It’s a never-ending debate. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard or Paul Scholes?
While each player has their merits the debate really comes down to personal preference. You’re never going to convince a Man United fan that Gerrard was superior to Scholes in the same way you can’t tell a Liverpool supporter that Lampard bettered Gerrard.
But what about a former Arsenal player?
As a team, Arsenal were hot on the heels and often better than United, Liverpool and Chelsea throughout the respective trio’s career and Cesc Fabregas was the central midfield conductor that helped them maintain peak standards.
Appearing on the Match of the Day Top 10 podcast alongside Gary Lineker and Jermaine Jenas, the Spaniard seemed to settle the debate surrounding the three English midfielders, well, at least from his unique perspective.
“Every time I played against Lampard, I had the feeling on the pitch like he doesn’t bring anything like I cannot say it was a difficult game because I didn’t really feel that he was involved.
“But, anytime you didn’t expect it, he would be in the box and would score a goal. This is the kind of impact Frank Lampard had in a game. You didn’t really feel sometimes that he was playing.
“For example, with me, I need to touch the ball. I need to feel the ball to be sharp in a game. If I don’t touch the ball I don’t feel I’m in the game but with Frank, it was completely the opposite.
“The less he touched the ball, the more dangerous he was because you didn’t expect it or you didn’t pay attention and he would pop in and score a goal.”
“Steven Gerrard. He was physically the most difficult opponent to handle. He was the box-to-box player, he could be on his right or left, shooting from the outside of his boot, getting into positions in the final third, assisting. He was a machine.”
“With Paul Scholes, I caught him maybe when he was a little bit older maybe but yeah, it was fascinating to see the skills because I could see the intelligence in Paul Scholes when I played against him. It’s not something I could predict because he had in his locker, one-twos, he had long balls, final balls, chips over the top, he could go around you. He was a very special player.
“So the three for me are very, very different.”
When pressed for a definitive answer around who of the three was the best player he played against, Fabregas opted for the Liverpool legend.
“If I have to say one – and I really enjoyed playing against – I would say Steven Gerrard.”
Following a distinguished career with Arsenal, Fabregas returned to where it all began at Barcelona. He spent three seasons at the Catalan club before ultimately returning to London to join Chelsea were he would replace Frank Lampard at the heart of their midfield.
While the World Cup winner played a pivotal role in helping the club to Premier League success in his maiden season, eventually Fabregas found himself out in the cold when Chelsea hired Italian manager Antonio Conte in 2016.
However, while Fabregas may not have been Conte’s first-choice central midfielder, the Spanish international did excel at stages throughout his tenure.
Fabregas regaled the hilarious story of how on one such occasion, Conte called upon his services when Chelsea were in trouble but only because Diego Costa had demanded he do so.
“When Conte first came to Chelsea I didn’t really play the first three months. He made it clear he wanted a different type of midfielder.”
“Nemanja Matic was playing, I had an injury as well and I didn’t really play the whole season.
“Then we went to Manchester City, we had won seven games and Conte says to me: ‘You have to play.’ We won 3-1, I played well and gave the assist to Costa for 1-1. It felt like I had made a point to the coach that he could count on me.
“Next we played West Brom, Matic recovers and he starts. It was a typical game and for 70 minutes it was 0-0. They were defending well. The game was calling for someone like me to come on to open the door or do something but the minutes went by and nothing. I remember Costa coming to the touchline and shouting at Conte, saying: ‘Put Cesc on!’
“Conte is not the manager you mess with this and he was pretending not to listen to Costa. Two minutes later he says ‘Cesc come’, and two minutes after I come on, I provided the assist for Costa to score.”