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Is Gerrard v Lampard Really England’s Biggest Problem Right Now?

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The result read England 3, Belarus 1, with Steven Gerrard on the score sheet, and yet like night following day, the pundits were still assessing Capello’s success in dealing with on one of the most tired clichés in Modern Football — Gerrard v. Lampard.

That the two cannot play together has been part of journo orthodoxy since 2001. Conventional wisdom tells us because Gerrard sat out Euro 2004, England played great football (precisely up until Rooney’s broken metatarsal).

In fact, whenever Gerrard has been left out of the England line-up with Lamps there to take his place, England apparently plays ‘champagne soccer’ — witness the hooting and hollering among print journalists following the Eleven Lions trouncing of the Ten Croats in Zagreb. Yet even after Saturday’s thrashing of Kazakhstan, some normally reserved members of the English press were calling for Gerrard to hang up his England shirt for good.

Sometimes the English press is like a biologist who thinks he can tell you something about human nature by studying the behaviour of white blood cells. If they’re not clamouring about Beckham’s relative position on the pitch (less of a problem now as he’s turning into an eightieth minute sub), or fretting about Rooney moving ‘too far forward,’ or hemming about Rio Ferdinand ‘pushing up out of position,’ or hawing about how Ashley Cole ‘doesn’t run up the wings like he used to,’ they’re whingeing about Gerrard and Lampard ‘cancelling each other out.’ You wonder sometimes if these are footballers or sub-atomic particles wrenched apart by some enormous collider. Position one here, and position one there, you’ve got either a nuclear meltdown or a black hole.

I can’t think of any other national setup where debates are posited along these lines. France is stinking up Europe at the moment, but most French onlookers suspect Domenech’s tactical naiveté, not whether Ribery is getting ‘cancelled out’ by Malouda. What does it say about a player’s adaptability if, positioned next to a player of equal or greater ability (I’m not taking sides here), he is suddenly unable to make a pass, take a shot, or lay off to a player on the wing?

I believe Gerrard and Lampard are very talented players. Certainly their respective performances in the Premier League justifies, on paper at least, their continued presence on the England squad. However I’m not yet convinced they’re versatile players. I’m not yet convinced any player in the England team, except perhaps Joe Cole, or maybe Theo Walcott, is truly versatile. Rooney runs around like a jack-of all trades and can still score a goal or two, when he’s not busy shanking the ball into touch. Ashley Cole is a shadow of the defender he was in Portugal 2004. The rest are good enough. But versatile?

Perhaps if journos dug a little deeper and spilled a little more ink, we might get to the root of the problem — England can’t produce total players, let alone total football. Perhaps if we focused a little less on whether England’s players will implode if positioned improperly, and a little more on why they can’t seem to adapt in the first place, we might begin to realize how ridiculous this Stevie G. v. Lamps meme has become.

Richard Whittall writes on A More Splendid Life.

Comments (7)

  1. i’m saying this with the least disrespect to heskey as possible as i thought he has played brilliant in the qualifiers but to accomodate them both i would play gerrard in the supporting striker role with rooney up top in a kinda free role like this.

    james

    a.cole terry rio brown

    lampard barry
    a.young walcott
    gerrard

    rooney

  2. Cap’s real challenge will come against Croatia at home and then at the World Cup (we’re going now, aren’t we) where, as Graham said in his review, an undisciplined approach to defending will not work.

    I’d like to see Cap at least perfect two or three different midfield configurations with Lampard and Gerrard taking turns playing the lead role. We should be prepared, not just on the training ground but with match experience.

  3. Richard — But can they play together?

  4. the english midfield should contain hargo and carrick …..not lamps and gerrard

  5. Indeed both Lampard and Gerrard are good players. Looking at their performances for their clubs I would consider Lampard to be more effective despite playing next to Great’s like Deco, Ballack and Essien.
    Maybe Gerrard should take a more defensive midfield role like the position of Obi Mikel or formerly Makelele at Chelsea. It would still give him the possibilities to play attacking football. I agree with Ahmed that the experience of both players are essential to the team and therefore England needs both of them since they are both in a position to decide a game by only a flash of brilliance.

  6. barry plays as a defensive mid for england. Also lampard would be more effective as a deep lying play maker then gerrard would be. Gerrard provides a threat from the hole which lampard just cant. Lampard has great timing and positioning though and he can also deliver a mean long ball with great accuracy.
    I think gerrard and lampard could play together but it would require lampard changing his game more then gerrard. Gerrard provides a greater threat attacking then lampard does just because gerrard can do it on his own, lampard requires his team mates to be truly effective.

  7. I’m not English but I like to see them do well and I’m a Man Utd fan…just to position myself.

    Reagrding the article, a cliche becomes a cliche because it is typically a truism. Gerrard and Lampard ARE both excellent players but it surely has gone beyond argument….they can’t play together. They want the same space and it doesn’t work.
    I’ve always said that the greatest impact Capello can have is to sort this issue. The rest is just picking the form players in the other positions. It’s Gerrard every time for me. Played in his best role he’s a real force.

    Carrick or Hargreaves in the holding position. Barry is not as good in this position and ,for my money, not worth his place.

    If you want the stats then here they are:

    England with Gerrard and not Lampard: 67% wins
    England with Lampard and not Gerrard: 50% wins.

    Probably doesn’t mean much. Rotate if you must but DON’t play them together. At the very least it is worth a try.

    Calls to not change a winning team are naiive. Some of the performances, despite the results, have shown up problems. It’s about moving on and getting the best from what you have. Too many fans get hung up on choosing the best individual players. Its a team game and the team needs to be, at least, as good as the sum of its parts.

    That’s not the case when both Gerrard and Lampard are included.