Remarkable Lampard continues to deliver

LONDON - Pipped as Chelsea's player of the year by Didier Drogba and somehow left out of the Premier League team of the year, Frank Lampard nevertheless remains the most important player in his club's title-winning season.

James Milner, Antonio Valencia and Darren Fletcher - all chosen ahead of Lampard in his fellow professionals' team of the season - have their talents but if you asked 100 managers which midfielder they would prefer in their team you could reasonably expect a landslide victory for the Chelsea man.

Perhaps because he scores so many goals every year people forget what a rare talent Lampard possesses and this season he has surpassed even his own high standards.

He has scored 27 goals, including 22 in the league. Even with 10 of them coming via penalties, that is an astonishing figure for a midfielder and maintains a stunning average of more than 20 goals a season for the past six years.

As well as his uncanny ability to drift into scoring positions Lampard has his fair share of assists and also exerts a calming, authoritative presence.

His self-control is also exemplary as this season he has not collected a single red or yellow card.

Listed as one of Jose Mourinho's "untouchables" four years ago, Lampard continues to defy the cult of rotation.

This season he played in 36 of Chelsea's 38 league games, in all five rounds of the FA Cup as well as six Champions League games.

At 31 he remains one of the fittest players in the league and it is no co-incidence that so many of his goals come in the last 20 minutes of games.

His timing has been key in the wider picture too as he produced a goal rush just when Chelsea needed it.

Since the 1-1 draw seven weeks ago at Blackburn Rovers that seemed to hand the title initiative to Manchester United, Lampard has scored 11 goals in nine games, including a remarkable four in the 7-1 rout of Aston Villa.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti, like all his Chelsea predecessors in the last nine years, recognises that Lampard is an extraordinary talent.

"He has scored more than 20 goals and has shown everything," said the Italian. "Strong character, he never misses a training session, he has played with consistency. I think he gets over eight out of 10 every time and I never give 10 out of 10."

Ray Wilkins, Chelsea's midfield maestro in the days when there was nobody to pass to, is also a huge admirer.

"When you see the goals Frank has scored and the level he has played to then you have to say he is world class," said Ancelotti's assistant.

"He has the ability to get forward but also the ability to get back and defend. He trains exactly the same as he plays and if there are any young kids listening to what I am saying about Frank, then this is the example to follow."

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