While Manchester City may not exactly have an abundance of English players in their first team squad, one of them is proving to be an increasingly important part of Manuel Pellegrini’s plans this season. Signed on a short-term loan at the ripe old age of 36 from New York City FC (a newly-formed American side who are partly owned by City), Frank Lampard has been in inspired form at Eastlands. While he may not be a regular starter – and there’s no way that the veteran would have expected this to be the case when he made the move – the former Chelsea midfielder has still been highly influential whenever he has appeared for City.
Having netted five times in ten appearances – his latest an excellent finish against Southampton on Sunday after coming on midway through the second half, which saw him edging to within one goal of equalling Thierry Henry in the Premier League‘s all-time goalscoring charts – Lampard has scored the same amount of goals as Yaya Toure, despite the Ivorian having played almost twice as many games. Last season’s title winners have found it difficult at times this season, but the decision to bring in Lampard has been a masterstroke; his wealth of experience, his immediate success at linking up with his new teammates and his continued mastery of midfield even at such a late stage in his playing career has been of enormous benefit to City.
Indeed, it is richly ironic that of the three English players who play with any regularity for City (we are discounting the forgotten men of Scott Sinclair and Richard Wright here), Lampard is the only one who is no longer involved in international football, yet he has still made by far the greatest impact at club level this season. While James Milner remains a very useful and somewhat underrated player for both City and the Three Lions, Joe Hart – the current England number one – has been found wanting at times for Pellegrini’s side.
The goalkeeper was arguably to blame for both of Bayern Munich’s goals in their recent Champions League tie, and while he is still capable of performing exceptionally well for City, his problems with consistency and his tendency to make errors stretch back to last year. With such vast wealth and such lofty ambitions from its owners, City are a side who are aiming to fill its side with world-class talent. They may have achieved this in attack and possibly in midfield, yet in goal they still do not possess a player who can claim to be the best in the Premier League, let alone in the world.
Lampard’s loan period at City is due to end in January when officially moves to New York City FC, yet Pellegrini must surely do his utmost to try and extend the midfielder’s spell at the club. He is a player who has shown himself to be capable of elevating a side’s performance levels, and his mere presence at Eastlands could be invaluable if City manage to catch up with Chelsea and find themselves competing in a title race.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of Lampard’s compatriot. Joe Hart is undoubtedly a talented goalkeeper, yet if City are to become a serious force in world football, they will need to find an upgrade.
Holding onto one Englishman and waving goodbye to another is the approach that City need to take if they are to progress to the next level.
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