For a player who is bettered only by David James when it comes to consecutive appearances, and is used to playing every minute of every game, since huge questions over his future AVB took the reins at Chelsea, Frank Lampard has had more than a little shock.
On the back of an injury hit campaign last time round, where only 11 goals were scored by the midfielder – a dramatically reduced amount from his usual 20 plus – Lampard has worked hard to regain fitness and a place back in the starting line-up.
After several lack luster performances by both Lampard and Chelsea, not to mention the arrival of Juan Mata and Meireles, Lampard found himself being the player to make way on more than one occasion, if he made the team at all. The low point for the player came against Swansea, where youngster Josh McEachran became the third Chelsea sub, thus meaning Lampard played no part in the game. The player subsequently went down the tunnel and huge questions over not only his future but just how much he featured in the plans of a manager who is slightly younger than him.
Much of the press attention pre match tonight focused on that specific issue, to the contention of the Chelsea manager, who was adamant that Lampard had a role to play for the blues, and included the 33 year old in his starting line-up.
After a decent performance first half, Lampard managed to score the only Chelsea goal of the game, in which Chelsea were lucky to come away with a draw after Valencia finally got a deserved equalizer courtesy of a Soldado penalty in the 87 minute after a foul by Kalou.
The Spanish side suffered from a lack of clinical finishing which also cost them points against Barcelona and Sevilla, with more than a couple of chances coming their way. That is not to say Chelsea did not have their own opportunities, with Lampard setting up Torres, who of course failed to convert, and Ramires missing a one on one with the keeper that should see him serving a life sentence for his finishing skills – or lack of them.
Lampard’s goal came on the 56th minute, and will be a comfort to the player, who still failed to last the duration of the match, being replaced late in to the second half, yet will be glad that Meireles replaced Ramires, and not himself. Lampard will see this as a small response to the critics who have plagued him his whole career, and must now be at peace with the fact that no matter what he does, whether it be at West Ham, Chelsea or for England, it will not be enough for some people.
What Lampard will not take lightly is suggestions that he is finished at the top level, and is under the firm belief that he has a great deal more to give, albeit as a midfielder who plays slightly deeper than he has previously done, but with the vision the player possesses and his ability to read the game, this is not an impossible role for Lampard to take up, in a similar fashion to Paul Scholes during his last couple of seasons at United.
As the player showed tonight, his career is far from over, and there is a great deal to come from Lampard yet.
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