The captain is past is best, and is living off past performances…
Brendan Rodgers should keep Steven Gerrard out of his starting XI permanently.
Although he was rested against Stoke City on Saturday, Gerrard’s started every other Premier League match this season, and his shoddy performances have coincided with a miserable run of results for last season’s runners-up.
Liverpool have played 13 matches and already lost six of them – the same number in the entirety of last term.
Because of his lack of pace and ability to provide a consistent box-to-box influence, Rodgers used 34-year-old Gerrard in a new adapted anchorman role in 2013/14, and it worked exceptionally…
From the base of midfield, Gerrard controlled tempo, helped Liverpool dictate possession, and sprayed wonderful long passes to grateful recipients Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. Due to the £75m sale of the Uruguayan and the injury of Sturridge, only Sterling remains in the side – and he’s still a teenager… This has meant Gerrard’s long passes have been massively restricted, with static forwards such as Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli offering nothing like the movement or runs in behind that ‘The SAS’ did.
However, Gerrard’s ability to run games from the base of midfield has been compromised, too. Recognising that Gerrard set the tone for Liverpool’s counter-attacking performances, teams have begun to directly stop him having time on the ball. The ageing midfielder has been harried and man-marked – meaning he’s not been able to control games like he did in 2013/14. This has led to frustrating performances in which passes have regularly gone astray, with midfielders stealing possession from the veteran, as well.
As a result, Gerrard isn’t offering anything creatively (he’s registered one assist this year compared to 13 last), and isn’t able to help his side dominate matches either. This would be forgiveable if he offered the team a defensive platform, but he doesn’t – and Brazilian anchorman Lucas does a much better job of it.
This term, Gerrard’s averaged 1.6 tackles per match, and 1.8 interceptions in the top flight. Lucas has averaged 2 tackles per match and 3 interceptions.
Granted, Lucas doesn’t have the technical or creative ability of Gerrard, but he provides the team with far better defensive cover in the deepest midfield role. With Liverpool’s defensive struggles at the moment, this is something the team badly needs.
Lucas has arguably been Liverpool’s best player int he past two matches as well, which should see him earning a regular run in the position most thought belonged to Gerrard. This begs that question: can Gerrard play in a more advanced midfield role, instead?
Well, he could – but shouldn’t do at the expense of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can or Joe Allen. Henderson is an automatic starter, and vital to the team in terms of his energy, thrust and pressing. Allen provides the intricacy he lacks however, and can drift further forward and supply passes for the attacking midfielders Sterling, Adam Lallana or Coutinho.
Lucas is fairly immobile himself, so a midfield which included both him and Gerrard would be easily overrun and dangerously static.
Rodgers needs to give Liverpool the defensive platform it badly needs by using Lucas in the anchorman role, at the expense of Gerrard. The captain is unlikely to be able to admit it himself having carried Liverpool for so many years, but right now, he’s holding the team back. Leaving him out will be a huge decision for the manager to make, and could ultimately end in Gerrard running his contract down and leaving on a free at the end of the season.
Unless Gerrard can prove provide the side with a regular creative influence alongside Lucas and Henderson though, he doesn’t deserve a starting spot at Anfield for the first time in his illustrious 16 year career.