LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 16, 2014: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring the second goal after his injury time penalty sealed a 2-1 victory over PFC Ludogorets Razgrad during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Debate: Why the No. 10 Role Could Work Again for Steven Gerrard

A Steven Gerrard cameo, in his old No. 10 role in Liverpool’s win over West Bromwich Albion, showed signs of promise for the club, writes Jack Lusby.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Monday, August 25, 2014: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard looks dejected during the Premier League match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by Chris Brunskill/Propaganda)

The other side of the debate: Why the No. 10 role won’t work again for Gerrard

The ghost of the Steven Gerrard of old made a fleeting visit to an enraptured Anfield in Liverpool’s recent 2-1 home victory over Alan Irvine’s West Bromwich Albion, with Reds manager Brendan Rodgers opting to use his captain in his former No. 10 role.

In a 15-minute cameo, following the introduction of holding midfielder Lucas Leiva, Gerrard impressed, in particular with some incisive link-up play involving striker Mario Balotelli.

According to the Liverpool Echo, after the game Rodgers outlined the thought behind this switch for Gerrard, claiming “if I put him in the No.10 he is working in a shorter space and you could see his quality. I thought he was brilliant.

“It was so refreshing to see that cleverness and brightness. And that’s why I did it because I felt he could add something to our game at that point.

Whilst the game proved over before this switch, with Jordan Henderson’s superb placed attempt sealing the three points at Anfield, this “brightness” was evident in Gerrard’s short, advanced cameo.

Rodgers’ praise should remain measured, and Gerrard should by no means demand a regular starting role in the attacking line, but the captain has proven he can be rotated in this role.

This may prove a pivotal demonstration as Rodgers looks to ease out the ageing midfielder in the coming years, and a bit-part No. 10 role could be Gerrard’s future for the Reds.



Lack of Legs

The main, perceived, reason for Gerrard’s being moved back into the deep-lying midfield role last season was in order to compensate for the midfielder’s diminishing energy and vitality.

A less advanced position would allow Rodgers’ front guard to the defend from the front and, in order to swiftly change the pace of the game—a tactic Luis Suarez thrived on—Gerrard’s ability to dictate play with his excellent passing range could continue to tear teams apart.

In the area between the defence and midfield, Gerrard would be afforded cover by both the centre-backs and his shuttling midfield colleagues.

This is an idea that proved lacking at times, particularly with the infamous slip against Chelsea towards the end of the season, and once more Gerrard is being exposed in this role as a vulnerable spine to the side, as Stewart Downing’s evisceration of the 34-year-old recently showed.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 20, 2014: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as West Ham United score the third goal during the Premier League match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After Saturday’s Anfield victory, Rodgers opined that “that is the third tough game in a week for Steven but he still has so much quality and I felt that if we were under pressure defensively then there were bigger spaces for him to cover.”

Both Rodgers and Jordan Henderson may have attested to the opposite recently, with the Reds vice-captain claiming “a lot of teams have been putting someone to man-mark him, which shows just how good he is,” but Gerrard is clearly becoming a target in that role due to weakness.

With Gerrard as a No. 10, Rodgers could lean on his more energetic midfield charges to cover for the captain in a less defensively crucial position.

With the imminent returns of Joe Allen and Emre Can from injury, the Ulsterman could utilise the pair, along with Henderson, behind Gerrard.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Can has phenomenal potential both as a midfield destroyer and as a devastating box-to-box player, whilst Allen possesses the discipline and intelligence to cover in that deep-lying role, too.

Rotate Adam Lallana into this mix, presumably within a midfield diamond, and Liverpool’s midfield looks incredibly healthy; Gerrard could thrive on this energy, and the captain could deputise for a tiring Raheem Sterling at points.

However, this would not be the ultimate tactical layout for Rodgers—Gerrard should be used sparingly in this role, with his impact against West Brom a tribute to this.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, September 26, 2014: Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action against Everton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Coaxing Balotelli

The main positive that Rodgers took from Gerrard’s fleeting No. 10 performance against West Brom was the way the Liverpool skipper ignited a so far-flagging Mario Balotelli.

After the game, the Reds manager spoke about his decision to move the midfielder into a more advanced role: “It is not that he hasn’t been outstanding in the role he has played for us but I felt that in the game his influence to combine with Balotelli at that time might help us.”

Balotelli has been consistently slated so far in his short Liverpool career, not least by his manager, and Rodgers clearly felt the presence and experience of Gerrard could help the £16 million man.

“[Gerrard] is a player that makes the game look simple and Mario Balotelli knows he is playing with one of the greats of the game. I think for anyone playing alongside Steven Gerrard it is a privilege for them.

“You have an outstanding player in Steven feeding a player who needs certain types of passes and he can provide that.”

Balotelli twice came close against West Brom after some great work from the 34-year-old, and the pair’s interchanges looked to shake the Baggies’ defence.

Whilst the return of Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool’s next Premier League encounter, away to QPR, should see Rodgers revert to partnering Balotelli with the striker, Gerrard has seemingly delivered food for thought.

The Reds may require the midfielder’s attacking influence at times this season.


Frank Lampard

For those doubting Gerrard’s potential as an impact No. 10, look no further than the current form of a 36-year-old Frank Lampard at loan club Manchester City.

So far, in five appearances on loan from New York City, Lampard has scored two goals for the Citizens—only one of these appearances has been from a starting role.

The pair were continually criticised throughout their respective England careers for being seemingly unable to gel together as a midfield partnership, and this was mainly due to their inclination to surge forward to help the attack—neither possessed to requisite discipline to work together.

Gerrard’s attacking tendency would aid this proposed renovation, and the Reds captain has delivered a smorgasbord of attacking delights in a Liverpool shirt in the past.

One quality that Gerrard lacks in this scenario however, is Lampard’s ethereal movement; preferring to bulldoze the opposition defence, the Liverpool captain arguably lacks the nuance of the former Chelsea man.

Nevertheless, the 34-year-old in no way needs to ape the playing style of his former England teammate, more so his endurance in the attacking third—Gerrard should take a cue from Lampard’s effective bit-part role at the Etihad Stadium and plot a resurgence as a No. 10.

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The other side of the debate: Why the No. 10 role won’t work again for Gerrard