Watching Frank Lampard saying much while revealing nothing as a BT Sports pundit last week, was a reminder that the ex-Chelsea midfielder has always been something of an enigma. And that is despite his myriad achievements in the game.
It is fair to say that Frank Lampard probably wrung every last ounce out of his well-managed career – the stats and trophies suggest that. But he was simply not as talented a player as either Paul Scholes or Steven Gerrard and they set the benchmark level at Lampard’s Premier League peak.
Lampard was a gamechanger, like Gerrard, as opposed to a game controller like Scholes, Zidane or Xavi. There’s nothing wrong with that. Football needs both types.
Lampard wasn’t really a midfielder in any classic sense but rather one of the new breed of ‘off the front’ players. He won’t be remembered for his work off the ball, his tackling or an ability in possession that most evidenced itself within a sight of goal. Really Lampard was a striker playing in a withdrawn role. He scored a lot of goals with distance shots and well-timed late runs that were impossible to track.
I have loads of respect for Lampard but the fact remains he wouldn’t be a player who I’d actively ‘pay to see’. He wasn’t box office in that respect but he was extremely efficient. Other than his goal scoring he was a sublime penalty taker (he scored nine of his 29 England goals from the spot) and he was also at his best working combinations and playing in teammates in and around the box. So again, he prefigured a lot of what we see now as the norm post 4–4–2 in England.
Really, though Frank Lampard was the poster boy for the OPTA generation. And the first place his fans flock to, as they seek to promote their hero’s claims to greatness, is to the great 8’s vital statistics.
The numbers could always persuade – even when the eye didn’t always love what it saw.
He was also of course, Super Frank, Chelsea legend, wearing his heart on his sleeve. Really a fan’s rather than a football person’s player.
You can see the trajectory of Lampard’s numbers here:
177 Premier League goals
Lampard’s tally of 177 Premier League goals places him fourth on the all-time list – while he is the only midfielder to feature in the top 15.
106 England appearances
Lampard was one of five England players from the over-hyped ‘Golden generation’ to reach the 100 caps club. Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney were the other likely lads. Lampard scored 29 times for England. Lampard’s record of 37 shots without a goal at the World Cup was a record for any World Cup participant since 1966 and it indicates that despite the numbers, Lampard never wholly convinced as an international midfielder.
11 major honours at Chelsea
Lampard won every trophy available at domestic level with Chelsea, while European triumphs came in 2012 with the Champions League, and Europa League glory following one year later. A three-time winner of the Premier League, Lampard also lifted the FA Cup four times and the League Cup twice.
607 apps (all-time 3rd highest)
177 goals (4th)
102 assists (2nd)
211 goals for Chelsea
Despite being a midfielder, Lampard sits top of Chelsea’s all-time scoring list. His total of 211 puts him nine clear of Bobby Tambling, while Kerry Dixon sits third with 193.
There is no doubt he was a very good player and certainly a very effective one. He is also a very influential player whose ability to be in the right place at the right time, arriving late to scramble home a goal or blast one in from outside the area, is an object lesson for every attacking player in a five man midfield.
I think Frank Lampard is a triumph of solid English values like perseverance, hard work, resilience, playing at the limits of ability and endurance.
And these are values of course that chime perfectly with the mentality required of Jose Mourinho’s classic sides. And for that Lampard deserves all the plaudits coming.
Am I sorry I only saw him play live once for England v Scotland? On balance there are others I’d rather have watched in his era. I also suspect that there wouldn’t be too many surprises from a view in the stadium with familiar teammates at club level.
Frank Lampard was what he was, but that is not to damn him with faint praise. He was a fantastic player but one who probably falls a bit short of the roll-call of modern greats.