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Sep 30, 2009

Lampard stuck in a rut

Job done, Chelsea bounced back from that shock at Wigan, won a potential banana skin tie in the Champions League and are top of the group looking to ease through as usual. So, normal service resumed. Or is it?

• Champions League gallery
• Apoel Nicosia 0-1 Chelsea

I always feel it is in victory that it is worth analysing problems, and in defeat looking at some of the positives. When, invariably, the media usually crucify a team that loses and praise to the hilt those that win.

And, to sum it all up, Chelsea were far from convincing and never look quite as formidable without Didier Drogba even though Nicolas Anelka scored the winner and has hit four in his last six starts - which makes a strong case for the Frenchman as a stand-in for Drogba.

As Chelsea head off to a match which might define their season so far, their encounter with Liverpool at the Bridge on Sunday, the big talking about is the form, or lack of it, of Frank Lampard. For a midfield man on the brink of surpassing Jimmy Greaves' goal tally at Chelsea, Lampard is stuck in a barren spell that he urgently needs to escape.

My sources at the Bridge tell me he is not happy with Carlo Ancelotti's tactical tinkering with the midfield. Lampard didn't seem to like the diamond formation from the start of the Italian's reign, nor did he seem to like the fine-tuning of his role during this Champions League tie.

Yet, the two late chances he fluffed has absolutely nothing to do with tactics, or Lampard's role. Lampard performed an air shot and also hit one well off target when in his usual excellent positions in and around the opponents' box.

On another note, is it just me or do Chelsea fans share my concerns about Salomon Kalou? I am sure they are concerned, like I am, that the young forward lacks the confidence or the determination to reach the heights that at times his talent suggests he could.

Meanwhile, Joe Cole is easing his way back, just in time for Chelsea and maybe for England as well.

As for Lampard, for so long his main concern seemed to be how he could fit into an England midfield with Gerrard, but Fabio Capello has worked hard on that, and Lampard is now playing better for his country than his club - quite a turnaround!

With Liverpool shooting themselves in the foot in the Champions League and Chelsea, having lost their 100% league record at Wigan and not convincing against poor European opposition, something has got to give at the Bridge. And, without too many draws, one of these big hitters might be hurting very badly come Sunday evening.

Liverpool have their defensive problems, but Chelsea do rely too much on Drogba, even if Anelka can pitch in with a quantity of goals.

For me, Roman Abramovich has been ready to bring in a new marquee player. Excited once more about the fortunes of his team, he has been ready to make a major splash in the transfer market, but didn't find it easy to spend a new world record on a player. He would have taken Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and one other!

Kaka was the one he would have loved, and would have paid a fortune for. But Kaka opted for Real Madrid, as did Ronaldo, not that Manchester United would have sold their best player to rivals Chelsea.

Abramovich would have splashed £60 million on Fernando Torres! But there is no way Liverpool would have sold him to Chelsea. Abramovich will have an excellent opportunity to see precisely what he is missing when the Spaniard turns out at the Bridge on Sunday.

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