Frank Lampard’s New York City FC career was controversial, to say the least. However, his goal scoring ability — he bagged 12 in just over 1400 minutes last year — was unmatched by any player on the team not named David Villa. When Lampard departed, the debate immediately ensued: who would fill his role in 2017?
The signing of Maxi Moralez did little to decrease those worries. A 5’3” player who doesn't even start in Liga MX... how is he supposed to replace Frank Lampard, the only midfielder to score over 150 goals in the Premier League? But 13 games into his MLS career, there’s already a case to be made that Maxi has surpassed Frank’s contribution to NYCFC, and for a fraction of the price ($6,000,000 to $2,000,000.04).
A little over 1⁄3 of the season has gone by, so I decided it would be appropriate to compare Maxi’s 2017 production to Lampard’s 2016 production. What I found probably doesn't shock you: Maxi has preformed significantly better so far. (All statistics from WhoScored)
As you can see, Maxi has contributed more in the ball distribution department, while Lampard’s created value as a shooter. Still, Maxi’s passing has opened up more opportunities for teammates to score. Overall, it’s fair to say they both impacted the offense about the same, just in different areas.
Maxi has contributed significantly more defensively. Despite playing about 200 fewer minutes, he still accrued more tackles and interceptions. Both of these actions tend to happen closer to NYCFC’s goal, proof of Maxi’s vastly superior work rate.
Also, Lampard only has a slight edge on number of clearances and blocked shots (it helped that he’s not 5’3”). When measured per 90 minutes, however, Maxi blows Lampard away. He completes almost double the number of defensive actions per game. Defensively, Maxi grades out well ahead of Super Frank.
Once again, Maxi dominates statistically. Through his mobility and vision, he is much more involved in the passing game, generally serving as the playmaking fulcrum for the NYCFC attack. Not only does Maxi have a better overall pass success, he also completes more advanced passes. His increased passing ability helps the offense while relieving pressure on the defense. Maxi’s skills are particularly important in the context of building up play out of the back.
Maxi Moralez has not only filled his DP predecessor’s shoes— he’s polished them up. Maxi really does fit Patrick Vieira’s particular system perfectly; his passing and defensive skills have propelled New York City and made playing out of the back a readily achievable goal. His salary is also significantly lower; combined with his durability, we’re seeing a superior return on investment. If he keeps up this level of production, NYCFC fans won’t be lamenting a lack of Lampard when it comes time to mount another playoff run.