Chelsea’s Lampard & Liverpool’s Gerrard Still Don’t Work Together

Why persist with the aging duo, especially with Michael Carrick and Jake Livermore available to anchor the midfield?
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Why persist with the aging duo, especially with Michael Carrick and Jake Livermore available to anchor the midfield?

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Chelsea’s Lampard & Liverpool’s Gerrard Still Don’t Work Together

It was always going to be a difficult encounter for England as they met Ukraine for the first time since their win over the eastern European since the 1-0 win in June. Wayne Rooney separated the two sides three months in the Group D encounter at the European Championship. However, the Manchester United front-man was unavailable for the game following his injury he sustained in the 3-2 victory over Fulham last month.

Jermain Defoe clearly had done enough to hold onto his place leading the line, in the absence of Rooney, during the 5-0 rout of Moldova on Friday. The Tottenham Hotspur man thought he had opened the scoring after just 10 minutes, only to his effort chalked off following a supposed foul Andriy Yarmolenko.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a successful summer in his homeland, regardless of their early exit, but it was his compatriot, Yevhen Konoplyanka, that saw the travelling side take the initiative. The 22-year-old cut onto his right foot before lashing home past Joe Hart from 25-yards out with a thundering effort into the top corner.

England pushed and pushed for the equaliser and were rewarded in the 87th minute after substitute Danny Welbeck, who had earlier struck the woodwork, saw his heavy touch come off Yevhen Khacheridi’s hand, with referee Cuneyt Cakir not hesitating in pointing to the spot. Frank Lampard duly stepped up to fire past Andriy Pyatov and ensure the spoils were shared at Wembley on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old cut onto his right foot before lashing home past Joe Hart from 25-yards out

However, despite the Chelsea midfielder netting the important equaliser that ensured England picked up a hard earned point, the plaudits Lampard will receive for his goal are thoroughly undeserved, in comparison to his performance. Roy Hodgson opted to persist with the goalscoring midfielder and Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park following the win over Moldova last week, again re-opening the debate as to whether to duo can play together.

Against the lowly ranked eastern European side, the pairing showcased their class without really being exposed by the lacklustre Moldovan midfield and front-line. However, against the industrious and, at times, flamboyant Ukrainians, the pairing were regularly exposed by the pace and movement of Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka and Denys Garmash.

On top of that, Lampard and Gerrard’s eagerness to break forward and support the trio pushing forward, in this case Tom Cleverley, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, regularly left the defence exposed, as witnessed in Konoplyanka’s opener. The back-line, perhaps lacking the leadership capabilities of John Terry, were sitting deeper than they should’ve done, perhaps anticipating the Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk youngster to shift the ball down the left to the maurading Yevhen Selin.

Furthermore Gerrard was out of position once Konoplyanka received the ball before being too naive in letting him cut onto his stronger right foot to smash his shot past Hart. It has been said time and time again that Lampard and Gerrard can’t play together and it was painstakingly evident once again during Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Ukraine.

However, against the industrious and, at times, flamboyant Ukrainians, the pairing were regularly exposed

Anchoring the midfield without a designated holding midfielder was what let Roy Hodgson down on the evening. The space between the defence and the duo was easily exposed by the Ukrainian front-four, Roman Zozulya adding to the aforementioned trio. It was hardly surprising to see both Lampard and Gerrard labelled ‘passengers’ in the encounter, with the speed of the youthful quartet often seeing the Chelsea and Liverpool stalwart’s by-passed when Ukraine attacked the England back-line.

What makes the duo so effective at club level is the fact that both have a designated holding midfielder alongside them; John Obi Mikel for Chelsea and, in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, Nuri Sahin for Liverpool. Both Lampard and Gerrard can’t perform the defensive duties that their team-mates offer.

Had Scott Parker, for example, been available, Hodgson may’ve pushed one of the two further forward to support Defoe, at the expense of Cleverley, in which there could be a case for the duo’s respective inclusion in the starting XI. But with the duo’s hesitancy to sit back, it was always going to spell disaster when Ukraine broke forward.

It caused the defence to sit deeper and deeper as the eastern European side continued to tenaciously press forward with verve and intent. The added pressure could easily have been alleviated had Michael Carrick or Jake Livermore, two midfielders willing to sit deep and break up play, been selected, at the expense of Milner, Cleverley or Oxlade-Chamberlain, then Konoplyanka’s opener could easily have been defended or, at most, the young wideman forced to play the ball down the wing where Glen Johnson was already well positioned to stifle the danger of Selin.

Partnering Lampard and Gerrard has again re-opened a debate that needn’t have been discussed. It has been proven time and time again that the two don’t work together in the same starting XI, especially when required to carry out the duties that a holding midfielder should be performing. The sooner Hodgson realises this and opts to start Carrick, or a player of similar ilk, over the underperforming duo, the better it will be for England.

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