As Frank Lampard trudged off the field during Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Newcastle last week and angrily huffed onto the bench, it was almost as is he could see his Chelsea career slipping through his fingers.
A missed penalty, the arrival of a hip young gun-slinger on the scene and the tide of public opinion turning against him, he could be forgiven for thinking he would be better off sunning himself in America while picking up a handsome pay-cheque.
Lampard is no longer the pillar he used to be, just as those players who remained constants through the title-winning days of years gone by have seen their crowns slip. John Terry, Dider Drogba and indeed Lampard will have to fight for their lives to retain the roles the have held for so long, and Lampard appears the first to for the chop.
There was a hint of what was to come as Lampard found himself on the bench for back to back games against Swansea in Fulham in September while Scott Parker was preferred at national level for the crucial qualifier against Bulgaria. The writing has been on the wall for the once automatic pick for some time.
After those games Lampard responded in style and bagged five in five goals to add weight to the claim that he remains the best scoring midfielder in the Premier League, but since then he has had to come to terms with the tides changing at Chelsea and leaving him behind.
Andre Villas Boas has seemingly laid his designs for Chelsea’s future -whether swayed by general consensus or part of a grand scheme, it is becoming increasingly clear that Lampard isn’t part of them.
His crusade to rid Chelsea of their ageing problem is well documented, but in the case of Didier Drogba he appears more than happy to opt for Chelsea’ elder statesmen up front – but where the pair differentiate is that Drogba has no one currently playing better than him in his respective position
Oriol Romeu has stepped into the side at Lampard’s expense and has demonstrated plenty of the talent that saw him singled out as one of the brightest young talent’s at Barcelona before his switch to Stamford Bridge.
The Spaniard’s dynamism fits perfectly in tune with the up-tempo game Villas-Boas is trying to instill in his charges, and alongside Raul Merieles and Ramires represents the future engine room at the Bridge.
And that is where Lampard doesn’t fit into the plan anymore. The problem with Lampard is not necessarily what he does but what he represents, namely the past.
In the centre of the pitch he is seen as an antiquated relic of a bygone era in a world where younger, fresher, busier players are seen and heard more.
Lampard iterated his desire to see out his career at Stamford Bridge earlier while Villas-Boas insisted he had no plans to sell Lampard to an unnamed MLS side, but you get the feeling that if he does stay in west London, he will have to adapt to the fact he is no longer an automatic choice.
It’s a harsh reality for a man who has scored 177 goals for the club, but it is the truth in a time when a man like Villas-Boas is bought to the club to steer the club in a different direction.