Much has been written about how Liverpool are over reliant on their brilliant forward Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan that has scored 44% of their Premiership goals and without whom the Reds place in the table would be much lower. However, less this season has been written about Liverpool’s captain, whose poor early season form saw the Merseysiders come stuttering out of the gate before his recent uptick has seen them somewhat right the ship. After a period of his career blighted by injury, this season has seen Steven Gerrard play every minute of every Premiership game (sometimes unwisely), and when he’s put it together Liverpool have looked like a dangerous side.
Liverpool’s Premiership season can be broken down into two parts, a horrible first two months where the side managed only 0.85 points per game, and a much better winter period where they picked up 1.79 points per game (good for around 68 points, or fourth place if carried out for a season). Other reasons aside, such as Brendan Rodgers starting to put his own stamp on the squad, the main reason for this surge in form has been the improved play of Steven Gerrard.
Steven Gerrard’s Split Season
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The two parts of his season show how this was a challenge initially, as Liverpool fans will remember several aimless Hollywood balls being intercepted and bad touches leading to goals conceded. However after the 0-0 draw with Stoke City in the beginning of October Gerrard really picked it up. Accepting that he didn’t have to be a one man team, he attempted on average 10 passes less per game while remembering that it was his job to be incisive, still placing 35% of them forward.
[quote]Steven Gerrard’s tally of eight assists is his highest after 21 games in the last five years – he totalled 8 in 2007/08 and 9 was his best (in the last 5 years) in 2008/09 so he’ll surpass those season with ease.[/quote]
Despite having less touches of the ball, he was more precise with how he used it and continued to create chances at the same rate. For further evidence of Gerrard’s importance, two matches where he created zero chances were the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham and the 3-1 loss at Stoke, games where Liverpool were just awful. As Gerrard goes, so does Liverpool. Gerrard’s role in Brendan Rodgers’ midfield is extraordinarily difficult (and may have even been the reason for Sahin’s departure). The players around him in Lucas and Joe Allen/Jordan Henderson are more functional, with good movement and the ability to recycle possession, but without the same vision as Gerrard. So not only does the captain have to keep his passing percentage high to fit in with Rodgers’ overall ethos of possession football, but he needs to do this while attempting more ambitious passes than his teammates.
Steven Gerrard compared to Premier League midfielders
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(Clicking on the column headings will allow you to sort the table)
The table above shows how adept Gerrard has become at combining his two very different, and very difficult responsibilities. Of the top seven most accurate Premiership passers Gerrard finishes last, but he is tied for making the most passes forward, has created the most chances and created the most goals. Creating chances at rate better than Santi Cazorla while still being more accurate than most of the Premier League (and more accurate than his great mate Xabi Alonso) is no mean feat.
Steven Gerrard’s tally of eight assists is his highest after 21 games in the last five years – he totalled 8 in 2007/08 and 9 was his best (in the last 5 years) in 2008/09 so he’ll surpass those season with ease. His total assists this season are the same tally as Suarez, Henderson, Downing and Sterling’s combined.
It may seem pretty obvious to say that Liverpool will go as far as their best midfielder can take them, but this is a point that needs to be made when one considers that earlier in the season fans were questioning whether or not Steven Gerrard was even worth a place in Liverpool’s first eleven. There is no question that the skipper isn’t what he was even three years ago, and there is no question that having to carry the burden of passing accurately while being the only Liverpool midfielder who can play ambitious passes will lead to some missteps. But Gerrard has done the job as well as could be expected and has certainly proved he’s not getting into the team on reputation alone.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.