Frank Lampard - how he became Chelsea's title titan

03 May 2011 06:39
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Love was in the air when Carlo Ancelotti conceded the title.

'It's too much,' said the Chelsea manager after a goalless draw at Fulham on St Valentine's Day that left his team trailing in fifth, 12 points behind leaders Manchester United. 'The important thing is to finish in the top four.'

Since then, Chelsea have dropped just two points from nine games. Spurs have dropped 16 in the same period, Arsenal 13, Manchester United 11 and Manchester City eight.

A dominant team would have been out of sight. If Chelsea win the title, they will be the Premier League's f irst sub 80-point champions since 1999.

SNOW LUCKThe game which jolted Chelsea into life came at home to Manchester United, a fixture originally scheduled for December 19, when the champions were stuck deep in a rut of five Barclays Premier League games without a win.

Snow luck: Chelsea had an appalling winter

It was postponed because of snow (although the pitch was fine) and re-arranged for March 1, by which time 15 points separated the teams but the Blues had spent ?75million in the transfer window and had their best players back. Chelsea came from a goal down to win 2-1.

The mantra has been to keep winning and reassess the situation ahead of Sunday's trip to Old Trafford. Three points behind, with an identical goal difference, Chelsea are firmly in the race and finishing strongly. They have proven mental strength and an exceptional on-field leader in John Terry.

LAMPARD REVIVED Revival: Frank Lampard has come into form

The strategy of going into the campaign with a squad of 19 senior players was flawed. When injuries struck they were overstretched, especially with Didier Drogba suffering from malaria and Ramires slow to hit his stride in English football.

No-one, though, left a bigger hole than Frank Lampard. He has been so reliable over a decade. Never injured, always scoring goals from midfield and easing pressure on the strikers.

Suddenly he was missing for nearly four months because of a hernia operation. He looked off the pace when hurried back at the end of last year and it did not help that the arrival of Fernando Torres had Ancelotti tinkering with tactics that diluted Lampard's attacking threat in a 4-4-2 system.

Then bang, six goals in the last ninePremier League games, the same nine games which have reignited the title race, starting with the winner against United on March 1 and up tothe equaliser against Tottenham on Saturday, a goal which didn't actually go in.

Frank Lampard: making the difference

STICK WITH DROGBA After fiddling with the formation to accommodate Torres, Ancelotti seems to have realised the best thing for these players is the 4-3-3 system they have been playing for seven years.

Any desire to change will have to wait until the transfer market reopens. It released Lampard again but presented a problem at centre forward.

Drogba is one of the best in the world playing up on his own. Strong and mobile, he also has a good understanding with those around him at Chelsea, particularly Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou.

Main man: Chelsea have performed better with Didier Drogba leading the attack

After 37 goals last season, Drogba's form has faded but he was shocked back into life by the personal insult that was the arrival of Torres. Drogba, 33, is not the future but has proved he is still the best option. Surely he must play centre forward on Sunday.

UNSUNG HEROES GOALS PER MINUTE 2010/11Salomon Kalou: 2,213 minutes played, 13 goals at a goal every 170min.Nicolas Anelka: 3,269min, 16 goals at a goal every 204min.Frank Lampard: 2,637min, 12 goals at a goal every 220min.Florent Malouda: 3,640min, 14 goals at a goal every 260min.Didier Drogba: 3,550 min, 13 goals at a goal every 273 min.(Fernando Torres, 853min, one goal.)

Salomon Kalou - Like Lampard and Malouda, Kalou has three goals in the last four games but his strike-rate is the best in the club by some distance. Also has the rare quality of unselfishness to complement the chosen centre forward of the day.

Petr Cech - Another outstanding year for the keeper. His steadying influence was vital in keeping the team in touch as they lurched through the worst of their form. Has conceded only 28 goals.

John Mikel Obi - Restored to the midfield holding role since the Champions League defeat at Manchester United and is the best man for the job. Reads the game well and manages the tempo.

KEEPING CARLO Rum ours were rife that owner Roman Abramovich was close to firing Ancelotti after the Champions League defeat by Manchester United on April 12 and that he only resisted because he did not want the season to unravel completely and miss the top four.

Ancelotti's unflappable nature is at its best in a crisis. The Italian has refused to be distracted and it may yet be enough to retain the title. Might it even be enough to save his job?

Keeping Carlo: Roman Abramovich has kept faith in Ancelotti

 Five fab title run-ins: Sportsmail's guide to Squeaky Bum TimeWe will never give up! Terry rallying cry as Chelsea aim to topple UnitedDon't blow it now! Evra warns United must not bottle it in title tilt with BluesAll the latest Chelsea news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Roman Abramovich, Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka, Carlo Ancelotti

Source: Daily_Mail

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