His numerous forays into the depths of Everton’s half dropping balls accurately into opponents trouble spots in a bid to breach an impressive albeit disappointingly untroubled Blues rearguard made me think of a new role for Gerrard; one where his ageing legs will be spared coming into his mid-late 30s and will possibly prolong his career.
Sunday’s performance and his ever presence in the last 36 league games has postponed this notion but the Libero position could make a comeback.
I’m not saying that the Reds captain should grow a Tom Selleck Magnum PI style tache and develop steel tips on his elbows while cultivating a tasty mullet. No, the modern Libero could be relevant due to the team’s penchant to play with just one centre forward.
Yes, we have a proficient enough player who could fit the mould in Daniel Agger but his passing as good as it is, is not on par with Gerrard’s reading of the game and range of passing. The Germans have done this for years with luminaries of the game such as Lothar Mattheus and Matthias Sammer fulfilling this role for club and country with distinction collecting shiny baubles along the way along with being adorned with a mass of medals.
This may not be a regular role for our captain but a retreat in position when the team needs to advance its pressure further forward up the pitch allowing younger legs, the likes of Jordan Henderson for instance, to gallop forward in a bid to win that extra territory and right to play. It may not be advisable to play this way against the rough and tumble, up and at them sides but more suited to Europe where greater nous and calmness with the football are of premium importance.
For this to work it is vital that a ‘nuts and bolts’ type player mops up the breaking balls and puts the foot in when needed. Lucas Leiva has proved to be adept at doing this, an expert at doing the simple things right (easier said than done as many Premier League players can attest). Dan Agger has shown an appetite for attacking space in front of him, this throws opponents who have their roles mapped out from the training ground to the pitch, brings something different to the side, changing the angle of attack and pulling apart rigid formations leaving more space in advanced areas.
[ad_pod id=”unruly-video” align=”center”]
The other way of playing this way is the pragmatic Italian style 1980s manor which meant that the masterful Franco Baresi would sit deeper as a starting position, dictating the positions of his defensive colleagues. This was known as Catenaccio, thereby squeezing the life out of the opposition when out of possession by crowding the central areas and playing a high line therefore choking the life out of their creative forces.
I would shudder to think that this would the way we would go; I believe to would neither suit Gerrard or the team. Italy again proved that the sweeper system can work with Cesare Prandelli utilising their regular midfield gladiator Daniele De Rossi alongside his back four on a couple of occasions during Euro 2012. It was the ease of transition which was striking, the Roma man’s instinctiveness and tactical savvy ensured the challenge was met with minimum fuss.
In this country players are told from a young age what position they are and that’s the end of it, position learnt but no more coaching on the other skills. A new role for our Huyton hero can be revolutionary for English players, a greater picture of the pitch, constantly facing the action will enhance his appreciation/scorn for his team-mates qualities allowing him to lead in a different (possibly more vocal) way also increasing the decibel levels on the pitch in the absence of vocalist in chief Jamie Carragher.
When reading the game and staying on your feet are paramount to good defensive play, it’s not all about the blood and thunder, kick and rush centre-half, subtlety is also key. This is a point well backed up by a former stylish winger Chris Waddle who has been known for his outspoken views on pigeonholing players as one particular type of player.
“I think Steven Gerrard could end up playing in a back four when his legs aren’t capable of playing box-to-box any more. He’s good enough to convert to a full-back or centre-half, he’s competitive, he reads the game brilliantly, he has a terrific range of passing.
“We pigeonhole a player in a position, then we say, ‘He hasn’t got the legs now, get rid of him’. Put him in a different position. You wouldn’t say Glenn Hoddle is a physical player but he did it [at Swindon and Chelsea, as well as Ruud Gullit]. You might get muscled out of a tackle, you might lose a 50-50, but in modern football the aggressive centre-halves, the bully boys with split eyes, have gone.
“You tackle once it’s a yellow card, the second tackle you’re gone. You want players who can intercept, who can read the game, and nick the ball.
Whether or not he is behind the back-four or just in front I would love to see more top players who are of advancing years being wheeled out for the games which can allow experience and knowledge to prosper getting the most out of sizable abilities.”
Quote courtesy of ‘Independant Newspapers’
[ad_pod id=’pubsquared’ align=’right’]
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at firstname.lastname@example.org