Steven Gerrard flourishing as Frank Lampard flounders chasing greatness all over again

Steven Gerrard picked a better place to learn his trade as a first league title with Rangers nears, while Frank Lampard struggles in the Stamford Bridge limelight as the pair set out to reach the top of the coaching game

Tony Evans
Tuesday 05 January 2021 07:11 GMT
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Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were constantly compared as players. Now their management careers appear to be moving in different directions.

Lampard is under severe pressure at Chelsea. Sunday’s 3-1 home defeat by Manchester City dropped the London club to eighth place in the Premier League. Although this puts Chelsea a mere three points off the Champions League qualifying spots, the manner in which Pep Guardiola’s side dispatched their rivals has increased concerns at Stamford Bridge that Lampard is not the right man for the job.

Gerrard, by contrast, had a fantastic weekend. His Rangers side emerged victorious from the Old Firm derby, beating Celtic 1-0 at Ibrox and lead the Scottish Premiership by 19 points. The former Liverpool captain is on course to win his first silverware as a manager.

On the pitch it was easy to compare the strengths of both men. Getting the best out of them in the same England team was a much more difficult conundrum. It is much harder to assess their relative merits as managers. Both took over dysfunctional clubs with institutional issues.

Lampard returned to west London two years ago after the departure of Maurizio Sarri. The 43-year-old was the popular choice among fans. He is intimately familiar with the club from the 13 years he spent as a player at the Bridge but that foreknowledge has hardly helped. Taking over while Chelsea were subject to a transfer ban lowered expectations and Lampard was able to guide the team into the Champions League in his first campaign. Targets were recalculated during a summer when more than £220m was spent on players. This season was always going to be tougher.

It is harsh to judge Lampard’s performance so far in a division that has not even reached the halfway mark but managers are given little leeway at Stamford Bridge. In the past decade Chelsea have parted company with six within 12 months of them leading the team to trophies. The mood changes quickly at the Bridge and sentiment is a short-term commodity.

Opinions are hardening in the boardroom. There is a belief that Lampard is the sort of manager who will win games where Chelsea should emerge victorious and is likely to lose fixtures where the team might be expected to get beat by obviously superior opposition. The problem is that there is a suspicion that the side will fail in the matches in between, where the margins are tight and top-class managers provide an edge.

By comparison with his three most recent predecessors, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Sarri, Lampard is a tactical novice. Chelsea have begun to cast around for someone who can organise and get the best out of their expensive squad. “The club lives, breathes and dies by the Champions League,” a former member of the coaching staff said. “You have to be in it.”

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are just starting out life as managers

If it begins to look like Chelsea will miss out on the top four, time will run out rapidly for ‘Super Frank’.

Thomas Tuchel has been linked with the role after being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain before Christmas but the German is regarded in SW6 as being a little too arrogant. The Chelsea hierarchy like Max Allegri but there are concerns that the Italian has no experience in the Premier League and speaks little English. Brendan Rodgers is under consideration to return to the club where he coached under Mourinho for four years in the 2000s.

There is no talk of replacing Gerrard. Instead, the Rangers manager is being spoken about as a successor to Jurgen Klopp when the German eventually leaves Liverpool. Just as it is too early to write off Lampard, it is premature to acclaim his former England team-mate as the next in line at Anfield.

Gerrard picked a better place to learn his trade. Rangers had still not recovered from being relegated to the third division nine years ago when the 40-year-old took over at Ibrox in 2018. Recruitment has improved significantly and Gerrard has had a lot to do with this. His status means that players are keen to come and work with him – especially at the end of the market where Rangers operate. Chelsea’s big-money targets are in demand at Europe’s biggest sides and are less likely to be impressed by a call from Lampard. At the level the Scottish club makes deals, the chance to play for a genuine superstar means something. Gerrard’s presence has lifted standards.

Celtic’s collapse has worked to the Scouser’s advantage. Rangers’ great adversaries have fallen apart this season after winning nine titles in a row. It will be easier to gauge the revival at Ibrox when Scotland’s richest club get their act in order.

Lampard is likely to be looking for another position soon. He was promoted too high, too quickly. Gerrard will be headhunted before long and it is only a matter of time before the Premier League comes calling. Their next positions will give a much better indication of their respective talents as managers. For both men this is just the beginning. There is a long way to go before we learn whether either has got what it takes to scale the sort of heights they reached as players.    

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