Frankly, Lampard is struggling in Ancelotti’s system

Chelsea's diamond is not working for Lampard; Photo by Bryce Edwards

Chelsea's diamond is not working for Lampard; Photo by Bryce Edwards

Frank Lampard has been one of Chelsea’s most consistent performers for nearly a decade. He has been the engine of Chelsea’s attack and scored a remarkable number of goals from his advanced midfield position. But even as Chelsea stormed to the top of the table early in the season, Lampard was stuck out on the right of a midfield diamond. Now that the Blues have dropped two of three league games, some attention is focusing on Chelsea’s newly peripheral figure and whether it’s Lampard or Manager Carlo Ancelotti that needs to adapt.

Frank Lampard scores a lot of goals, period. He is now joint seventh on Chelsea’s all time list, and third place is within reach before the end of his career. He is most often compared with Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, but Lampard is both more consistent—at least ten league goals in each of the last six years, something Gerrard has only done three times—and more prolific with 72 to Gerrard’s 55 over that same span.  That’s all the more reason why his return in the league so far this season, just one goal from the penalty spot in nine games, is so surprising.Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka are flourishing, scoring goals regularly. And other players are contributing their share, with Michael Ballack, Florent Malouda, and even Ashley Cole netting more than Lampard. Even though Chelsea’s set-piece frailty has been discussed more widely, Lampard’s lack of goals is now getting more attention.

Ancelotti has adopted a four man midfield diamond, with Michael Essien as the central anchor, Malouda wide left, Lampard wide right, and Deco at the top in the most frequent combination. At times Ballack will replace Deco, but the most consistent feature is Lampard in a wide role rather than his accustomed central attacking position. For much of the Abramovich era, Chelsea have deployed a 4-3-3, with Lampard taking up more of a free role in the center of the pitch. Last year’s interim manager Guus Hiddink at times played a 4-4-2, but even so, Lampard was always in the middle.

Lampard could simply be suffering through a dip in form as every player must cope with form time to time. But it’s not just that Lampard isn’t scoring, it’s that he looks lost on the pitch. I was shocked at how anonymous he was against Liverpool—I don’t think his name was called in the first fifteen minutes of the match. And against Villa on Saturday, his only meaningful contribution to the game was to flick on a corner to Richard Dunne’s head for the Villains’ first goal. 

Nine games is not a season by any stretch of the imagination. And despite their recent struggles, Chelsea isn’t threatening to drop out of the title race like Liverpool. But the key challenge for any Chelsea manager has always been keeping the players together working with a common purpose. Paul Heyword writes in the Guardian that “Ancelotti, rather coldly, has spoken of [Lampard’s] ‘need’ to adapt.” Given the power of the Chelsea players in the dressing room, I wonder whether its more likely Ancelotti that has to change.


2 Responses

  1. […] team on the eve of a big weekend? Certain that Stevie G is due a big match and feeling like Lampard is struggling in the new diamond formation under […]

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