How Should NYCFC Handle the Frank Lampard Situation?

michaelschwartz
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There’s no way to sugarcoat it; the last couple of days have been awful for New York City Football Club fans.

As news broke on New Year’s Eve that Frank Lampard was going to be staying in Manchester until the summer, numerous supporters and journalists criticized the club and the league. For a club that is trying to represent itself as a separate entity from their mother club, New York City’s reputation has already been damaged through the Lampard situation.

Ferran Soriano, the dual CEO of both Manchester City and New York City, promised that the MLS expansion club was not going to be a subsidiary of the mother club. “We want to be New Yorkers. We are building a truly authentic New York team. This is not a Manchester City team or a brand play or a marketing trick – this is real”.

In light of the Lampard situation, Soriano’s promises feel hollow and misleading. If Lampard missing New York City’s opening matches wasn’t bad enough, the notion that the Englishman was never actually on loan from New York City is hard to fathom.

According to the BBC’s David Ornstein, Frank Lampard was not on loan from New York City FC with the mother club till the end of 2014. Instead, Lampard signed a short-term contract with Manchester City through the whole season, with a break clause which was activated at the end of 2014.

So with Lampard’s status as a New York City player in limbo, it’s time to figure out where the club should go from here. Should New York City hold out for Lampard once he arrives or should the club cut ties with him and get another Designated Player?

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According to New York City sporting director Claudio Reyna, Lampard is still a New York City player and will be ready once he returns from Manchester. “He is eager to get to New York once his commitment ends in England and will be available to play on arrival as a permanent member of the squad, given he will come to us having played at the highest level.”

As previously stated, New York City can overcome not having Lampard for the first few months of the season. They should not be put into this situation in their inaugural season but it makes no sense for City Football Group to put their own product, NYCFC, in a situation they can’t get through.

Lampard would need a respite after having played for Manchester City for a full season. New York City would have to ease him back into the starting eleven before the second half of the regular season. From there, Lampard could make a tremendous impact if the club is still in playoff contention.

Yet, whether Frank Lampard is even available for New York City after Manchester City’s season ends remains to be seen. Manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted that Lampard could stay at Manchester for next season when he stated that he “hoped” Lampard will join New York City in the following year.

Pellegrini refused to confirm that Lampard would come to New York City after Manchester City ends. “He {Lampard} will stay now with us until the end of the season. In May maybe you can start thinking about what will happen in the future. He will stay with us until May.”

So with the lack of a definite answer over Lampard’s future from Pellegrini and the realization that he was never on loan from NYCFC, it’s almost impossible to really know whether the Chelsea legend will actually come to New York City. As a result, perhaps New York City FC should move on from this conundrum and just replace Lampard with someone one else.

Without really knowing whether Lampard is coming or not, New York City FC and its supporters are stuck in an undesirable position. Manchester City isn’t going to attract many new supporters from New York if they use NYCFC as a means to solely better themselves. The lack of clarification over Lampard’s status is scarring the club’s image as they appear to be overly manipulated by the mother club.

Therefore, New York City should consider wiping the slate clean by signing a Designated Player to replace Lampard. In order to establish their own identity, New York City should sign two designated players in January that have no connection with Manchester City. Rather than waiting for Lampard to maybe show up at some point, New York City should sign a talented replacement that truly wants to play in the Big Apple.

Over the last couple of weeks, New York City has been linked with a number of experienced stars such as Wesley Sneijder, Steven Gerrard, Daniele De Rossi, and Xavi who reportedly had his bags packed for NYC until he decided to stay at Barcelona. With Lampard out of the picture, New York City could sign a marketable veteran who could make a significant impact on and off the pitch.

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As the Guardian’s Simon Evans astutely noted, perhaps New York City should focus on acquiring less- known but younger foreign players that can make an immediate impact. With a roster that largely consists of players acquired through the MLS Expansion Draft, it’s time for New York City to utilize City Football Group’s considerable resources and extensive scouting network to bring in international players. After Coach Jason Kreis underwent a scouting trip through various regions of South America, it would be encouraging for NYCFC to sign young, determined players looking to make a positive impact in a global media center.

After turning Real Salt Lake into a consistent powerhouse that played stylish, possession-oriented football, City Football Group needs to provide Kreis with the opportunity to put together the best possible roster for his system. Even without Lampard, New York City already has a strong mix of experienced and young talent that can be successful under Kreis.

New York City FC needs to be active in amassing a capable squad with players that are fully committed to succeeding in MLS. If Manchester City wants to keep Lampard for the rest of this season and possibly next year, New York City should let him go especially considering the Englishman seems perfectly happy in England. The Lampard situation is already a debacle and it will only grow more tiresome if things remain the way they are now.

With any start-up company, mistakes are going to be made initially. New York City FC has made their fair share of errors but they can rectify things by perhaps distancing themselves from Lampard and putting together the best possible squad.

Winning on the field is the only way the club is going to be successful and develop a singular identity that earns the respect of fans.

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