‘œEach morning our key to the world comes through the door
More than often its just a comic, not much more
Don’t take it too serious – not many do
Read between the lines and you’ll find the truth’
News Of The World, The Jam
I’m sure you’ll agree, a fitting quote to describe the current witch-hunt surrounding our club in the press at the moment. If it’s not one thing it’s certainly another. If Rafa Benitez isn’t about to pack his bags for Italy, it’s the fact our season is apparently dead in November. If it’s not that it’s about handbags between Gerrard and Riise after the Arsenal game or even about ‘œpoor’ signings made in the shape of Bellamy, Gonzalez, Aurelio and Pennant.
Of course, there is one story that has featured on the back pages of the tabloids more than any other this season. One which if you choose to believe it, threatens to derail the future of the club. What is that I hear you ask? Only the matter of Steven Gerrard plying his trade on the right wing.
Of course there are valid reasons for Steven to be moved back into the centre such as the fact that he would offer that drive from the centre of the park that we often lack but for me, it is in the best interest of the club for the skipper to remain on the flank.
The fact is that in Steven Gerrard, we are lucky to have a genuine world-class talent in our ranks. In fact the lad is that good that he could play in almost any position and would have a decent game evident in playing left-back in the derby a few years ago, right wing-back in the Champions League final while doing a superb job in shackling the dangerous Serginho and he even played as a striker at home to Bolton two years ago when all of our forwards were out injured or in Milan Baros’ case, suspended. Perhaps the biggest case in point of Gerrard’s true versatility is the 23 goals he scored from the right of midfield last season and the man of the match award from last season’s FA Cup final.
Well hang on I hear you say, if the lad is a world-class talent why doesn’t he play in the centre where his qualities can be maximised? For the simple reason that Xabi Alonso and Momo Sissoko form an outstanding partnership together. As Real Madrid know from the recent galacticos experiment, great individuals don’t make a great team. For one thing, Sissoko and Alonso, while possibly lacking in the final third of the field, are perfect foil for each other. Sissoko offers Alonso effective protection to utilise his fantastic vision and hurt opponents with his fantastic range of passing, something that Steven Gerrard would not.
Two examples of this can be found in two European games from the past two seasons. Against both AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final and the Benfica home game of last year, Gerrard and Alonso both lined up together in the middle of the park and in both games we were ripped to shreds by Kaka and Simao respectively. In the games in question, both players had the freedom to play in the space between the defence and midfield without anyone picking them up. It was only when Dietmar Hamann was brought on as the holding player that Kaka was shackled and Alonso and Gerrard were able to play freely without being burdened by defensive duties.
In the right-wing position, Gerrard is free from the defensive responsibilities that he would be burdened with if he were to start in the middle with Alonso and what we would have is the same Steven Gerrard that graced the World Cup finals in Germany as a lesser player while he covered for the vastly overrated Frank Lampard’s many forays into the opposition’s box. At least on the wing, Steven has licence to drift inside and all in all, have a much greater influence on the game from an attacking perspective.
Furthermore and perhaps crucially, Steven is our best option on the right, something that the tabloids have conveniently forgot. Although Garcia can do a job there, he is to an extent wasted and never performs as well as when he is deployed as a second striker as he does in European competition. When Garcia plays there, Steve Finnan’s game is hindered as well as he seems reluctant to overlap and swing crosses into the box (and in my opinion, he is the best crosser of the ball at the club with either foot), perhaps fearing that Luis will not cover for him.
Even though, Jermaine Pennant is a natural right-winger, he has gone off the boil in recent weeks and has not at all looked value for nearly Â£7m and is nowhere near as effective as Steven Gerrard in that position. More often than not when Pennant cuts inside, possession is squandered and lacks the urgency and determination that Gerrard plays with.
Besides, it is naÃ¯ve to think that by moving Gerrard into the centre, our problems will vanish and we will emerge a breathtaking side sweeping all who stand in our path as the press seem to think. The club’s problems are more deep-rooted than that but that is another story.
Finally, a modification of a famous JFK quote can perhaps best some up the situation. Ask not what your club can do for you; ask what you can do for your club and for the time being at least, it is in Liverpool Football Clubs best interests that Steven Gerrard remains on the right wing.