Chelsea, as they're wont to do, have found their footing in the Premiership, entering the new year fourth in the table. They sit one point behind third-place Tottenham and seven points behind second-place Manchester City, which, given that they've played two less matches, is utterly impressive.
But with the new year comes new questions, as it does for most every club in Europe. The transfer window is officially open, and the rumor mill is turning in full effect. Chelsea have been linked to numerous players—Demba Ba and Theo Walcott—that could come in an immediately improve their squad.
But the biggest decision the Blues have to make this month won't be one of acquisition; it will be one of retention.
Longtime stalwart, and interim captain, Frank Lampard's contract is up at the end of the season, casting doubt over his future with the club. Supplemented by the young talent Chelsea has in the midfield, those rumors gain even more credence.
The rumors are hardly a secret, either. Lampard is privy to his situation, and has addressed it recently when asked if he knew what the new year would hold:
Nope, I just hope for me personally playing in a winning team. I will keep trying to give my best as I've always done when here and will continue to do so. I know there's a lot of speculation and talk, but for me the enjoyable bit is the 90 minutes.
It's easy to see why the Blues would see him, at least initially, as an expendable commodity. Lampard is 34 years old and facing increased competition from younger players like Ramires, Jon Obi Mikel and Oriel Romeu. Chelsea knows what they have in Lampard, and they know it only goes downhill from here; why not see what you have in these other promising talents?
Well, the answer is clear: Because you're the bloody reigning champions of Europe! How can you play for the future when you're one year removed from a Champions League title? When you're still in the top four of the Premiership? When you're still one of the top clubs on the planet?
Frank Lampard is still capable of helping Chelsea win football games. He proved as much in 2012's final match, scoring both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over Everton. He's a force of stability, savvy and leadership. A force the Blues can't afford to lose until—at the earliest—next season.
One day Chelsea will find a new great in the midfield. They might already have him on their roster, and Lampard could currently be blocking his path to the pitch.
But how can you expect to cultivate such talent without prolonged exposure to one of the all-time greats?