Stevie G/Captain Fantastic/The Great Number 8/A Hero of Istanbul – Liverpool’s talisman goes by many names.
But one he should never have been called is holding midfielder.
Yet there he is – awkwardly positioned in front of Liverpool’s defence, too far from the opposition goal for even his unequivocal shooting range. A player hardwired for marauding down field and terrorising defender’s has been reduced to scurrying across the back four and being terrorised himself.
Featured here: Gerrard doing absolutely nothing in the build-up to Nethaniel Clyne’s opener.
I know, that video gives a very slanted view of Gerrard’s ability as a CDM. His time in that position hasn’t been all about slip-ups. He’s made the very best of it, selflessly and without sherking an ounce of responsibility. Of course he has. He’s Steven Gerrard. But does his own willingness to take on the role make it right? I don’t think so.
Sure, at 34 and with 16 seasons of top-flight football behind him, Gerrard can no longer get through 90 minutes of lung-busting runs. It’s a point that’s been made over and over again. I get it. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, the mighty Steven Gerrard is old.
But does being older reduce his ability to do this?
Go on, watch it again. You know you want to.
Whose idea was it too cast aside Gerrard’s best quality – his attacking threat? He’s always been a bounding, attack-minded player with incredible work ethic and a burning desire to win the ball back for his team. The speed and energy to be all those things at the same time is gone. But surely the ability and desire to create and score goals is still there. The man scored 13 and assisted 13 last season, didn’t he?
And he did this just last season, too:
Not bad for an old guy.
Brendan Rodgers had this to say about the self-sanctioned remoulding of Steven Gerrard.
‘There are not many who can do what he can do, which is be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be the best controlling player.’
You can understand why Rodgers made this kind of statement. He’s backing his horse. And, of course, he’s laying praise on his much-loved club captain – a club captain who will do whatever is asked of him for the Liverpool cause; whatever he thinks might bring him and his club closer to that hallowed Premier League title. Fair enough. But Gerrard is not Europe’s best controlling midfielder. He just isn’t.
When on form and on the ball, he’s near faultless. He knocks it about, takes incredible free kicks, makes classic, crunching slide tackles of yesteryear and he still pings his trademark longs balls with unerring accuracy. But off the ball, he gets caught out of position all the time.
And that’s what being a top footballer is all about isn’t it? Positioning. Great positional awareness is the common denominator of all kinds of great players, goal keepers included.
I couldn’t find a video that illustrates Gerrard’s positional short-comings as a DCM. In fact, I couldn’t find any videos specifically of Gerrard as a DCM. Maybe that tells a story in itself.
The solution? Bring back Gerrard the attacking midfielder. Not for 90 minutes, week-in, week-out because that’s impossible and, with the plethora of attacking threat available to Liverpool, impractical. But who cares if he plays 90 minutes or not, especially this season? Give someone else that responsibility. Maybe Can’s the man.
The “other ‘ard”, Lampard, didn’t change position at Chelsea (or now Man City). He simply began to play less; he became an impact sub. Let Gerrard be an impact sub.
Give him the license to come on later in the game when player fatigue puts him on par in terms of stamina and grant him the right to play his natural game. Can you imagine the inspirational Stevie G coming on when the chips are down, getting on the end of knock downs and loose balls in and around the box and rifling home net-busting shots? Bring that on.
Let Gerrard end his magnificent Anfield career playing his way. Guarantee that he goes down in history as one of the greatest Liverpool players in history; not the Anfield legend who petered out to become a pretty average defensive midfielder. Give him the chance to really win games for Liverpool again, even if it less often and from the bench.
Give him the chance to be the Stevie-G of old…
….instead of just plain old.
Featured image by terceroinf fmiralcamp via Flickr under creative commons license 2.0