Should Liverpool be experimenting at this stage of the season?

Steven Gerrard Celebrates

Steven Gerrard's return to the side has come with a bit of a chance thanks to the way the team sets up.

There was a lot of talk about how many Liverpool would have to score amongst the fans if they were to beat Aston Villa at the weekend when the line-up was announced without a specialist holding midfield player.

A change of shape in order to accommodate both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge along with the guile and craft of Philippe Coutinho and accommodating captain Steven Gerrard and the work rate and creativity of Jordan Henderson.

But without a natural defensive midfielder it all went pear shaped in the first 45 minutes as Liverpool were made to work for a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa.

Brendan Rodgers has said he wants Gerrard to play in the deeper role from now on, as he has returned to the side following a hamstring injury.

That’s all well and good, but with Gerrard only just starting to play in that role, it is going to be an experiment. He looked uncomfortable operating as the deeper midfielder against Stoke City, and even more uncomfortable against the lively Villa.

But with Liverpool now firmly in the battle for fourth place, is it wise for Rodgers to be upsetting the balance of the team by withdrawing any bite the Reds have in the middle of the park?

Whilst Gerrard’s range of passing from that position is a huge asset, it has to be said that both performances in that role, and in a lot of midfield displays this season he has lacked the bite in the challenges that is required.

There is a time to trial such roles and they’re usually during pre-season, or when the side is winning comfortably then allowing Gerrard to adapt to the role with minimal damage caused.

But one can’t help but feel that if he wants to play a deeper role then he needs someone who is more accustomed to playing the role like Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen in there alongside him – either sitting with Gerrard or rotating the roles depending on whether Liverpool are in possession or not.

One thing is for sure, Liverpool need to get some control in the middle of the park for Gerrard to play this role. They could easily make a five in midfield by dropping Suarez off to the left when Liverpool don’t have possession – he looked effective in the latter stages of the win against Stoke City coming in from the left going forward.

Whatever solution Brendan Rodgers comes up with, it has to ensure Liverpool have more of a command of the middle of the park than they did on Saturday.

image: © ruairadhG

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