Lampard set to speed past 'slow starter' tag

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The Independent Football

So much so that in the wake of their functional 1-0 Champions' League victory against Anderlecht on Tuesday night the midfielder Frank Lampard could concede, candidly, that he was not "on top form".

"If I was I'd probably be worried that I couldn't sustain that all season in the important part of the season and the World Cup itself," the England midfielder said.

He would not react to Sven Goran Eriksson's comments that he was a "slow starter" but revealed he had spoken to the England manager himself for clarification. "The England game wasn't great," Lampard said. "We all know that. I'm disappointed with that. But I'm pleased [with Chelsea]. Three goals [this season]. Looking to improve."

Lampard said that he believed Eriksson was not singling him out for criticism over the way he performed in the World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland - "at this point of the season there are not too many players firing on all cylinders", he said - but there were signs that he felt it was all an unnecessary distraction.

"I didn't start so great last year and ended up Footballer of the Year," Lampard, who scored the winning goal against the Belgian champions, said. "Hopefully I'll keep building up and building up and surpass what I've done last year."

And that is the scary thing about Chelsea for their competitors. If anything, they have become even more ruthlessly efficient and are yet to concede a goal this season or drop a point.

"Maybe we've built on the winning mentality," Lampard said ominously. "People know we're maybe not playing at times the flying football we can do."

That, he said, was due partly to the defensive approach that teams take against them. Officials at Stamford Bridge were also quick to rebut valid suggestions that attracting less than 30,000 fans, as they did against Anderlecht - who brought 3,000 of their own - was a sign that Chelsea were simply not entertaining enough. But given Roman Abramovich's outlay at the club surely more can be expected than the efficient but colourless football served up so far? It does not wash when Mourinho's response is to purr about the impressive percentage of possession his players maintained.

"We are pleased with the three points, but a little bit disappointed with the performance," the captain John Terry conceded. "We didn't play well."

There is a "momentum" to seasons, he said. "We are keeping it very tight and winning by one or two goals but I think last season we were the same. We didn't start too well but we were still getting the results."

The turning point last time round was the visit in December last year of Norwich City, who were dispatched 4-0. "The fluent football started, the goals started," Terry said. First grind them down, then dance on their graves.

Next up in the Champions' League is Liverpool, of course, who defeated Chelsea in last season's charged semi-final second leg at Anfield. For Terry, revenge is in the air.

"We know going back there the fans are going to be great again, they are going to be up for it but in the players minds' we are keeping quiet because we know it's our chance to go there and get revenge," Terry said. "It was a terrible, terrible night and bad memories for everyone last year and this is our chance to put it right."