Mata was undisputedly the best player during those pre-Jose years mentioned. Forgive me for saying so, but you speak very dismissively of a player who performed feats that no ever midfielder had ever performed or will probably ever perform.
Lampard was supremely consistent, very intelligent, had the mental attributes of a true champion, a leader. He was always involved in goals and chances whenever he played, either through scoring, assisting, making key passes, set peices, etc. If anything, most of the team's good play went through Lampard.
Just because he wasn't a dribbler and wasn't fore