Originally published in The Athletic, 2020 by Carl Anka
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Odd Skarheim cracks a smile as he delivers a Skype presentation to The Athletic featuring match footage of Frank Lampard in a game against Blackburn in 2009.
Over the space of seven seconds the England midfielder scans the pitch 10 times, looking right and left, and when he gets the ball he beats his first man with a little step before passing into space.
At the time, Lampard was regarded as one of the best footballers in the world, it was common to cite his near pre-natural ability to pop up at the right place and the right time to get a goal or an assist. He finished the 2009-10 season with 27 goals and 18 assists across all competitions as Chelsea won the domestic double.
The best passing midfielders are often said to possess that ability to know what to do with the ball before they get it. They “carry an image of the pitch in their heads” at all times.