Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard - is Fergie right?

Much of Ferguson's book will have led to wailing and a gnashing of teeth, that is of course the whole point. Why else would you buy it if it was all nice and fuzzy.

What will have people on the Kings Road and at the Kop particularly agitated however is the assertion that Frank Lampard is 'not an elite International player' and Steven Gerrard is 'not a top top player'. This despite Ferguson expressing remorse at not signing either previously. So is he right or is he just selling books?

Firstly, for the purposes of this debate let me say I'm a Chelsea supporter and a huge Frank Lampard fan. Lampard is a Chelsea legend, many would argue their greatest ever player. But does that make him truly world class?

In a debate about Chelsea's greatest ever player for instance, a recent name that would pop up is Dennis Wise. A great servant and fan favourite yes but hardly world class.Wise of course played at a time when Chelsea moved from mid table to a top six team whereas Lampard has won leagues and European titles with Chelsea.

Being a fan favourite or even being voted your club's greatest ever player doesn't necessarily put you in the category of being world class either. We can take Ferguson's own ManU as an example. Ryan Giggs was recently voted ManU's greatest ever player and Cantona has won many polls also.

Was Giggs as talented as Ronaldo or Best? Was he as influential as Keane or Robson, did he score as many goals as Bobby Charlton? Yes he has won lots of medals but so has Gary Neville and he doesn't figure in the debate too widely.

For those who put Cantona at the top, was he remotely as good as Dennis Bergkamp? Did he ever do it in Europe on in a World Cup? What he did have were a couple of mercurial domestic seasons and was a swaggering maverick who stuck two fingers up to everyone, he was a cult (that's an 'l') footballer who the fans adored but again it doesn't make you world class.

Whilst this reasoning may seem to have little so far to do with the debate about Gerrard and Lampard, the point is to aim to remove the emotion from the debate and look at the players on their merits. We'll start with Lampard.

Lampard has been an incredible servant to Chelsea. He is possibly the most consistent Premiership player of his generation scoring bags of goals every season. He has a good range of passing, has missed few matches ever through injury and is rarely guilty of having a bad game.

On the flip side his play has been described as one dimensional (not by me I would add), he lacks pace, has not always excelled at International level and many of his goals are scuffed or are deflections and he takes the penalties and a few people used to call him fat - I wish I was that fat I can tell you.

Gerrard likewise has served Liverpool incredibly in which one CL win aside has been a pretty miserable period for the Reds. He has scored plenty of goals, has had some incredible inspirational performances in big matches and finals, has been hugely loyal and is an incredible dynamic presence within the team as well as being a natural leader.

Against this probably counts being injury prone, until recently having been inconsistent for his country and a lack of being able to do anything on the pitch other than at one hundred miles an hour.

As we have said, both will go down as legends and quite rightly so, their achievements are immense. The question is would you call them 'world class'?

As an example, Lampard has been more consistent than Gerrard and has won far more. Few (including me) would argue however against Gerrard at his peak being superior to Lampard. The extra pace and dynamism alone that he had made that difference.

Both however at their peaks - to me at least - would suffer by comparison to say Zinedine Zidane or even (and I hate to say it) Roy Keane at the peak of their own powers. Both those players were respectively the very best at what they did.

Does either player have the ability and skill that say Edgar Davids or a Clarence Seedorf did? Again probably not. Many would argue that Paul Scholes was vastly superior to either although that's a debate I personally think is a far closer one.

I was thinking of a greatest Chelsea eleven as an example and if you played 4-2-3-1 as is currently en vogue and you had Lampard as part of the '2', could you honestly say he was better than either Makelele or Ballack? At their respective peaks both were incredible players and gave wonderful balance to a team.

If by definition of being elite or world class, you give weight to consistency then both players deserve to be counted so, if however it is about pure ability then the argument becomes tougher.

Ryan Giggs for instance has achieved everything there is to achieve yet Marc Overmars at his peak was a far better player for me and Giggs never got close ever to having an entire season like Gareth Bale had last year. Would however either as of now be remembered favourably to Giggs? Bale of course has time on his side.

As I mentioned earlier, Michael Ballack for me had more ability than Lampard, possibly by a distance but who would Chelsea fans vote for, Lampard of course and probably so would I.

I would agree with Ferguson about Souness being better than Gerrard because Gerrard cannot dictate the pace and rhythm of a game in the way that a Souness could. Many or even most Liverpool fans would disagree however.

If the debate is were they as brilliant at the peak of their games as the Zidanes and Keanes then the answer is probably no.

If that means that they are not world class then I'm sure however a lot of Chelsea and Liverpool fans will settle for not having world class players - No Nonsense.