Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard believes stricter refereeing has clipped the wings of midfield ‘warriors’ like himself, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane
- Steven Gerrard says his ferocious duels with Patrick Vieira may not be allowed
- He believes stricter refereeing has clipped the wings of midfield ‘warriors’
- The pair used to have battles when they captained Liverpool and Arsenal
Steven Gerrard believes his ferocious duels with Patrick Vieira may not be allowed in Saturday’s game as stricter refereeing has clipped the wings of midfield ‘warriors’.
The new Aston Villa boss takes his team to face Vieira’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday, reviving memories of the pair’s battles when they captained Liverpool and Arsenal respectively.
Gerrard rates Saturday’s top midfielders as highly as his own generation, namechecking Manchester City pair Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne, Liverpool’s Fabinho and Conor Gallagher of Palace. Yet he admits the ultra-physical style of players like himself, Vieira and Roy Keane risks falling foul of tougher officiating standards.
Steven Gerrard believes his duels with Patrick Vieira may not be allowed in Saturday’s game
‘The game has evolved in a way where maybe you can’t be as aggressive or you don’t get away with what you could 10 or 15 years ago when we played,’ said Gerrard, who helped Villa beat Brighton 2-0 in his first game in charge. ‘I’m not sure you get away with being that tough-tackling style, real warrior-type midfielder at the moment, especially with VAR and the way refereeing has changed over the past 10 or 15 years.
‘That was my style while also trying to play, but it’s not about me. It’s about the Premier League today, which is littered with top midfielders.
The pair used to battle when they captained Liverpool and Arsenal respectively
‘The players I competed against (Keane, Vieira, Frank Lampard) were all really self-driven players who had top standards, consistency and they were all different challenges in different ways.
‘But when I watch games now there are a lot of high-level midfielders. Some like to sit in the No6 position and dominate games, like Fabinho and Rodri and we have players at Aston Villa capable of doing that.
‘Then you have midfielders who like to run into the box, like Conor Gallagher who is a top player, and Kevin De Bruyne. I could really praise a lot of midfield talent in the league.’
At club and international level, Gerrard and Vieira crossed swords on 15 occasions, with Gerrard emerging on top seven times and Vieira five, with four draws.
Gerrard admits the ultra-physical style of players like himself, Vieira and Roy Keane risks falling foul of tougher officiating standards
Perhaps the pair’s most famous battle was in the 2001 FA Cup Final, when Vieira produced an outstanding performance but Gerrard’s Liverpool still took the trophy with a 2-1 win.
‘He was one of the toughest battles I ever faced as a player,’ said Gerrard. ‘He absolutely terrorised Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup final. I had the unfortunate task of trying to mark him, and he was much too good for me on the day – but we managed to turn the game around and win 2-1, so that certainly finished on a high.
‘I have a lot of respect for him as a player and a coach. I admire the fact that when he finished his career, he went right back to the beginning to learn and evolve.’