Steven Gerrard rolled back the years and silenced his critics (Sir Alex Ferguson included) after two more assists to take his season tally up to four in the campaign this past weekend as Liverpool comfortably beat Fulham at Anfield.
The legs may be beginning to run out for the ageing captain as evidenced by the number of touches he had on the ball compared to his midfield compatriots when playing against Fulham.
He had 87 touches compared to 105 for the pair of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Leiva, and 109 for Jordan Henderson. Gerrard doesn’t quite put himself about as he used to then, but his contribution to the team is nothing short of invaluable.
His output is especially beneficial to the fearsome striking duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, where his incredible range of passing and his supreme technique with set-pieces and crosses has constantly been a threat to opposition defences.
Gerrard attempts an average of 68.5 passes per league game (compared to 65 for Lucas and 55.4 for Henderson) with an 87.1% success rate. To put his passing prowess into greater perspective for you, Steven Gerrard makes 7.8 long passes (passes made over 25 yards) per game. Lucas averages 2.8 long passes, and Henderson 3.8. One can clearly see then the role that has been left up to Gerrard to play in that midfield trio, and its one he has performed admirably too.
Gerrard no longer plays behind the main striker as he used to with Fernando Torres for example, but his dropping back into a deeper midfield position has served to accentuate his ability to pass the ball and to spread play, inviting Liverpool’s wing-backs to foray forward whenever he is on the ball.
It has also suited Brendan Rodgers system of utilising two strikers which has also alleviated some of the pressure on him to score goals from midfield. He also gets himself into positions to cross the ball into the box more than most other central midfielders in the league and indeed at Liverpool as well.
None of Lucas, Henderson, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Yaya Toure, Aaron Ramsey or Ramires averages more than one cross per game, Steven Gerrard averages 2.3 crosses per league game. These statistics are testament to a player who knows how to play to his strengths, and also highlights manager Brendan Rodgers’ ability as a master tactician in moulding a team with players that can play to each others strengths and in this way complement one another.
Sir Alex Ferguson may not think that Gerrard is “a top, top player” - as he puts it in his recently published autobiography - but England’s captain has certainly gone about rubbishing this criticism in some style.
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