Gerrard or Lampard?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

It’s one of the biggest debates in English football. Can Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard play in the same midfield, and still achieve the level of performance that they produce for their respective clubs each week in the Premiership and Europe?

And if not, which of the two should Fabio Capello choose – if either? Let’s take a look at each player individually.

Steven Gerrard, 28, is Mr. Liverpool. He has been capped 70 times for his country and has been called upon to lead his country on several occasions. He has scored 102 goals for Liverpool in all competitions while scoring 14 goals for his country. He is described by many as the best all round midfielder in Europe, and is renowned for his box-to-box runs, spectacular goals and tenacity. On so many occasions he has come to his clubs rescue. Whenever Liverpool seem down and out, Steven Gerrard steps up and drags his team over the finishing line. His performances in the 2005 Champions League campaign helped Liverpool to win the competition. He had reached the summit of European football and this was recognised when he was voted the most valuable player in Europe. However when it comes to England, his performances have not been as consistent.

Often he has failed to find his club form on the international stage which has infuriated many England fans. However it must be pointed out that many England managers have exploited Gerrard’s versatility by playing him out of position for ‘the good of the team’. This has undoubtedly affected his performances in the England shirt. Eriksson and McClaren have both played him at left midfield, and on most occasions this tactic has not been effective.  Gerrard failed to maintain the width on the left and tended to drift in. This often resulted in England becoming very narrow with the play in the centre of the pitch becoming very congested. Surely Gerrard deserves to be played in his preferred role in the centre. A talent like Gerrard should not be suppressed. He can have such an influence on big games and can be such an inspiration to his fellow team-mates that he deserves to be played in the role where he is most effective.

Frank Lampard, 30, is Chelsea’s goal scoring midfielder, who along with John Terry, is adored by Chelsea fans. He has been capped 66 times for England and has also scored 14 goals. However the most amazing statistic about Lampard is his scoring records at Chelsea. Lampard is arguably the most prolific midfielder at hitting the net in Europe. In all competitions for West Ham United and Chelsea, he has scored 158 goals. An incredible amount for a midfielder. It is therefore obvious, why in the past Eriksson and McClaren were so reluctant to drop him despite his poor form in the latter years of their respective tenures. Capello, very much his own man surely will not be swayed by such statistics when it comes to choosing a squad that can get him the desired result.

So why can’t Lampard produce more goals for England and bring his prolific Chelsea form to the international stage? For me the answer is obvious. At Chelsea, Lampard enjoys the comfort of having one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, Michael Essien, playing behind him and allowing Lampard not to have to worry about his defensive duties. Previous to Essien, Lampard had the comfort of Claude Makelele playing behind him, and who is arguably the best defensive midfielder ever. At England, Lampard doesn’t have such luxuries.

This is where the problem lies. When Gerrard and Lampard partner each other in midfield, there is no room for them to both play the attacking role.

More often than not Gerrard is required to play as the holding midfielder while Lampard pushes forward. This reduces Gerrard’s attacking prowess and limits him. Meanwhile Lampard must still concern himself with his defence duties, especially if Gerrard joins the attack from time to time. In a recent article by the BBC, they showed that when Gerrard and Lampard have played together, since the 2006 World Cup, England have won 40% of their matches. With just Lampard playing and no Gerrard, the figure is 50%, and 75% when Gerrard has played with a different midfielder. So statistics would clearly show that for the most productive result, current England manger, Fabio Capello, should drop Lampard, play Gerrard and employ a defensive midfielder like Barry or Carrick. However can Capello really justify dropping one of England’s most potent players just because he ‘supposedly’ can’t gel with another of England star?

An alternative option could be not to play Gerrard or Lampard. As we saw on Wednesday night, England secured a 2-1 victory over arch rivals Germany without the help of Gerrard or Lampard. Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick were successful in controlling the midfield for England and struck up a good partnership. However one could argue that Capello has found a way of successfully using Gerrard and Lampard. He has employed Barry as the holding midfielder in a three man midfield with Gerrard and Lampard either side. Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney have provided the width on the both wings while Emile Heskey has been used effectively as the target man upfront. This tactic has brought wins over Kazakhstan and Belarus. Albeit not the best opposition, it may be the solution that England has been looking for.

Whatever Fabio Capello decides, it is clear that he must produce a compelling argument to drop Gerrard or Lampard or even both. They are two of  Europe’s finest midfielders. So for now, it seems he must find a way to include both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same midfield while making sure it doesn’t affect the all round team performance and ensures that England gets the right result at the end of 90 minutes.

And lets face it, that’s why Capello’s paid £5.2m a year!

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