Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard: what could have been

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Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, two of the best midfielders the Premier League has ever seen, and arguably two of the best players in football history. Their contributions at club level were immense to both Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, and their numbers do not lie.

Steven Gerrard is the definition of a midfield general who covered every blade of grass on the pitch while orchestrating everything down the middle for his team.

Frank Lampard was the ultimate goal scorer. His timed runs allowed him to reach the top of Chelsea's goalscoring charts with 211 goals to his name from central midfield. He is also currently fourth in the premier league all time goal scoring charts ahead of great strikers like Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba.

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These two midfield legends have both been nominated for the FIFA player of the year award in their career. If Jose Mourinho had succeeded to recruit Gerrard, there would have been a chance for these two to play together in what would have been football's greatest midfield trio along with Claude Makelele.

Unfortunately, they were limited to only being play with each other on international duty. For one reason or another, the two simply never could play with each other and provide England with the same devastating impact they have always shown in their respective clubs.

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Obviously, the two have both made significant contributions to the national team throughout their careers, but at the level they were playing at, they should have easily won England the 2006 World Cup, with the majority of the squad playing at their peak.

However, England never really turned up to that competition, going out to a Portuguese side whose best players were either still developing or well past their prime. Many critics have always asked themselves what went wrong, and there were two particular reasons that it just didn't work out for Lampard and Gerrard on the national team.

The first crucial mistake was that the tactics were simply flawed. Sven Goran Eriksson, albeit a great tactician, made a key error. He deployed a traditional 4-4-2 formation with two central midfielders and two wider midfielders.

More often than not, it was Lampard and Gerrard who occupied those two central midfielder roles. The main problem with this was that many teams were playing with midfield trios, and they often overran Lampard and Gerrard down the middle.

It really doesn't matter how good two players are, because they will always be outplayed by a compact and talented midfield three. That is not to say the 4-4-2 is not a good formation, as Sir Alex Ferguson developed one of the greatest teams in history using that formation.

The issue was that the wide support and press that was evident in United's side was just never applied on that particular English side. The main reason that this system was deployed was to accommodate David Beckham and England's average strikers.

Beckham was getting too old and slow to play at a further up wing position and the management felt that his contributions would be greater from a deeper position. A young and developing Wayne Rooney was unfortunately not good enough yet to spearhead England's attack on his own, and thus the team needed to play with two strikers to have any decent threat up front.

Had they focused on the potential of Lampard and Gerrard rather than insisting on getting the best out of then captain Beckham, the England team would have been tactically much more superior.

The second crucial mistake were the egos of both Lampard and Gerrard. While both of them were modest footballers, they still felt the need to prove they were the best. Both Lampard and Gerrard would push up in search of the crucial goal or pass and leave gaps behind them.

Gerrard has always been a better passer than Lampard, and would have done much better for the team playing in a deeper distributive role. Lampard has always been the goalscorer, and he should have spent less time dictating play and more time making those devastating runs into the box.

Each player should have respected their strengths and worked in tandem to achieve deadly results. Instead, both Lampard and Gerrard insisted on being the main man.

Of course, this entire article is a big if. But players of similar calibre have historically done very well playing in the same side. Take Andres Iniesta and Xavi, who were able to coexist by playing to their strengths and allowing Barcelona and Spain to utilise them both in order to create one of the strongest sides football has ever seen.

Unfortunately, it never worked out for Lampard and Gerrard on the same team. We are still blessed to have seen them play their football and leave an everlasting mark on football.

As we bid adieu to Lampard and Gerrard, we can take their example as a reminder that football is never as simple as 1,2,3. Sometimes, it is just not meant to be.

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Frank Lampard
Premier League
Steven Gerrard
England Football
World Cup

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