Lampard is still a key player, says Villas-Boas


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The humour at football clubs can be barbed but, said Andre Villas-Boas yesterday, there were no gags about open goals made at the expense of Fernando Torres in training at Cobham. "There's nothing to joke about," he said sternly. "We don't joke about negative results against a Premier League contender."

Nor, it can be assumed, were ageist quips being made to Frank Lampard. So startling was Torres' Old Trafford miss the humiliation suffered by Lampard in being substituted at half-time largely slipped under the radar.

No midfielder has scored more for Chelsea, but this season he has scored once in eight matches, and that from the penalty spot against Norwich. At 33, with injuries more common, Lampard may be facing the one opponent no footballer can beat, Father Time.

Not so, said Villas-Boas. Asked if Lampard (below) could adapt his game, he said: "Of course he could, but I do not like where the question is going. It suggests he has a problem with age and is slowing. That is not so. He still plays with intensity. The decision [to take him off] was purely tactical. I felt we needed to change formation.

"The substitution was not because Lamps was playing badly, he wasn't. He had an important impact. Players of this stature don't have to prove anything to anybody. He will be a key player for the rest of the season."

Nevertheless the feeling that Villas-Boas is changing the guard will be present again tonight in the Carling Cup at home to Fulham. Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand will play tonight in a youthful line-up that will feature one of the old brigade in Didier Drogba, who will return from suffering concussion against Norwich last month. "It is important for him to have some time in the game," said Villas-Boas.