Stats - Is Steven Gerrard really suited to a holding role?

Steven Gerrard

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard continues to be tipped to become a more defensive midfielder.

Italian legend Andrea Pirlo said earlier this week that Steven Gerrard had all the tools needed to turn himself into a consistent deep, holding midfielder for Liverpool over the next few years.

It’s a role and a transition that Brendan Rodgers has tipped him to cover for the club as the 33-year-old stares at the final chunk of what has been a world class and very consistent career.

That led us to thinking; how exactly has Gerrard compared to more experienced holding midfielders in the Premier League this season? We decided to look at the stats in five key areas commonly associated with holding and defensive midfielders.


Mile Jedinak Crystal Palace MF 93 26 2,340
Youssuf Mulumbu West Brom MF 82 26 2,146
Michael Carrick Man Utd MF 63 19 1,603
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 48 19 1,555
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 31 23 1,933

Gerrard is some way behind the best in the league in this department, including teammate Lucas. However, it can be explained by the fact he’s not been constantly played (yet) in front of Liverpool’s back four. What the stat does suggest is that Gerrard certainly has the intelligence to read the game effectively.

Tackles Won

PlayerClubPosWon TackleAppsMins
Claudio Yacob West Brom MF 80 23 1,725
Mile Jedinak Crystal Palace MF 67 26 2,340
James McCarthy Everton MF 58 22 1,835
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 52 19 1,555
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 48 23 1,933

As an out and out holding midfielder, the number of tackles Gerrard wins is likely to increase. What we can draw from his numbers based on this season is that he times his challenges well and seems to thrive in the role of setting an example as captain. He’s also barely behind Lucas as things stand.

Back Zone Passes

PlayerClubPosTotal Back Zone PassAppsMins
Gary Medel Cardiff MF 782 25 2,103
Yaya Touré Man City MF 743 25 2,182
Cheick Tioté Newcastle MF 734 22 1,782
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 653 19 1,555
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 647 23 1,933

Any holding player has to be able to pass the ball well and protect possession in his side’s back zone. He’s neck and neck with Lucas, with only a few other players having made more back zone passes in total this season. Gerrard doesn’t panic and he filters the ball out from the back well.

Long Ball Accuracy

PlayerClubPosAccurate Long BallsAppsMins
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 158 23 1,933
Tom Huddlestone Hull MF 150 27 2,342
Gary Medel Cardiff MF 143 25 2,103
Jonjo Shelvey Swansea MF 142 23 1,739
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 49 19 1,555

It’s also important for a holding midfielder to be able to hit long balls accurately in order to find a target man or to play the ball into space for an attacker to run onto. The good news here is that no other player this season has been more accurate with long balls than Gerrard.

Possession Won in Defensive Third

PlayerClubPosPoss Won Def 3rdAppsMins
Youssuf Mulumbu West Brom MF 103 26 2,146
Ahmed Elmohamady Hull MF 91 27 2,347
Tom Huddlestone Hull MF 89 27 2,342
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 80 23 1,933
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 65 19 1,555

Gerrard has been more effective this season than any other Liverpool player when it comes to winning back possession in the defensive third. What that suggests is that he’s very effective in terms of breaking up the play before moving the ball onto teammates quickly.

image: © wonker

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