The Evolving Tactical Role of Chelsea's Frank Lampard

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The Evolving Tactical Role of Chelsea's Frank Lampard
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Frank Lampard recently extended his contract, which will see him through his 13th season at Chelsea FC. Since signing for the club in 2001, he has scored a record 203 goals from midfield, under 10 different managers. Those goals are alongside the 120 assists that he has provided for his teammates throughout the years.

Lampard has constantly adapted and evolved his game within different tactical systems, without compromising his work rate and professionalism.

In his first season at the club, Super Frank played alongside the likes of Boudewijn Zenden, Sam Dalla Bona and Mario Stanic as he scored seven goals in 53 appearances. Claudio Ranieri deployed him as an attacking midfielder in a variation on a standard 4-3-3, supporting Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gianfranco Zola.

Lampard's position in his first season at Chelsea.

Roman Abramovich's billions brought a host of new midfielders, with Geremi adding to Jesper Gronkjaer's skill on the wing and Claude Makelele partnering Lampard in the middle of a more traditional 4-4-2. Makelele's ability to act as an effective shield for the defence gave Lampard further license to venture forward, and he scored 15 goals in the 2003-04 season.

Lampard's role in a 4-4-2 circa 2003.

The arrival of Jose Mourinho saw the system change again, with the midfield wingers pushed further forward into a 4-3-3, but Lampard again improved on his goal tally with 19 in all competitions from the middle of the park.

In 2005, Michael Essien joined the club and became a complete box-to-box midfielder, allowing Lampard to use his natural ability to read the game to become Chelsea's top scorer for the season, with 20 goals.

Mourinho's Chelsea midfield.

The Makelele-Essien-Lampard trio continued for a further two seasons, and Lampard kept up his consistent goal scoring form, with 21 and 20 goals in 2006-07 and 2007-08 respectively. When Mourinho and Makelele left Chelsea within months of each other, Frank was able to adapt his playing style again, scoring 20 goals in 2008-09 under three different managers.

He formed a new partnership with Michael Ballack and John Obi Mikel, scoring 26 goals in Chelsea's title-winning season in 2009-10 before the first long-term injury of his career saw him sidelined for four months. When he returned, he made fewer bursting runs forward, and at the age of 33, there were concerns that he might not regain his form.

Lampard's position circa 2008.

Andre Villas Boas made it clear that Lampard was not part of his plans for a revolution at Chelsea, despite the midfielder impressing when he did get into the side. He remained patient throughout Villas Boas' short tenure and, by the triumphant end of the season, had returned 16 goals from 38 starts.

Roberto Di Matteo recognised Lampard's importance as a leader and the difference his presence makes to the side. Since turning 30, he has begun to drop into a deeper midfield position, using his ability to translate training ground tactics onto the match-day pitch. With 4-2-3-1 becoming the preferred formation for the Blues, Frank has adapted again to become one of the holding midfielders.

Lampard's most recent role in the 4-2-3-1 currently employed by Chelsea.

The addition of the Three Amigos has ensured that Lampard's role will be that of a veteran as his career begins to wind towards retirement. He will continue to give everything he has to Chelsea and add to his record goals tally, evolving all the while as only a living legend can.

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