Liverpool: Are we sure… Steven Gerrard would fit into the current side?
Steven Gerrard spent a chunk of his Liverpool career effectively operating as a one-man team. How would he fare now?
No one would deny that Steven Gerrard is one of the best individuals to don a Liverpool shirt in the club’s history.
There were many fantastic players around him during certain periods, of course, not least the peak of Rafael Benitez’s reign, but he carried some rather average individuals in less successful times.
There was a period during the 2003/04 season, for example, where Gerrard was Man of the Match in about 80 percent of the matches and it felt like he was doing everything by himself.
The 38-year-old had opportunities to move to superior sides during his peak years, most notably Chelsea after his Champions League-winning heroics of 2005. He ended up staying and becoming one of the greatest Liverpool players of all time. However, his talent merited numerous Premier League titles, rather than the none that he is so painfully reminded of.
With Gerrard now a former Liverpool player, Jurgen Klopp is the main man at Anfield and is building a special group of players.
A hugely productive 12 months in the transfer market has seen a spine of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Naby Keita added to the team with the Reds now looking like Manchester City’s strongest title rivals going into the new season.
The question is, in a hypothetical world where Gerrard miraculously becomes 25 again, are we sure he would he slot into the current Liverpool team?
The 4-0 win over West Ham last Sunday was the perfect start to Liverpool’s league campaign, although sterner tests lie on the horizon.
Liverpool look a formidable outfit these days but, despite an increasingly strong squad being assembled, there are still a few positions where they could be even better. In fact, there is a role in the Reds’ midfield absolutely tailor-made for Steven Gerrard.
Klopp’s preference during his Anfield tenure has been to opt for a 4-3-3 formation, even though a 4-2-3-1 system and even a three-man defence have been used sporadically.
With Jordan Henderson or Fabinho taking the number six role in front of the defence — Fabinho looks the current favourite to be a regular there — a certain amount of freedom is afforded to the pair of midfielders in front.
Granted, Gerrard generally did well as a deep-lying midfielder in 2013/14 but his very best days were still behind him and his lack of legs exposed him defensively at times.
Letting Gerrard off the leash was always paramount with his Roy of the Rovers-style ability to be unstoppable in full flow making him one of the most feared midfielders of his generation.
This is precisely why his England career ended up being an underwhelming one — he was forever held back from fully expressing himself, often having to sit deep while Frank Lampard pushed forward instead.
With Naby Keita a shoo-in to take up one of the more attack-minded midfield berths, Gerrard would slot in alongside him to make a truly devastating partnership.
A mouthwatering prospect
The thought of Liverpool’s current and past number eights running at opposition players and wreaking havoc with their pace and creative class is mouthwatering.
When you add the masterful forward play of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino you would have arguably Europe’s most devastating midfield and attacking unit.
Klopp has several good choices in attacking midfield currently: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made huge strides prior to his devastating knee injury; James Milner has found a new lease of life in the last year; Gini Wijnaldum is an understated but effective figure; Adam Lallana can still offer something, despite flattering to deceive with his end product.
However, none come even remotely close to a peak Gerrard — someone Zinedine Zidane once claimed was the best footballer on the planet back in 2009.
A match made in heaven
Are we sure Steven Gerrard would make it into the current Liverpool side? Was there ever any doubt?
Were he still playing today, Gerrard would have all the attributes required to be the perfect Klopp player. He is fast, aggressive, possesses wonderful technical quality, is versatile and has an unrivalled team ethic. It would be a match made in heaven.
Throwing Gerrard into this Liverpool team would instantly make their title chances far greater. It’s a contentious call but it might even take them above Manchester City as favourites. That’s how good he was.
Sadly, this is something we can only dream about but what a glorious dream it is.
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