WHEN change is afoot, footballers have to adapt to survive or stubbornly roll over and de-evolve into the back catalogues. Stay true to your own playing philosophies, or re-define yourself and what you are as a performer for the benefit of the collective.
When we think of Steven Gerrard, we think of his swashbuckling, languid strides, relentless running and his constant probing for that forward movement or pass which may lead to a breakthrough for club and country, which he leads with distinction. Players of his calibre, aura and assured place in the game don’t get to where they are without adaption. With Brendan Rodgers much publicised patient approach supposedly being the antithesis of the Huyton hero’s core strengths; a clash of styles were inevitable said the doomsayers.
Of course, this is short-sighted and rather disrespectful of a world great. On European duty, particularly in the 2000-01 and 2004-2005 seasons when success was attained, at times he sat – often he roamed – but frequently adapted to what sometimes amounted to containment football where he sacrificed his attacking gifts to concentrate on protecting his defence and a slender lead. Examples of this were when away goals often proved decisive. The Liverpool captain has been the standard bearer for the club for over a decade but understands the old adage, you should never stop learning. He has grasped this understanding that the Northern Irishman’s ways are a little different to what he is used to:
“There are certainly things I can still improve on by working with him. I’m enjoying working with him on a daily basis, and I think my form recently has been really good.
“I’m enjoying my football, and I’m really looking forward to the next two years I’m contracted for and hopefully more, to add some chapters to a career I’m really proud of.”
Gerrard seems at peace to where his career has taken him, his place as part of the pantheon of Anfield greats has long been assured. I believe a more patient style can benefit, maybe even prolong his stellar career. He can push, prod and prompt alongside Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva, he also has the tactical flexibility to spearhead the three, with the emerging Jonjo Shelvey offering the youthful exuberance alongside them, shining a light on his past.
There is no hiding place when the stark realisation of the league table is brought before us, 6 points in 7 games and no consecutive wins since last December is not the standard we expect from a side thriving for the best, to compete with the higher echelons. Pressure is building, excitement is turning to trepidation and the publically mild-mannered boss has even questioned the battling qualities of two of the sides senior pro’s with both Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique getting read the riot act for failing to display the battling qualities expected of them. This is another way Gerrard needs to adapt to Rodgers methods in that he will be acting as a buffer when relationships are frayed, playing the unseen captain’s role – either the man fighting his team-mates corner’s or emphasising Rodgers’ gospel. In the heat of battle young eyes will be looking to him for guidance and inspiration.
Gerrard has had to adapt his game, much like the game has changed over the last 18 months or so. Managers are keen to stifle their opponents with a packed midfield, have an extensive tactical awareness and use of man to man marking and attacking with speed and numbers on the counter attack. Liverpool have one way of playing. This is a modernised more intense version of the Shankly way, of the beautifully simple “You pass it to me, I pass it to him, he passes it on.” I’m not saying the days of blood and thunder virtuoso performances should be culled from the skipper – just curtailed in keeping with the team effort. This is the introductory stage of the Gerrard and Liverpool’s rebirth. Let us remain mindful of this as the club seeks to turn itself around.
As always your comments are welcome…..