Midfield duo are at the centre of England’s problems
Frank Lampard: for the chop?
There are many factors to the on-going woes of the once great England soccer squad. Some people say that poor team selection is at the heart of why they are not winners anymore.
Others claim that intense news media scrutiny or a losers mentality is to blame and that a sports psychologist is required more so than a tactical magician. People often attribute England’s many on-pitch issues on past managers. I have a simple theory; one main position is in dire need of adjustment; central midfield.
The never-ending debate over Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the can-they-will they saga has to come to an end, they have played together almost 50 times and everyone in the country knows they do not complement each other well.
On the international stage, the tone of the game is much slower, and keeping possession of the ball is vital, consequently the centre of the park becomes to this. The reason why England fail to proceed past the quarter final stages of major competitions and why they have now failed to qualify altogether is because teams both above them and below them in FIFA rankings easily outpass, outclass and outmanoeuvre them. Portugal did it, Russia did it, Croatia did it. Hell even Kazakhstan had their spells of possession.
And the reason why England can’t keep the ball is because both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are not good at controlling the game, executing short passes, and cannot create a patient build up play which sets strikers into the action. Gerrard has no composure whatsoever, he constantly tries to find a killer pass with his first touch; he is not disciplined within his position, unlike at Liverpool where he is given a somewhat free role just behind Fernando Torres.
This is why Gareth Barry has had such a successful run in central midfield lately. Barry is extremely tidy on the ball, compact, disciplined, a good passer and reads the game very well. Whereas Gerrard relies on his excellent long ball passing and shooting to get himself into the mix of things. Very often, Gerrard both domestically and on the world stage goes missing in games, something a central midfielder should never be guilty of.
Why do you think for so long Rafa Benetiz insisted on playing him on the right? It's because he cannot be trusted with his defensive and positional duties and a defensive-minded manager like Benetiz can't risk that fact. It seems Gerrard cannot do the simple things well and football is a very simple sport.
Frank Lampard on the other hand has no sense of when to attack and when to defend. He shoots far too often and generally cannot play alongside Gerrard. They have no understanding of each other's game. Lampard is more attacking-minded which means he often finds himself too far up the pitch leaving a gap in the middle of the field.
Also his passing skills are limited and he frequently makes useless ones and gives the ball away. Gerrard and Lampard are two different players who probably will never find the chemistry on the pitch to flatter each other's strengths, since it’s been a good four years since they first regularly partnered each other in midfield, it is time to drop one of them. So, who should be demoted to the bench?
I would recommend Lampard, purely because he has less to offer in terms of energy, passing, defensive capabilities and is less of a presence than Gerrard. Also Gerrard is a great crosser; shooter and can tackle too which gives him an advantage in terms of attacking football.
Who do I think should replace Lampard? At this moment in time it would have to be Gareth Barry. He has shown maturity, class and has been a rock in midfield for England of late, outshining Gerrard with ease. Other candidates would be Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas and perhaps in the future, Tom Huddlestone.
It would take a lot of courage for a England manager to come to the conclusion that either Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard should be axed. Luckily for us this time round, we have a man who cares not for reputation. Fabio Capello will soon make that decision. I predict come the World Cup in South Africa, 2010, the starting line up will not include Frank Lampard. Or Steven Gerrard, or even better both.