It's true. Everything the media has said about the problems at Chelsea right now is true. Andre Villas-Boas and Frank Lampard both got candid in recent interviews and made some interesting revelations. One can't say this wasn't on the cards.
The main reason for unrest in the squad and a damaged relationship between the two is Lampard's reduced involvement in Chelsea matches.
Anyone who has been following the Blues this season will have realized that Andre Villas-Boas rarely uses Lampard and Raul Meireles together. The few times he has, the midfield has appeared too crowded.
It's not that they are very similar players. The fact of the matter is that the presence of any one reduces the effect of the other. The game away to Wigan at the DW Stadium serves as a good example of this. It was one of the most insipid attacking displays I've seen from the Blues all through 2011-12.
Lamps is the Chelsea legend, third on the chart of all-time highest goal-scorers for the club, but a man in the twilight of his career, who has lost a lot of his pace. His famous fox-in-the-box trait remains, but he is no longer an automatic choice for the starting XI. Quite a few still feel he should be guaranteed a starting role.
Meanwhile, Meireles is a player who made a big name plying his trade in Portugal with Porto. He then followed it up with an impressive solitary season at Liverpool. However, he has had mixed success in the blue of Chelsea. But there are those who feel Lampard is past it and are in favor of the younger Meireles starting games.
AVB has interestingly given Portuguese compatriot Meireles more preference for big matches recently, however dismal showings off late and a good game for FL8 against Bolton on the weekend mean that it's a level playing ground once again.
Here I present a comparison between the two men with plenty of statistics, which facilitated me in deciding who I would have had as my first-choice if I were in the manager's shoes. I hope it helps you with the same.
Lamps and Raul have a big similarity that one just has to acknowledge. Both like to shoot on sight.
Of course, there's a massive difference between them in this department. Lampard has a shooting accuracy that is far superior to Meireles.
Stats speak louder than words here, I think. As of February 11, Lampard had a shooting accuracy of 42 percent in the Premier League, whereas Meireles' was found to be 20 percent.
When I see Super Frank trying his luck from outside the penalty box, I expect him to at least test the opposition keeper. He does that often and even nets a fair few times.
With Meireles, one can hardly say the same. All these years, shooting had been one of the strongest aspects of his game. But now, he has become quite adept at hitting the ball high into the stands, and no, I'm not being harsh on him there.
Lamps has bagged 12 goals this term, and Raul has managed just two.
When it comes to incisive and penetrative passing, I think England international Lampard nicks it. Raul Meireles, however, does have a greater passing accuracy, considering he likes to operate from a deeper position. I don't have the exact passing statistics.
The Englishman has six assists in all to his name thus far, while the ex-Porto midfielder languishes behind with four assists.
In terms of chance creation, too, Lampard is ahead, although I don't have the exact figures once more.
Meireles plays closer to the defense at Chelsea than he did at Liverpool and hence is more of a long-ball man now. He can certainly improve his execution, though.
Meireles plays further behind and, naturally, has to shoulder greater responsibility defensively.
It is thus surprising to see that he has only five blocks and 12 clearances as compared to Lampard's six and 13 in the respective categories.
Lampard has been yellow carded four times and committed 16 fouls , whereas Meireles has received 11 cautions already and fouled an opponent 28 times.
Raul has got to tone down his aggression when defending, as some of his tackles through the season have been horrible and many a times he has escaped punishment.
Lampard too has made some rash challenges in the middle of the park, but in the relative sense, he is a better tackler.
All in all, Lampard would clearly manage a greater cumulative score, if I had my own criterion to mark the two on attributes and stats. Of course, the EA Sports Player Index (which was a great source of figures for me: http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/players/index.html) also places him higher above Chelsea's industrious No. 16.
Had the man been at his peak, I don't think there would even have been a comparison.
Yes, he's almost 34, is past his best days and has lost his swiftness, but with the resources presently available at the club, he still remains the best choice at Andre's disposal for that attacking mid slot in the 4-3-3 that the Chelsea gaffer continues to persist with. That said, I'm not implying that he should start every time.
What do you think? Would it be the shrewd Lampard or the mercurial Meireles for you? Or is recruiting a player like Luka Modric or Joao Moutinho in the summer the best possible solution?