shit club, no history” goading with good grace. But whereas “shit club, no class” used to wound – but perhaps they have a point.

The constant upheaval, the inability to retain managers, the lack of consistency in player policy (“Will we not buy this summer due to lack of funds and then buy some expensive trinket of a player in the January window as a panic acquisition?”), on youth development and even stadium development.

Every football fan will find fault with their club of choice. That’s why we love football. Football IS chaos! It is still our excuse – and I’ll admit, an almost exclusively male preserve – to have a moan about something. Even if our team is running away with a telephone number-nil win, we’ll find something to niggle.

However, the complaints against Chelsea are piling up and, yes, much has to be directed at Abramovich. Elephant in the room, and all that, but the man who has ploughed an insane amount of personal fortune into the club is also directly responsible for creating the toxicity around it.

It comes from a lack of communication. Yes, we get plenty of communication from whomever is in charge of the team from one week to the next, but do we have any idea about what is really going on at the club? No.

The back end of the horse

We assume Lampard and Cole are being treated shabbily because that is how the press is reporting it, how Lampard and Cole’s people are telling it, and our instincts are receiving it. But we could be wrong. Perhaps a little explanation of the strategy would go a long way. Perhaps Abramovich himself would break cover and speak. After all, it’s hard to really read a man when we only ever see that half grin of his as he stands at the back of his executive box in the Stamford Bridge West Stand, the grin occasionally evolving into high-fives with his sidekick Eugene Tennenbaum, before returning to its bemused state.

Like the wizened old crone that I am, I’d foreseen much of this disease spreading at Chelsea in November when the club’s annual Halloween nightmare rendered Roberto Di Matteo redundant and Benitez installed. I even suggested that Pep Guardiola, the manager coveted by Abramovich more than any other, might be wise to give Chelsea a miss when he chose to come back to football management.

And thus it proved to be so, as arguably the greatest football coach of his generation chose Bayern Munich over anyone else. In so doing, he chose a club with history, with class, with money, with German efficiency, in a league that is quietly becoming Europe’s most exciting. As opposed to a club with history, money and a boatload of dysfunction. Well, maybe an expensive super yacht-load of dysfunction.

Article originally published here.

Image in no way inspired by the era of Dennis Wise and Gianfranco Zola.


Would Frank Lampard leave Chelsea for another Premiership club? Everton? Man United? Arsenal?

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

So it appears that Frank Lampard is on his way out of Chelsea. The departure of the 34 year old midfielder, who has been at the club for 11 years, has a whiff of ravens leaving the Tower of London about it. But his exit from the Blues was pretty much confirmed at the weekend with the player expected to depart in the summer.

But where will Frank be off to next? According to Goal today he isn’t short of offers. The website says that Everton have already had an offer rejected and that Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham are among the clubs who have asked to be kept informed of the 34-year-old’s situation. The Daily Mail is running the story too.

At first glance it seems unlikely that the ultra loyal Lampard would ever go and play for one of Chelsea’s rivals. However, he does want to continue playing and, according to Goal again has ruled out a stint in Italy or Spain.

The obvious destination for the player would then be the MLS following in the footsteps of David Beckham and Thierry Henry.

The key question though is does the player think his carer at a top level is finished? And is now the right time to head west? Given his time again would Beckham have moved to the MLS when he did when he arguably had at least a couple of years when he could have played in a premium European league? Lampard is older than Beckham was when he moved to the Galaxy, but the Chelsea player seems very fit, not too lacking in speed or agility and certainly still has a keen eye for as goal.

Maybe it is due to diet, or better injury management, but over footballers seem to be playing longer and older players are more in demand than they used to be. Van Persie went for £25 million while nudging 30, and Arsenal may be about to spend £16 million on a 31 year old. At United Scholes and Giggs, who are closer to 40, seem to be going on forever.

Lampard might be too ‘True Blue’ to consider signing for one of Chelsea’s direct rivals, but then again he knows he will have one last big pay day and maybe money might trump sentimental loyalty. And would the move to United be so bad? Fergie apparently would sign the player tomorrow and the way in which the United boss has extended the careers of several of his players might swing it.

The other alternative would be a return to his first club West Ham. With Cole now at the club and move to the Olympic Stadium in the offing I wonder if Frank might see the East London club as a project that he could help develop.

Pic Mark Freeman (Wikipedia)

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