Against Valencia, after 56 minutes, Frank Lampard offered up exhibit A for the defence regarding the charge that his legs are fading just as André Villas-Boas reaches for slick, quick, dynamic players for his great redraw of the Chelsea style.
Drifting, as he so likes to do, into space in the opposition area, Lampard pulled the trigger on Florent Malouda's pull-back from the right as it travelled across the Valencia area to take his team into the lead.
Lampard's celebration was of the I-told-you-so variety, as the 33-year-old had entered this Champions League group game making a bid to escape the spotlight marked "future under André Villas-Boas", now vacated by Fernando Torres due to his recent form.
Lampard needed the goal. His first-half performance had been ordinary, having initially illustrated how, even as a fine career turns to autumn, his guile and game-sense should not falter. Within seconds of kick-off, in a withdrawn midfield position, he craftily glanced over at Malouda to gauge the space the wide man occupied and, on receiving the ball, swivelled and instantly served a sweet pass into him.
After 12 minutes, though, Lampard's recent lack of match practice showed. Inside the Valencia half a pass found him as he was tightly marked by Ever Banega, the opposition No10. Again the Chelsea vice-captain attempted to move play on immediately, but this time Banega's close attentions caused him to spoon the ball in the air, possession was lost, and Valencia broke dangerously down their right.
A corner straight at Diego Alves, and a low free-kick he later drilled to the keeper's right was followed by Banega again making a mug of Lampard as he slid in on him and, as half-time neared, he also produced an air-shot instead of a volley from the edge of Valencia's area.
As evidence to support Villas-Boas's increasingly irritable denials that Lampard has gone from the prime mover in the Chelsea attack to a highly valued squad player, this was hardly a great showing. Despite the goal, whether Lampard would complete the full 90 minutes for the first time since the visit to Sunderland on 10 September was still the question requiring an answer as the teams broke for half-time.
That Lampard is no longer the ubiquitous midfielder in the Chelsea machine is clearer. Villas-Boas had smarted when this was put to him ahead of the game. But the facts are unarguable. The man who between 2001 and 2005 made a record 164 consecutive top-flight appearances has become a player who, having made the first XI for the opening four Premier League games of the season (as his manager keenly pointed out), was pulled off at half-time at Manchester United and was an unused reserve against Swansea City on Saturday. Another way to test his status this season is to decide how John Terry would have taken similar selection and how seasoned Stamford Bridge watchers would have viewed that.
On Tuesday evening Villas-Boas had claimed that he hoped Lampard would continue to motor on as one of the club's main men for as long as the Portuguese is at the club. Given the shelf life of the manager's predecessors, the joke went that this was hardly an endorsement that might see Lampard move into his late 30s as a kind of west London Clarence Seedorf, who at 35 continues to be first choice for Milan this season.
But Lampard did emerge for the second half to avoid a repeat of his fate at Old Trafford, and within minutes of the restart offered his first real sparkle. A vintage run into the Valencia area to see Torres aim a header at Alves was followed by him again arriving in the area before he played in the Spaniard, who should have scored from close range.
Next came his smartly taken goal and when Villas-Boas did decide on his first switch to the midfield it was to replace Ramires with Raul Meireles, the Portuguese who had take Lampard's starting berth against Swansea .
But, after 83 minutes, he was replaced by Salomon Kalou.
Chelsea travel to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, where Lampard now waits to see if Villas-Boas will select him, and for how long.