Diego Maradona’s one-time son-in-law continues to be, quite simply, a goal machine. In just five starts and two substitute appearances for Manchester City in the Premier League this season, he has scored five goals, as well as popping home their penalty against Roma in the Champions League. Behind the free-scoring freak of nature that is Diego Costa, this makes him the joint second highest scorer in the league to date, despite having played only two thirds of the available minutes; he also has the second highest shots per game ratio, behind the all-round freak of nature that is Mario Balotelli. He scores when he starts (four goals in six) and he scores when he doesn’t (two from three substitute appearances, in a combined total of 45 minutes on the pitch). What is more, he is currently, at 114 minutes per goal, the most frequent scorer in Premier League history (a full seven minutes per goal quicker than second placed Thierry Henry; compatriot Edin Dzeko is sixth). And who does he face at the weekend? None other than Tottenham, against whom City scored 11 (that’s 11) goals in two games last year, the Argentine claiming three. It would surely be a brave punter to back against him finding the net again this time around.
The Spaniard was comfortably Manchester City’s best player in an otherwise fairly lacklustre performance against Roma, with three shots as well as five key passes in a game in which the rest of the team managed just six between them, no player making more than one. Largely cutting in from the left but with occasional forays through the centre, he has a goal and two assists to show for his near omnipresence (he has missed just 40 minutes of his club’s season to date). His passing accuracy is over 90 per cent, and he has been heavily involved in City’s play, with the seventh highest average number of passes per game in the league this season. He also makes those passes count, with a through ball rate that bears comparison with such luminaries as Cesc Fàbregas, Ángel di María and Riyad Mahrez. It is a constant refrain when Manchester City fans are asked for their greatest signing of the Etihad era to opt for the intricate Spaniard, while Jamie Carragher recently described his awareness as “the best in world football.” If it might be argued that he is yet to truly hit the heights that he is capable of this season, the kick-start is undeniably coming.
The contribution of the 36-year-old former England man – whose description does not sound like a promising start – so far this season might be capable of being described as a revelation, had it not been in many ways so utterly predictable. The player described by Johnny Giles a couple of weeks back as a striker playing in midfield scored a late equaliser against Chelsea, as he was bound to do, and then notched again for his new Blues in an 18-minute cameo against Hull the following week. He appears nowhere near the higher echelons of the charts for assists, for shots, for tackles, for dribbles, for passes; and looking back through history, these have never been his strengths. He is rarely, indeed, his team’s best player – but he just keeps on scoring. Lampard has more Premier League goals than Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Robin van Persie and Ian Wright to name but four, and he is just two behind Thierry Henry. His four Manchester City strikes have come in just 143 minutes, and he scores important goals at key times. The Citizens will not get much out of Frank Lampard over the time that he plays for them this season; but what they do get will be vital.
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