Whisper it quietly, but Steven Gerrard’s time as the conductor of Liverpool may soon be drawing to a close.
He is a legend for Liverpool and no doubt he will continue to play a key part for them this season, but there is the hint of a suggestion that if his playing time is to be managed anyway, then it may well be better to manage him in his more natural position of attacking midfield rather than forcing him into the defensive role that he has never quite looked right in.
Yes, he still possesses that formidable range of passing that made Xabi Alonso so good in the role he is currently playing in, but his defensive capabilities have too often been found lacking as he dives into tackles, giving away unnecessary fouls and penalties. Among midfielders he made the second most defensive errors in the league last season, as per Squawka.
Meanwhile, he has lost that half-yard of extra pace that used to allow him to recover from those errors successfully, and Liverpool’s fragile defence can hardly afford to carry extra errors now that they are lacking a large part of the firepower that helped them to outscore teams.
The thinking was that this position was created to extend Gerrard’s career, but it is questionable whether it is worth it if Liverpool are not going to get 100% out of him. He is far better deployed in the attacking midfield role he made his own for so many years and Frank Lampard has shown that it is possible to play this role well into your 30s if managed correctly.
The arrival of Emre Can, who has been in impressive form during pre-season, may well facilitate this move back to Gerrard’s comfort zone. Can, despite playing in defence for much of last season, made no defensive errors at all and looks to have the energy, pace, and power to play as a true defensive midfielder, allowing Gerrard to push further up the pitch.
Last season Gerrard played the position almost out of necessity, selflessly trying to plug gaps in the team, but there is now no need for him to do that.
Gerrard’s attempt to convert himself to playing in a position in which he was not comfortable playing has been admirable, and a lesser player would not have got as close as Gerrard did to the switch.
However, it may now be time for him to make the move back to his comfort zone and allow others to do the cleaning up in front of the defence while he runs the attack.