5 Reasons Why Frank Lampard Might Be Dropped for England vs. Bulgaria
Rumors are swirling around England's game against Bulgaria in Sofia that a player who has been a guaranteed starter may have to settle for a place on the bench.
If true, this would be a change in England's footballing landscape. Not only would this be a different direction for Capello, it would break the standard set up for the English central midfield for the best part of a decade.
So why is Lampard's position under threat?
Here are five reasons why I think we could witness a changing of the guard.
5. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has started the season with a full head of hair, a smile on his face and magic in his boots.
His scintillating form has renewed Capello's faith in the young tyro, but why would this great news for England harm Lampard's chances?
It is all about the formation.
If Capello were to employ the newly popular "False 9" formation, whereby the lone forward drops off the front to both find space and get on the ball, but also to pull a center back with him and create a hole at the heart of the opposition defensive line, Rooney would be perfect in the role.
Not only would this formation suit Rooney, it would also require an attacking midfielder who consistently went past him in order to exploit the space between center backs. Which would take full advantage of Lampard's preferred style.
However it seems that Capello is keen on playing two up front, with either Andy Carroll leading the line or Theo Walcott used centrally, which causes a problem.
When Rooney drops into space, it is often inhabited by Lampard moving in the opposite direction. With another striker ahead that makes a very narrow central attack, without necessarily displacing either of the opposition center backs.
In the likely 4-4-1-1 formation, Capello would seek to maximize Rooney's influence, which precludes Lampard's involvement.
4. Fabio Capello's Addiction to Four Across the Middle
There are a number of reasons why Fabio Capello has been criticized recently.
One of the accusations about the experienced Italian is that he is inflexible in his mindset to formation.
The man likes a bank of four, be it across the back or the middle of the pitch.
Frank Lampard is at his best when laying the ball off and pushing up field, arriving late to shoot on goal.
He is the modern equivalent of David Platt or Bryan Robson, two players Lampard cites when he talks about the influences on his training regime.
However, to allow Lampard to get forward with impunity, Chelsea managers have been smart enough to play with three central midfielders to ensure that the team is not found light through the middle on the counter attack.
Capello has rarely made this modification to his line up.
In a central midfield tailored to Lampard he could thrive without leaving England vulnerable to counter attacks, using quick passing through the center circle.
Unfortunately, Capello has never seemed keen to build his side around Lampard's abilities.
3. The Resurgence of the Winger
Ashley Young has not only hit the ground running since joining Manchester United, he hit the ground turning, selling a dummy and curling the ball into the top right corner.
When Young was left on the bench against Switzerland jaws hit the floor with a thud. At halftime Frank Lampard was substituted and it was Young who replaced him.
It is very doubtful that Capello will leave Young on the bench again, and with England's apparent depth of talent on the wings (Downing, Walcott etc.), the England manager might be looking wide for the thrust from midfield, and be more inclined to have two holding central midfielders. This would give Young and whoever plays on the opposite flank the license to attack freely.
Lampard may be the victim of a desire to play two true wingers, rather than in recent years when a midfielder would be used on the left to move centrally and fill in for the Chelsea player's forward runs (Gerrard, Cole, Milner and Barry being amongst those 'doing a job' on the left).
2. The Hollywood Ball
The phrase "Hollywood Ball" is a derogatory term used to describe a pass that spends more time in the air than a Boeing 747, and has to be much more accurate when landing to hit its desired target.
These passes can often be seen in England games, and even more frequently hitting one of the seated areas near the game, but there is a misconception that it is simply due to players wanting to attract attention to themselves.
"Why not hit the simple short pass?", many have asked.
The answer is that often the nearest player on the pitch is 50 yards away, and has two markers breathing down their neck.
When Capello sets up his midfield, the defensive midfielder is so deep, the attacking midfielder is so far forward and the wide players are so wide that there is a huge diamond shaped vacuum across the center of the pitch. In this space an England player would worry about getting phone reception, never mind a short pass.
England's midfield is so disjointed, disparate and so usually outnumbered by an opposition playing with three central midfielders, that often long passes are the only option that doesn't require perfect accuracy and instantaneous control.
It is certainly not Lampard's fault that this touring Bermuda Triangle exists in England's formation, but reducing Lampard's instincts to get forward would solve part of the problem, but also negate his value to the team.
To play with a cohesive midfield, Capello needs to change how England moves the ball centrally, and Lampard might be the casualty.
1. Age Comes to Us All
At 33 Frank Lampard is certainly still a force for Chelsea, but the drive and pace simply isn't as evident as two years ago.
With younger players like Wilshire and Cleverley coming through the ranks, Lampard's position is under more threat than ever.
Is Bulgaria vs. England the game where Capello looks to the future?
Fabio Capello is hoping to finish his career on a high note by taking England to the advanced stages of the 2012 European Championships, and eradicate the stain of the World Cup from his vaunted career.
The question is whether Capello sees Frank Lampard as integral to that campaign.
I get the feeling that times they are a-changing.