Quick links


Rodgers must deal with Gerrard issue to challenge for trophies

Liverpool need a better defensive shield than the one provided by their captain if they are to contend for the biggest prizes.

Although the Football Writers' Association's collective belief that only Luis Suarez outperformed him owed much to his status within the domestic game, Steven Gerrard - disappointing end to the campaign aside - nevertheless had an impressive season, probably his best since he dovetailed so magnificently with Fernando Torres in 2008-09.

Gerrard, of course, was assigned a new role by Reds manager Brendan Rodgers - part holding midfielder and part deep-lying playmaker. However, while the 33-year-old played the attacking part of his remit superbly, in carrying out his defensive duties, involving interceptions and providing a screen for the centre-backs, he was less impressive.

The England international captain’s passing played a big part in Liverpool's quick transitions, but Gerrard often struggled with the unfamiliar positional side of the role. The examples of Paul Scholes and Andrea Pirlo were given as players who Gerrard could emulate in playing this role, but the duo's games were always based on touch, control, vision and an appreciation of space, with Gerrard most admired for his dynamism in and around the opposition's box and his lung-busting runs.

Also, Scholes had Michael Carrick behind him to provide the defensive cover for the centre-backs when the opposition attacked; with Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho in the team, Gerrard was usually the last line of midfield cover.

Summer recruits in defence will help tighten up Liverpool's leaky rearguard, but if they are to challenge for the Premier League title and aim for a long run in the Champions League, then they will need to protect their defence better. And for this they will require a player more suited to that role than Gerrard.

Rodgers moved his captain to this role in order to prolong his career, but if he recognises the issue and can recruit a top-class player native to that role such as Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho, then the Liverpool manager will face a dilemma: should he again move Gerrard further forward in the team, albeit to a role he acknowledged he might no longer have the legs for, or should he risk re-designing his successful formation to accommodate his captain?

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch