Liverpool v Man City this weekend is arguably the biggest game of the season. Both sets of fans have likely spent the week anxiously awaiting Sunday lunch time, confident that their team will prevail. Whatever the result will be, it will likely rest on one man in particular: Captain Fantastic, Steven Gerrard.
It has been mentioned many times this season that Gerrard has excelled in his role as a deep-lying midfielder this season. After an initial settling in period which saw him struggle in the 5-3 win away to Stoke and the 2-2 draw at home to Aston Villa, he’s been a vital part of the team’s setup. He now wins the ball regularly, looks comfortable in position and excels at being the starting off point for every attack.
His mentality and leadership has also been key in our title challenge this season; his drive and belief inspires the rest of the team, pulling everyone out of the thick of it whenever something goes wrong on the pitch. His incredible self-confidence and coolness on the penalty spot is a wonder to behold as well; this calendar year Gerrard has scored penalties to win us the points against Fulham, Southampton, Man United and West Ham.
However, I can’t help but wonder if the reason Gerrard’s done so well in these games is because none of the opposition’s worked particularly hard to make his life difficult. Aston Villa pressed and harried him continuously so he was never comfortable on the ball; Lucas was a welcome half time introduction that eased the pressure on him. But since then, he’s been afforded quite a lot of time on the ball.
The whole team was under pressure against Southampton (and quite frankly fortunate to get in at half time with a clean sheet), but since then teams have either turned up and not done much to bother us, or we’ve played them off the park. Spurs had no chance of getting anywhere near Gerrard for example, and in the 5-1 win over Arsenal Mesut Özil had zero interest in marking Stevie.
So Man City has me worried. On one hand, Gerrard’s leadership and overall quality will be invaluable if we’re to win the game, but Pelligrini must surely realise that he can be turned into a weak link if he has David Silva or Yaya Toure constantly pressure him to make sure he has barely any time on the ball; not only would this force him into giving up possession, it would help cut off the supply to the forward line that has proved so dangerous this season.
Of course, Gerrard is not the sole supply line of this team, but he is an important part of it. Captain Fantastic has indeed looked fantastic this season; I just hope that against City he proves just how good he is in his new role.