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Football News: Football Comparisons 1 - Frank Lampard v Steven Gerrard v Paul Scholes

Football Comparisons 1 - Frank Lampard v Steven Gerrard v Paul Scholes
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This is a comparison that pops up every so often, the trio of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes have been splitting opinions for years and the argument over who is best crops up again and again and again. As such, it seemed the perfect place to start this new series of Football Comparisons which was requested by posters on the Liverpool Rumours and Manchester United Rumours web sites.



The problem with comparing these three players with each other is that they are very different types of player who evolved into completely different players as their careers developed. Lampard is the only one to have basically spent his entire career in central midfield.

 


His emergence as a youngster at West Ham United saw him take a lot of stick as he struggled to step up initially. There were a lot of accusations of nepotism being the reason for him being picked, with his dad as assistant manager and uncle as manager! This was not helped by his attitude as a youngster, with weight issues and sex tapes giving his critics ammunition. Then he grew up and started applying himself both mentally and physically and became a midfield goal-scoring machine.



Scholes overcame health difficulties, with severe asthma affecting his stamina and he was physically weak in his early days, which is why he initially broke into the first team up front. Alex Ferguson felt he was too weak for the hurly burly of central midfield battles in the Premier League. Instead he played him as a striker, though he gradually moved deeper and deeper during his career, until he ended up as a deep lying playmaker sitting in front of the defence spraying passes around.



Finally we came to Gerrard, who played almost every position on the pitch. He made his debut at right back, played centre back, right wing (his most productive season was actually in that role), attacking midfield, second striker, central midfield and ended up under Brendan Rodgers as a deep-lying playmaker. He was also used on the left of midfield a fair amount by England.



So which version of each do you compare? Gerrard's most personally productive season was on the right, a position neither of the other two really played. Even when the three played the same position they played it in completely different ways. It is mystifying that the trio never developed as a midfield three for England. Together they should have been devastating. It is an indictment of how poor the national set up was that it never happened. Probably the three greatest English talents of the Premier League era, all playing at the same time period with complementary skillsets, yet no one found a way to harness their talents together.



Technically the trio were amongst the best English football has ever managed to produce, all three had an excellent first touch, though Scholes probably stood out as having the best first touch. In fact, when it came to passing and shooting, he probably barely edges it, though all three were particularly strong in this area of the game.

 


All three scored goals, Scholes with placement, Lampard with accurate powerful hits into crowded areas and Gerrard with power. All three were very good passers of the ball, but Scholes had the best choice of pass, while Gerrard, who would otherwise have been his equal, far too often opting for a needless Hollywood pass when there were better options. Lampard had a good range of passing, but just not as good as the other two.



Tackling was a weakness of all three, for varying reasons. Scholes was poor at tackling because he knew he could get away with a foul, for some reason it became accepted that he could not tackle, which was simply not true. His fouls were deliberate and just him making sure he got the opponent. Gerrard was simply not aware enough defensively, he was the best tackler of the three, but usually he was having to chase back after being caught not concentrating and make a last ditch tackle he did not need to make.

 


I found it infuriating because Gerrard was capable of reading the game really well, but he was constantly caught out when it came to defensive positioning. Lampard was more conscientious but was not as good a tackler naturally, but he was very rarely caught out ball watching, instead he was usually caught upfield.



Dribbling was not really something any of the three were known for, all were able to shift the ball quickly to another foot to avoid a challenge and Gerrard could use his pace and power to burst past tackles, but none were exceptional in this field. Aerially Gerrard had the advantage of being taller, with a better leap and so was the strongest in the air, making him particularly useful at set pieces, both defensively and offensively, when he was not taking them. Lampard was a very accurate header of the ball, but did not have the leap or the physical strength to get to them in the same way as Gerrard. Scholes does lag behind in this area slightly, but it was never really something that was an issue with the way he played.



The set piece delivery of all three was not something they were known for, though all three did hit the occasional free kick goal, they were at the best being on the end of deliveries. On corners, it was a constant source of frustration for Liverpool fans that Gerrard would be taking them, most of the time his delivery was simply not good enough yet he was excellent in the air. He was much more of a threat when he was not taking them. Scholes could deliver a decent corner but he was more often to be found lurking on the edge of the box, while Lampard very rarely took them.



Defensive awareness is a difficult one, they all showed the capability to have excellent awareness but throughout their career they very rarely used it. Lampard was provided with cover behind him, to protect him from having to work back quite so hard. Gerrard was not trusted in a role with defensive responsibility until late in his career, which saw his awareness nosedive and a tendency to ball watch when the opposition had the ball. Scholes had the defensive awareness but never really needed to display anything, as he could get away with just hacking down anyone making a run through.



All three had excellent movement, though Lampard stands out, it was a big part of his skillset and enabled him to score such huge numbers of goals throughout his career. There is very little in it though, all three were very capable of making good runs at the right times into the right places. Added to that, the trio also had very good reading of the game and knew when it was time for them to step up and take charge of a game. Gerrard stands out as the most obvious example of that, but the other two were also capable of taking charge of a game.



Decision making is something that could possibly be seen as letting all three down but it was something they had enough ability to make the wrong decision work for them. Shooting when a better option presented itself or making a challenge when they should have stayed on their feet is something all three did at times, but they made it work. A shot that should never have been taken would often end up in the back of the net, a tackle that should never have been made would often lead to them winning back the ball or (mostly in Scholes' case) avoiding a yellow when they failed to get the ball.



All three were aggressive, which at times became over-aggressive. Scholes with his constant niggly challenges, Gerrard with his tendency to fly into needless reckless red cards and Lampard showed a number of times he had a nasty side with his stamp on Xabi Alonso standing out. None of them would allow themselves to be bullied, though their aggression was not always well placed, it was always there and meant they were able to bully others at times. All of them had a nasty edge to their game, bubbling under the surface most of the time but it could appear at any time.



All three had great composure in front of goal, they could be relied upon when it mattered, more often than not. It was something Gerrard became famous for, but he was not the only one who pulled something out of the fire when it mattered, he was just the one playing for the weaker of the teams, at the time, so he did not have the other players to help him, but all three came up big for their teams when it was needed.



Their vision was exceptional, they could spot a run from just about anywhere, though Lampard was more about looking for spaces to break into than the other two, particularly late in their career when both Scholes and Gerrard played deep lying roles. In terms of work rate, all three did enough to be considered hard working, though they all learnt to do less and less over the course of their career. Instead they would pick and choose when and where to run, saving their legs to see them through the season.



The one area where there was a clear difference was physicality. Gerrard was clearly stronger, faster, bigger with a higher leap than the other two. Though it really just highlights the way I see the three, in my personal opinion. Gerrard was the best physically. Lampard was the best mentally. Scholes was the best technically.

 


So, in conclusion, I have absolutely no conclusion, other than they were three great players who played the game in different ways and it will always be an argument as to which of the three is better.

Written by Ed001 February 04 2019 10:50:14

 

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