Lampard remains as valuable to England as ever

Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (who was kind of a 19th century, German version of Sun Tzu) once observed, in a nutshell, that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. As football is merely war played out without the killing, this quote is more than apt for this situation.

The problem comes when metaphors are extended to breaking point and we have reached that point because football is just as complex as war and markedly different too. Whilst a match where a manager makes a decisive tactical shift as a result of the opposing team’s tactical set up would represent an example of von Moltke’s theory, there are more enemies in football than the other set of human beings wearing a different colour shirt to oneself; injuries for example.

This brings us on to Frank Lampard who will today undergo a scan on a thigh injury picked up whilst training with England at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground resulting in Jordan Henderson being put back on stand-by as a precaution should the 33-year-old not be fit to take part in the tournament. UEFA rules dictate that despite the deadline for 23-man squads to be announced passing on Tuesday, players can be replaced before the team’s first match if the team’s doctor and the UEFA medical committee deem the injury is serious enough for the player to not be able to play a part in the tournament.

Whilst it is assumed that Lampard is not a first choice for the England team, with the presumed midfield consisting of a Parker-Gerrard axis with Ashley Young in ‘the hole’ (at least whilst Wayne Rooney is suspended), the value of having a Champions League winning player around the squad both for experience and as back up would be a tremendous loss to Roy Hodgson.

As Hodgson himself has noted in the past, the progress of a team is not just dependant on the starting XI but the squad as a whole remaining unified and blessed with strength in depth which, whichever way you cut it, Lampard being a better option (for his experience, skill and knowhow around the England setup) than Henderson should it be the latter who is called up to replace the former if the worst were to happen.

With the likes of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick making it clear they have no intention to come back to the international fold (the former understandably given his age, the latter less so as a guarantee of a starting place should not have to be the incentive to play international football), there is a distinct lack of options in central midfield for Hodgson to pursue.

von Moltke theorised that the best military generals were not the ones that responded best to their plans being disrupted, but the ones who had planned for the largest number of eventualities once battle commenced. Whilst having your, probable, third choice central midfielder ruled out through injury is an unusual outcome to plan for, its impact on the squad as a whole may well prove to be a large one and from which Hodgson will need to show he planned for.


As a reminder of times past, here is arguably Lampard’s finest hour in an England shirt when he scored twice against Croatia in an emphatic 5-1 win to secure qualification for the 2010 World Cup, probably England’s last impressive performance.

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