Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard

Both of the above Chelsea players are much maligned and certainly in the case of Torres' contribution since his transfer it is to a large degree well justified, there is however a case for the defence of both.

Torres' return of two goals since his 50M move from Liverpool is abject to say the least. Last season the malaise that had affected him during the World Cup had not departed and whether the reasons were psychological or physical or both, it was clear that Chelsea had not signed the same player that Liverpool had done so from Atletico Madrid.

With a relatively restful Summer, the hope was that a rejuvenated Torres would re-emerge for the new season and in part he has, the problem is the goals are still not flowing. That being said the performances have been improving no doubt and that is more than just wishful thinking on the part of Chelsea supporters. The problem is that it was almost impossible to play any worse.

Against ManYoo on Sunday, Torres scored one, should have absolutely scored two and could have had four missing two other good chances in either half aside from his howler at the end. That miss will ensure much mirth amongst the press and opposition fans but the key for Torres is to focus on so much that was good in his game on Sunday in much the same way that Rooney will have already forgotten about that penalty.

Chelsea have indulged Torres and spent a huge amount of minutes on the pitch trying to get the Spaniard firing again. Physically he looked excellent against ManYoo and having come this far AVB now needs to persevere with him and tinker with the tactics to suit him. The 4-2-3-1 in the second half seemed to suit Torres far more than Chelsea's usual 4-3-3 and that may well be the key along with the arrival of Juan Mata to add some creative urgency to the side. So far it has been 50M atrociously spent but there might just be light at the end of the tunnel.

Frank Lampard has for some reason never been a particularly popular character. He was disliked intensely at West Ham in some misplaced belief about favouritism due to his father which he then compounded by crossing London to Chelsea (netting West Ham 11M in the process). Whilst generally adored at Stamford Bridge he has never been popular with the England support either despite being a steady if not spectacular performer and a generally likeable person both on and off the pitch.

Despite all this, no one ever really had questioned his contribution - until now. Season after season he has provided Chelsea with match winning performances with a regular goal tally that would be the envy of most strikers. Until the last couple of years he was almost entirely injury free, playing game after game without a rest prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to once call him a 'freak' and more recently to call him 'exceptional'. One would argue that Ferguson knows a thing or two about fine midfield players.

There is no question that at 33, Lampard's legs will be starting to fail and as a player that has made his name as a box to box midfielder he is in a position that will expose that to the utmost. The key for Lampard now is like so many great players before him to reinvent himself now that his physical attributes are on the wane. There are countless examples of players before him that have done so.

Roy Keane is his most obvious peer and example. Keane once a swashbuckling, marauding box to box midfielder had suffered way too many injuries to his knees and more seriously to his hip. Keane reinvented himself as a fine holding midfielder and was oft mooted by Ferguson as a potentially great central defender.

Alan Shearer after his second serious injury went through an incredibly tough period when he found he could no longer bulldoze through defenders with pace and power as he once had. Instead he turned himself into one of the finest back to goal strikers of his generation in the mould of Mark Hughes.

John Barnes went from one of the finest wingers England has ever produced, if not the finest to a central midfielder both for Liverpool and then Newcastle and played successfully for many years. More recently, Giggs and Scholes bereft of their legs have turned themselves respectively into a cultured central midfielder and a fine deep lying playmaker.

For Lampard, it is clear that he has to realise his new limitations and has to start adapting his game accordingly. One huge service that Lampard could do for himself is to retire from International duty as the likes of Scholes and Shearer have proved that the extra rest at that age is hugely beneficial.

As mentioned before Lampard has a tendency to attract the brickbats but these people are doing a huge dis-service to a player that has been nothing other than the consummate footballing professional playing with a decade long level of consistency that few in the game have ever achieved. This is not the end of Frank Lampard, just the beginning of a slightly tweaked one - No Nonense.