Frank Lampard: Who Should Replace the Midfielder at Chelsea?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on March 17, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Frank Lampard's contract expires this summer and while Chelsea are yet to confirm whether he will be offered an extension or not, the debate regarding who should replace him continues to rage.

It's not as simple as that, though. Should the 34-year-old depart Stamford Bridge after 12 years at the end of the season, the Blues will not be looking for a replacement in the sense many think. In any case, do they even need to?

In his time at Chelsea, Lampard has traded on his goalscoring prowess and a whole lot more. While that has served the club so well, winning them three league titles among other trophies, the Blues have evolved to the point where they no longer require a player with his abilities.

In Lampard, Chelsea have long had one of the world's finest rampaging midfielders within their ranks—the traditional notion of what a box-to-box player is really all about.

However, with a change in philosophy and personnel in West London, it's somewhat dated to think of the Blues bringing in a player of that ilk to replace him.

Andre Villas-Boas regularly spoke of having a three-year plan during his short tenure at Chelsea during the 2011-12 season. And while he lasted just eight months of the initial 36 he had outlined, some of the Portuguese's plan is beginning to bear fruit.

It didn't seem to be so at the time, but by signing Juan Mata, in some respects Chelsea already appear to have their man to step in and fill Lampard's considerable shoes.

The pair are polar opposites in terms of how they play the game, but they bring similar overall qualities.

Mata has developed into a key player this season, leading from the front in a way his teammate has done so valiantly for well over a decade. At times he has carried Chelsea through matches when they've struggled, but not only that—he has well and truly found his scoring boots.

Like the Lampard of old, Mata is well on his way to hitting 20 for the season, with his tally currently at 18 for 2012-13. What that statistic alone shows is that the Blues have found a goalscoring midfielder just as the finest goalscoring midfielder in Premier League history nears the end of his career.

It's about a whole lot more than goals, though. His range of passing and even his defensive attributes at times, have set Lampard apart at Chelsea.

And that's what makes it difficult to pinpoint how Chelsea will replace him and who they will replace him with.

The Englishman has adapted his game to the point that he is almost an all-rounder these days. Not only will he find the back of the net at vital moments, he has demonstrated a fine ability to carve open defences with his excellent vision and build-up play.

What the Blues need now is a player to bring that to the squad. Working alongside John Mikel Obi, Chelsea require a midfielder of Jack Wilshere's talent—one who can assist in breaking up play but has the ability to get attacks moving and feed the attacking trio in front of him.

Within their own ranks, the likes of Oriol Romeu, Josh McEachran and even David Luiz are somewhat unproven in that area but have shown signs they could also bring that element to the team.

Whatever happens, it will be a sad day for any Chelsea fan when Lampard's time comes. Be that as it may, with where the club is headed, they seem to be safe hands.