The Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes debate. Now chocked-full of revisionism since Stevie G finally hung up his boots, there’s no doubt that all three of them were good players. However, there seems to be a common misconception, shrouded by pages of source-less quotes and hours of ‘passing compilations’, that depict Scholes not only part of the debate but at the top. Fair to say I disagree
Let’s start with the argument: “Look at all these top players that rate him, he must be good!”. I figure this is a good place to begin as it makes up the majority of social media debates. It’s true, Xavi praised Scholes heavily in a 2011 article with The Guardian, but he also admitted he’s a bit of a Manchester United fan. A slight bias perhaps? And one man’s opinion can’t be final on something like this.
The Manchester United midfielder – Debunking myths
23,000 football players is a better case study. The FIFA World XI. How many times was Paul Scholes voted into this? None. Lampard was in there once and Gerrard had the pleasure of featuring three times. For me, this is huge. The eleven time Premier League winner wasn’t seen on the same level as the other two then, so why now? To further this, we look at the highly-esteemed Ballon d’Or. Lampard came second in 2005, Gerrard third. Scholes was nowhere near (Don’t forget he hit that tree once, though!).
More poignantly, we look at actual football and, more specifically, Sir Alex Ferguson. Juan Sebastián Verón was voted in the top fifty all time worst transfers in Premier League history. Sir Alex saw him as a better player and forced Scholes in-behind Ruud van Nistelrooy. Originally an attacking-midfielder, the ‘renowned’ deep-lying playmaker couldn’t even make the side in his preferred position. Manchester United ended up finishing third and the ‘passing maestro’ had five assists. Dire.
Furthermore, in the 2009 Champions League final against Barcelona, we saw one of the greatest managers of all time bench Paul Scholes. You can’t make a case for your favourite midfielder when he is on the touchline and Anderson and Ji-Sung Park are on the pitch instead. A short point but still very relevant.
Scholes’ involvement in United’s success was far from tangible. He was never regarded as the key player in their title victories. That’s okay, though. Players can be crucial to their team without statistical backing. But these egregious claims that Paul Scholes is one of the greatest midfielders ever HAS TO STOP. What’s worse is that they put it down to his passing…
Paul Scholes – A Luxury Player?
Technically, Scholes was a very good player. His range of passing was remarkable and there is such thing as the pass to assist. But an intriguing question: If, for example, you placed Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes at say Notts County, who would have the most impact? Gerrard would potentially be first thanks to his all around abilities – he completed more tackles, interceptions and duels won than the other two. Not to mention how he dragged a Liverpool side to the Champions League.
That makes Lampard second with his relentless goal scoring ability and Scholes the pass master third. Long ball fanatics would soon realise that the recipient is more important than the player of the ball. It’s all fun and games clipping the ball to some of the best one versus one wingers in the world (Harry Arter could do that). But when it’s Sean Shields, maybe it wasn’t the right decision.
The point is that Scholes’ fantastic long balls make no sense if it isn’t Ryan Giggs or Cristiano Ronaldo on the end of them. He relied heavily on the quality of others at Manchester United. Not a terrible thing to play to the team’s strengths, but he didn’t have the ability to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
For the record, I think Liverpool fans comparing Jordan Henderson to the coveted Manchester United midfielder is a little too much for now. Overall, Paul Scholes lacked significant physical attributes (Pace & Strength). He was defensively incompetent. To have him anywhere near Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard is a downright crime.
Now, it seems like the trio’s managerial careers are following suit too. Gerrard is currently trying to break the Celtic monopoly in Scottish football. Whilst Lampard has Chelsea in 4th place where he was expected to struggle. Meanwhile, Scholes managed Oldham to one win in seven games. He ended up resigning – jumped before he was pushed. Quitting because he couldn’t hack it. Sounds familiar. Don’t get me wrong, this is an article on their playing careers, but thought I’d include this. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were levels above on the pitch, and now off it too.
If you disagree that’s fine. Let’s have a debate in the comments. There is no need for unsolicited abuse. Thanks for reading!
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