After crashing out of the Europa League despite a very impressive second leg performance against Zenit at Anfield, Liverpool lost their last opportunity to get some silverware this term. Although Brendan Rodgers and his players still have a chance of finishing fourth in the league, it seems to be unlikely as it’d take a really poor run of form from their rivals and a series of good, consistent displays from the Reds. Some fans aren’t letting another disappointment overshadow this season’s small positives though, pointing out at Luis Suarez’s great form, the impact Daniel Sturridge has made, and Steven Gerrard’s resurgence as the biggest signs of progress in Liverpool rebuilding process. It’s painfully obvious that the Reds captain’s form is better than it was in the last few seasons. He has stayed fit throughout the current campaign so far, which has helped him to regain his ability to spread wonderful, accurate passes around. Gerrard seems to have regained some of his energy too, being much more dynamic, fighting for every single ball and making real impact in the middle of the park. He has even scored some goals with those powerful, long-ranged shots that have been his trademark in his prime years.
With Liverpool skipper’s improvement being clear, it seems interesting to compare this season to his best seasons and how has his game has changed since then. The 2008-09 season was arguably one of Steven’s very best. It was the season, in which the Gerrard – Torres duo were destroying Premier League defences one by one.
As you can see from the numbers above, Gerrard has already seen a similar amount of playing time to his 2008-09 total. He needs just a bit more than two full games to make these figures even, so it looks like good material for comparison even though Gerrard does play deeper this season in comparison to 2008/09.
Gerrard’s passing stats show that he hasn’t only reached his 2008-09 level – he seems even better at it obviously due to his deeper role where there’s less pressure on the ball. He has already attempted more passes than he did when Liverpool finished as runner-ups, though he played 200 mins less. Both his open play pass completion and overall pass completion have also increased from 80% to 86% and from 73.98% to 80.95% respectively. It seems Steven is passing more, and he is more accurate now than he was in the 2008-09 season. As mentioned earlier, the reason of Gerrard’s improvement in that area is due to an interesting change in his playing style.
Steven Gerrard playing the Xabi Alonso role?
Ever since Xabi Alonso’s exit, Liverpool fans have dreamed about finding the player skilled enough to fill the void left by Spanish midfield maestro. Different managers were trying to make those dreams come true, signing the likes of Alberto Aquilani or Charlie Adam, but each one of these players failed to make an impact that was expected of him. It seems like Brendan Rodgers decided to deal with that issue in a different way, making Gerrard play similarly to Alonso.
Steven attempts much more long balls now than he did in 2008-09 season. He has in fact played the highest number of long balls of all the Liverpool team. He has also made most final third entries. It looks really Alonso-esque, as the Spaniard was the one to attempt the most long balls and final third entries of all the Liverpool’s 2008-09 midfielders. Steven is also making his passes a bit deeper now, as 36% of his passes are attempted from his own half compared to only 23% in Rafa’s best season. Again, it reminds me of Xabi as the difference between those two is just 1% here.
Gerrard seems to be back to his best, or really close to it at least, in terms of creativity. He has already got the same amount assists that he made in the 2008-09 season. He has also created 74 chances so far compared to 89 he managed to produce in the Reds memorable campaign. It means he creates a chance every 33 minutes, he needs just 3 more minutes to create a chance than he needed in the best moments of his and Torres partnership and even more impressive that it’s from a deeper position.
There are some changes in the way Steven plays though, as he attempts much less dribbles now, which obviously results in lower number of successful dribbles. Again, it seems like he got a bit Alonso’ed here as Xabi attempted only 13 dribbles in his whole final Liverpool campaign. Gerrard is also attempting crosses a little less, with his crossing accuracy being exactly the same.
Steven Gerrard’s goalscoring and shooting stats show us that he’s playing a much more disciplined role now. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not able to show some energetic, offensive football anymore. Actually, some numbers suggest it’s exactly the opposite. Still, the Liverpool and England skipper is more restricted than he was in the 2008-09 campaign. He takes fewer shots now, which obviously leads to a worse minutes per goal ratio.
In the Rafa Benitez golden days he scored every 164 minutes, this term it takes him 347 minutes to find the net. It might suggest Gerrard’s shooting got much worse, but the stats underline it didn’t. In fact, it seems even better as Steven’s shooting accuracy is 50% compared to the previous 41% while his chance conversion is exactly the same 16%. It seems Gerrard hasn’t become less clinical then, he’s just not playing as offensively as he used to.
Is Steven Gerrard back to his best then?
Well, the stats seem to show that he’s certainly different. Steven got more concentrated on his distribution, playing more passes and making them more accurate. He has also attempted much more long balls and final third entries. Gerrard’s passing is also being made deeper now than it was in 2008-09.
All of this comes at cost of his shooting and makes Huyton-born player look a bit similar to Xabi Alonso in his last Liverpool campaign. The Reds legend is definitely enjoying some good form again, the question doesn’t seem to be if he is back to his best though. It seems like he’s playing a completely different role than he did under Rafa Benitez, and doing a brilliant job of it. It seems to me like he’s more of Alonso in disguise than Steven Gerrard of old at the moment. Still, it remains to be seen if the current level of his performances is the best he can do in that new, disciplined role of his.
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