Friday, April 11, 2008

How Good is Frank Lampard?

The name of Frank Lampard, one of the foremost midfield players plying their trade in England is conspicuously absent from my previous post. Whilst there is no doubting Lampard’s effectiveness on a football pitch, there is no place for him in the England line up alongside Steven Gerrard. There are lots of football pundits who continually opine that Lampard and Gerrard can play alongside each other in the center of England’s midfield. I for one cannot get myself to agree with such a viewpoint.

Both Lampard and Gerrard are at their best when played in the heart of midfield and I believe they are far too alike to be deployed together, as doing so would only result in both of them getting to similar positions on the pitch and in all probability coming in the way of each other’s game. I also have my doubts as to the ability of either player to adapt to different systems so as to suit the needs of the England football team. Gerrard for instance has never quite looked comfortable playing anywhere but in central midfield for Liverpool.

Rafael Benitez one of the leading tacticians in European football has tried to deploy Gerrard in various positions including out on the wings, but the only position where Gerrard is at his most effective is in the center of Liverpool’s midfield. When Gerrard is played out on the wings, he has a tendency to drift inwards leaving a lot of room for the opposition’s full back to make attacking runs. Benitez seems to often doubt Gerrard’s ability to track back effectively from central midfield and has off late used him in the ‘hole’ behind the terrific Torres. However as I had mentioned in my previous post Capello must refrain from using Gerrard in the ‘hole’ as long as Joe Cole is fit and healthy.

There is also no question of playing Lampard and Gerrard as partners in a two man central midfield as neither of them is capable of anchoring the midfield. Therefore there is the need to play either Carrick or Hargreaves alongside either Lampard or Gerrard in the middle of midfield. Ultimately Capello has to make a choice between Lampard and Gerrard for one of the positions in central midfield.

Luis Aragones, the manager of the Spanish national team for instance has the enviable task of having to choose from Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Marcos Senna, Anders Iniesta, Mikel Arteta, Iván de la Pena, Guti, Ruben Baraja, Juan Carlos Valeron and Marti for two positions in the center of midfield. We have often seen the likes of Fabregas and Xabi Alonso being left out of the starting eleven. English football fans therefore must realize that it is commonplace in international football for national teams to have to choose between two quality footballers. How often have we seen Italy have to choose between Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti, both tremendous footballers in their own right?

Having said that, I believe it is a fairly easy decision for Capello to make as Lampard for all his effectiveness is quite simply not in the same league as Gerrard when it comes to pure ability. Gerrard is a far superior passer of the football and is technically more gifted than Lampard. When playing against the big teams Lampard often seems to go missing, whereas Gerrard seems to rise to the occasion much better. I am not for one moment suggesting that Lampard is a poor player. It’s just that I believe he is not good enough to play a starting role for England.

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