Jose Mourinho Plans to Turn Frank Lampard into Chelsea's Andrea Pirlo
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Frank Lampard can extend his Premier League career by learning to play as a deep-lying midfielder, a la Andrea Pirlo.
The comments, made in an interview with the Guardian's Dominic Fifield, were part of a wider discussion into the Portuguese manager's long-term desire to create an English, ideally home-grown core at Stamford Bridge.
While that involves bringing through some of the club's young English talent, it also requires the likes of Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole to remain for another couple of seasons.
Regarding Lampard's new role, Mourinho commented:
Of course Frank can become that. He has to adapt and learn every day how to play with this new body. A player can still learn new skills at his age.
I'm 50 and have been a manager since 2000 and I'm learning every day. You can always learn new skills, especially if the player has an open mind like he does. He's a player who can keep the side's balance, who thinks about the game and can work with kids around him.
For him, it was very good I'm back because the trust is so big. He knows that every decision I make on him is for my team - because that's most important - but also for him. So if, one day, I bring him off at 70 minutes or leave him on the bench or give him a rest and don't select him, it's for his own good.
He knows, without me speaking to him every day - which I don't do with my players - that I'm doing it for him. The trust and friendship is so big that he is happy. At this moment of his career, it was very important for him to have somebody like me around.
England team v Poland: Smalling for Walker and Carrick for Lampard. Pace at right back, ball retention and passing range in CM.— Paul Kelso (@pkelso) October 15, 2013
The comments will be reassuring for Lampard, who was almost allowed to leave the club on a free this summer, before signing a new one-year deal in May per BBC Sport.
Mourinho has involved the veteran in every league and European match thus far this season, predominantly featuring him in his new deep-lying role. There are, though, question marks over his suitability for the role at the top level.
Lampard lacks the drive of Ramires, who not only contributes more in attack these days, but also has a better pass accuracy (87 percent to Lampard's 84). John Obi Mikel's 92 percent completion is even better.
More worrying for Lampard moving to a deeper role is that he has only completed 18 of 35 attempted long passes this season. Ramires, again is better with 23 of 30 complete, while Mikel has completed 19 of 21.
For a "Pirlo-style" defensive midfielder, Lampard is simply not a good enough passer at present. For a point of reference, Pirlo has completed 67 of 82 long passes already this season—misplacing less than Lampard despite attempting more than double.
In the Premier League, Michael Carrick has completed 55 of 71 long passes, with an overall pass success rate of 86 percent. Yaya Toure, as well as scoring goals, has completed 44 of 52 long passes and has an overall success rate of over 90 percent.
Mourinho's idea of a player dropping deeper in the twilight of their career is a tried and tested model. Expecting Lampard to become Pirlo, though, is out of the question.
The England international has often struggled when expected to play deeper for his country, and there is no reason to suggest he would do better for his club.
Lampard could no doubt be a good deep-lying playmaker. However, "good" is not enough for a side of Chelsea's ambitions.
Stats via WhoScored.com
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