This weekend will see a legendary Premier League midfield battle take place on the touchline as Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa take on Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
Both men are in their first Premier League jobs as manager after taking over in the summer and during the most recent international break respectively, showing just how far the league has come as a spectacle.
During their respective playing careers, there weren’t many better than them in their midfield roles but now as coaches they are trying to carve a whole new legacy that can help them stand out.
From a team that was set up to defend their box and counter through Wilfried Zaha under Roy Hodgson for years, they are now a team that look to be brave in possession and create their own chances rather than just trying to capitalise on opponent’s mistakes.
They have a young squad that are composed and offensive minded, while defensively they look as solid as they have in the past.
Gerrard has made a name for himself in the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, helping to end Celtic’s dominance and earning them their first league title in ten years.
He plays attacking football, with an emphasis on control and speed while he also trusts youth if he deems them good enough.
For both, it’s an ode to the way they played the game themselves. Both love a powerful midfield with speed in attack and defenders who defend first and foremost. It’s also a blueprint to players of that era in the Premier League who are looking to move into coaching and management.
Playing in that era of football had a magical feeling, as technique and technology had more of a place than just passion and fitness. It’s likely that a lot of players from that era in the Premier League will see the game in a similar light, especially those who had success like these did.
The more we see former players move into management, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard already involved it could lead to seeing a reincarnation of the old style of play with the new advancements tweaked in.
If Gerrard is able to continue his successful managerial spell with Villa and Vieira can continue the good job he has done at Palace so far, fellow ex-pros will see the benefits too and be more inclined to try and implement their way of playing onto their teams.
That can only be a good thing with the way football is improving, and that means fans will get a show every week no matter the fixture happening in the stadium.
Since the day Steven Gerrard left Liverpool for LA Galaxy back in 2015, the countdown has been on as to when he would eventually return.
After two seasons in Hollywood, Gerrard returned to Anfield to coach the academy and youth teams after impressing Jurgen Klopp with his work ethic and passion for the job.
Then followed the job at Rangers, where he really established himself as one of the better up and coming British managers in the game right now.
Gerrard spent three years at Rangers rebuilding the club to be able to compete with Celtic once again, eventually culminating in winning them their first Scottish Premiership title since the 2010/11 season.
But midway through this campaign Gerrard accepted the approach of Aston Villa to become the new manager and has made the move back to the Premier League.
At Villa he will have a strong squad, filled with young, talented players and capable of playing several different systems. On paper, Gerrard seems like the perfect fit for a club with aspirations such as theirs and a fan-base like theirs.
The issue for Villa fans is that they know that should he become a success for them, Liverpool will come calling eventually.
Jurgen Klopp has all but admitted that once he reaches the end of his current Anfield contract in 2024 that he will likely leave and take a break from management, so this seems like the perfect time for Gerrard to make the leap over to England’s top flight.
For Gerrard it’s a chance to implement his style and imprint of the beautiful game at the highest level and see if it can transition over in the same way it did in Scotland.
If he is able to bring through some of the many academy prospects on the brink of first-team football and bring success back to a club that has been struggling this season, then the calls for him to be Klopp’s successor will seem justified.
If he fails to make an impact and impression though, then talk is likely to be seen as too premature.
Gerrard made a name for himself playing attacking football but with a rock solid defence in Scotland, so if he can recreate that with Villa it’ll be a good start.
He didn’t need a superstar to carry the team, he did it with great teamwork and spirit and a tactical setup that worked for his side. He will need to do the same at Villa and the chances are that he will find some sort of success there.
This is the step for Gerrard to prove himself as the next top boss or out himself as just another hyped up ex-pro. Which way it goes decides on whether Liverpool have found their next manager or not.
England’s next generation of managers are looking to get back to the Premier League as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard get linked with new jobs.
Lampard has been without a club since being sacked by Chelsea in January, but has been linked with several jobs including Newcastle, Watford and Crystal Palace.
Gerrard on the other hand has found great success in Scotland with Rangers, ending Celtic’s dominance and winning the Scottish Premier League last season and also guiding them to a good run in the Europa League.
Reports suggest that Norwich are keen to bring in Lampard to help their battle for survival, with the Canaries currently sitting rock bottom of the league with just five points from 11 games this season.
Lampard is a young coach and with Norwich’s relatively young squad, Lampard’s love for youth players as shown at Chelsea could be a positive for him – especially with Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour among the playing staff.
Gerrard on the other hand is among the top targets for the Aston Villa job, with the Midlands outfit keen to bring in someone to continue the progress that Smith made during his three years in charge.
Villa’s squad received great investment in the summer but obviously they lost Jack Grealish to Man City in a £100m deal and have failed in trying to adapt quickly.
But with Gerrard’s arrival, the club would have a new and fresh mindset on how to approach games and set up the team. The former Liverpool captain has seen his reputation as a manger grow exponentially over the last few years and he has been tipped to eventually become manager of his beloved Anfield club.
The transition to eventually take that job however would be better placed with a prior job in the league and Aston Villa present a brilliant opportunity for him to take over a club with a big fan base, a decent squad and not exaggerated expectations.
It would be a great coup for the league to get the name value of both back in the league, but it would also be a good chance for Lampard to build his reputation back up and for Gerrard to continue to grow as a coach with a step up.
Over the years, there is no doubt that these two sides have been among the most successful of the English teams.
Since the Premier League began in 1992, Chelsea have won 21 trophies (excluding Community Shield) while Liverpool have won 14 trophies including this season’s Premier League title.
So if you combine both team’s best players in that time frame into a single XI and pit them against each other in a one off game, what would happen? Who would be in the team? Who would be the managers? I’ve made the selections and and tried my best to break down what would happen.
Firstly I think the manager’s pick themselves. Jurgen Klopp is unquestionably the man in charge of the Liverpool side having led them to their first league title in 30 years. Along with that, back-to-back Champions League finals and a Club World Cup make him the most successful manager in recent times. For the Blues, Jose Mourinho is the obvious choice. The Portuguese boss won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup.
In goal, both keepers also select themselves. For Chelsea, Petr Cech is arguably the best in the competition’s history and constantly performed at the highest level on the biggest occasions while Allison has already out-performed Jerzy Dudek and Pepe Reina to be Liverpool’s best keeper in this era.
In defence, there is a mixture of past and present for Liverpool. Three of the current back four make it in, but former captain Sami Hyypia steps in for Joe Gomez to partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson didn’t have much competition in the full-back positions but club legend Jamie Carragher doesn’t quite make the cut. Mourinho’s XI won’t contain anyone from the current crop at the club, with Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole at full back alongside former captains John Terry and Marcel Desailly in the centre.
For Liverpool, the midfield was easy enough to pick. The collective trio of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano was incredibly successful together and arguably not to win a league title of their own under Rafael Benitez. Gerrard had his best seasons alongside those two and despite Fabinho’s trophies with the club, it wasn’t enough to displace his fellow South American from the holding midfield role.
Chelsea’s midfield on the other hand was arguably the hardest thing to pick. They have had an array of talent in that area of the pitch over the years including Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Ngolo Kante, Gustavo Poyet and Jon Obi-Mikel but two options stood out moreso than others. Firstly, the current manager and the club’s all-time top goalscorer was a shoe-in. Frank Lampard obviously makes the cut and is partnered by ‘The Bison’ Michael Essien. The Ghanaian midfielder was exceptional for Chelsea with his aggression and stamina to get him around the pitch, while also being a great tackler and passer.
Ahead of them, it really is a fantasy for the Blues. On the wings, legendary Dutchman Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard cause all sorts of problems for Liverpool’s attacking full-backs and they’ll be partnered in attack by the ultimate little ‘n’ large combo. Gianfranco Zola will occupy the No.10 position, playing just behind their Munich hero Didier Drogba. Drogba beats out competition for the centre-forward role from the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Diego Costa, Nicolas Anelka, Hernan Crespo and Gianluca Vialli..
Picking Liverpool’s attack was arguably the hardest thing about their team. They’ve had a crazy array of talent in attack over the years, including Fernando Torres, Michael Owen, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Stan Collymore and more. I settled on this front three due to the fact they have all been influential in their own eras as well as just being phenomenal footballers. On the left, I’ve opted for Luis Suarez. While he isn’t a winger, I simply couldn’t leave him out of the team. He has the capabilities to play there with his dribbling ability and creativity, but he showed his fantastic eye for goal during his time at the club and since. On the right, Mo Salah is a no brainer. His goals and assists are one of the main reasons behind the success of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at the club and he is arguably the best signing in their Premier League history. Up front was tough, but I’ve gone with Robbie Fowler. The former England striker is nicknamed ‘God’ at Anfield for a reason. He scored all types of goals, had creativity for assists too and is another I just couldn’t bring myself to leave out. His longevity in the league helped me take him over Torres but it was a tough call.
In the game itself, the game would be won on the wings. Liverpool’s midfield three would overrun Chelsea’s duo of Lampard and Essien but a Klopp team focuses so much on the full-backs providing for the attack. If they can get forward as they usually do and deliver, Chelsea’s defence will have to be at its absolute best to deny Liverpool’s fearsome attack. Going the other way though, Robben and Hazard would have a lot of joy and their ability to cut in and score goals would add to Zola’s options in the hole. Chelsea’s side have got goals all the way through it, even down to John Terry at set-pieces.
It would be a fascinating tie and one that would likely be decided by the odd goal. Strangely enough, I don’t think either side would keep a clean sheet because of the qualities of the rest of the team but I think Chelsea’s added goal threats mean they’d take a 2-1 win.
Do you agree with the teams picked? Do you agree with the end result? Let me know