Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Gerrard Conundrum

If you ask Steven Gerrard for his best position, he will probably tell you that it is central midfield. It was as a central midfield powerhouse that Gerrard first burst onto the scene, but under Rafael Benetiz Gerrard often seemed to play anywhere but this position.

So, where is Gerrard's best position and how will Kenny get the best out of his Liverpool captain?

Gerrard has so far played two full games for King Kenny. In analysing the first game against Fulham, there are questions to be asked about his positioning.  Gerrard played alongside Christian Poulson in central midfield and his display indicated that, after years playing further up the pitch or out on the right, he does not have the discipline to play this role.
Gerrard came out of the blocks like a steam train, heavily involved in wave after wave of attack. During this initial ten minute period, Liverpool created lots of chances and had a goal wrongly disallowed. Then Gerrard seemingly started to tire (he was physically panting after ten minutes). For the rest of the game, neither Gerrard nor Liverpool looked the same. Gerrard personifies the way Liverpool play: when he is firing we are firing, when he is sluggish we are sluggish.
Gerrard’s positioning was a concern all game. When the ball arrived in central midfield area Gerrard was often out of position, leaving Poulson wide open to a Fulham attack. Fortunately, Fulham were poor and did not capitalise on the space they were gifted by Gerrard.
On a couple of occasions he played defence splitting passes that very few players in the world can play, so the role of midfield playmaker is definitely within him. The challenge for Kenny is, given Meireles' form and the introduction of Carroll and Suarez, where he plays Gerrard if it is not in a central midfield two.
In Gerrard’s second full game for Kenny, there was a change of formation. We played with three in central defence and two holding midfielders:
                       Reina
          Skrtel  Kyrgiakos  Agger
   Kelly      Lucas  Aurelio      Johnson
           Gerrard     Meireles
                        Kuyt
With the disciplined Lucas and quick minded Aurelio playing behind Gerrard, he was given the freedom to interchange with Meireles as the second striker. It also allowed him to drift right and deliver the sort of penetrating balls into the box that would have had Carroll’s mouth watering from the director's box.
The question for Kenny now is how he fits Gerrard into an attack encompassing Carroll, Suarez & Meireles.
Looking back on our recent history, the Mascherano – Alonso – Gerrard central midfield partnership worked really well, and a similar formation could work with Lucas – Meireles – Gerrard.
With Suarez comfortable playing as a left sided striker, Kuyt used to playing on the right of the attack and Carroll down the middle, Gerrard would have the freedom to cause havoc. The only concern is that Meireles is not in the same league as Alonso defensively and Lucas could end up exposed:                  

                       Reina
Kelly  Carragher   Agger    Johnson
                Lucas  Meireles 
                    Gerrard 
        Kuyt     Carroll   Suarez

Another option would be to drop Kuyt, play Gerrard on the right of the attack and play Aurelio alongside Lucas. This would allow Meireles to play in his best position in between midfield and attack and Gerrard could link up with Kelly down the right to deliver into the box those mouth watering balls for Carroll. The Aurelio / Alonso role could well be what Kenny had in mind when bidding for Charlie Adam:
                      Reina
Kelly  Carragher  Agger  Johnson
            Lucas  Aurelio (Adam)
                Meireles
  Gerrard   Carroll   Suarez

The key player for me in all of this is Steven Gerrard. Getting Gerrard firing on all cylinders could make or break the second half of our season, and here lies Kenny's Conundrum.

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