January 25th, 2014
by Seth Burkett
For the modern day football fan, Steven Gerrard is synonymous with Liverpool Football Club. He is something of a club icon, a hero on Merseyside. The idea of a 21st century Liverpool team without Gerrard is preposterous. Yet recent performances have suggested that this may soon be the case. Questions have been raised about the role of the ageing hero in a fresh young team. Gerrard’s weekend appearance against Aston Villa certainly raised more of these questions than it answered, the most pressing of which being: where exactly does Steven Gerrard fit in to this Liverpool team?
Gerrard’s recent injury which kept him out for five matches coincided with Liverpool’s best run of performances this season. A midfield trio of Lucas, Allen and Henderson flourished, with Henderson proving particularly adept in a more advanced position. Henderson’s proficiency in such a position – further enhanced by a clever assist for Liverpool’s opening goal against Villa – has encouraged Brendan Rodgers to experiment with Gerrard. As has been done with many ageing players over the years, Gerrard was moved in to a more defensive midfield position for the game against Aston Villa. It has been seen with Beckham, Giggs, and most recently Frank Lampard. The theory behind it is solid; operating from a deeper position should allow Gerrard to pick the ball up from his centre half under less pressure, before looking for a long through ball or to hit the wingers with his pinpoint passes.
Granted, Gerrard has an exceptional passing range, but the position requires so much more. Passing ability is not enough. Think of the finest defensive midfielders. All exhibit efficient distribution and disciplined positioning. They do not need to run much; a prime reason the position suits ageing players. Gerrard, however, was too eager to chase the ball against Villa. In a more advanced position, where the onus is on getting on the ball and creating goal-scoring opportunities, this is more acceptable. Yet when the onus is on defensive stability and protection this can negatively impact the team. Gerrard’s eagerness not only compromised his position, but exposed his defence.
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