The seemingly never ending dispute that raged at the heart of England and their past squad selections was the absence of effective integration between Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Now an age old debate, the two midfielders who at one time were the toast of this country, dominated for their respective clubs and were the obvious selection to stand proud at the epicentre of England’s team.
Fast forward to 2012 and to the relief of some and the dismay of others Lampard was ruled out of Euro 2012 with a thigh injury, and remained on more familiar soil along with the constant problem of his connection with midfield partner Steven Gerrard. There is no requirement to delve deep into reasons as to why the two heavyweights never integrated sufficiently for their country, debates have raged on for too long now. However, with Gerrard captaining the nation in Ukraine with nobility and producing supreme performances to match, will Lampard be able to make an impact on his national team, or did his injury come at exactly the wrong time and spell the end for the Chelsea man whose country is now moving toward the flourishing fountain of youth to generate success?
Frustration must have been prevalent for Lampard in missing out on Euro 2012. Likely to have been his final tournament in an England shirt in part due to his dwindling years, the 34-year old may only play a part in friendlies and qualifying matches. In addition, the somewhat surprising form of Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park for England this summer has been a revelation and with Scott Parker now a regular in the national team, plus emerging young midfield talent set to contribute heavily in the immediate future, Lampard will now have his work cut out to just gain a place in the squad. Although somewhat unjust considering his form for Chelsea, unless Hodgson can decipher the problem that has befallen the previous 3 England managers, Lampard cannot take to the same midfield as Gerrard without the question of their connection arising. Especially with the captain’s band now firmly placed around Gerrard’s left arm, it seems that he will be the chosen man from the duo who simply did not bond as anticipated for England.
As indicated at the European Championships, new national boss Hodgson adapted his conservative tactics to the squad. A rigid, old fashioned 4-4-2 system was used in an attempt to remain solid at the back. However, control was a required attribute needed to allow the tactic to flourish and with the team’s profligacy when in possession a constant infuriation, counter attacks never really materialised. Although Scott Parker had an indifferent tournament offensively, his skill lies in his stalwart like defensive work from midfield, something that Hodgson admires and will certainly remain a constant in his future England squads. The position that skipper Gerrard filled had more offensive freedom to it. However, with England’s aforementioned wasteful possession, much of the Liverpool captain’s time was spent alongside Parker. Even if England improve their control of a game, Lampard would be required to cover a significant amount of ground. Although, his fitness levels are respectable, age is not on his side and he could subsequently become ineffectual offensively. Arguments could be raised that Gerrard is also reaching the twilight stage in his career. However, he has always been a box-to-box midfielder, the engine room for his Liverpool side so his natural game has adapted thusly. Lampard is comparable to Gerrard offensively but has rarely been defensively proficient, something that is apparently required in Hodgson’s England’s system.
Sympathy has to be felt for Lampard; a player of his calibre would usually make the England squad. However, as the European Champion with Chelsea sat watching his compatriots in Ukraine this month, his bandaged thigh a constant reminder of his frustration, he may have been realising that a combination of Gerrard’s form, England’s tactics and his own declining years mean that his tenure with the Three Lions may be consigned to the bench; something that has become such a rarity in Lampard’s career.
Can Lampard regain his place in the England team? Have your say on twitter @mattpegg1