Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday demonstrated the Reds’ biggest weakness.
Sagna duly delivered a slight cut-back cross, and as Santi Cazorla
met the ball with a cracking header, Liverpool’s midfield was nowhere to
Indeed, a reverse angle replay revealed that Liverpool’s Steven
Gerrard was left near the half-way line. When he arguably should be
busting his lungs, trying to follow the Arsenal midfield’s runs.
In Gerrard’s defence, his midfield partners Jordan Henderson and
Lucas Leiva were also missing when The Gunners went ahead. But in the
last few weeks, the Liverpool captain’s questionable defensive work has
been on display too often.
Against the Premier League’s weaker sides, Gerrard’s lack of mobility
is disguised by the opponents lack of quality, and ability to take
advantage of Liverpool’s midfield frailty.
However Arsenal’s excellent midfield combined pace and technique to play around Gerrard and Lucas, who couldn’t get a foot in.
Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and the excellent Cazorla,
thrived against a midfield that could not match their movement and
passing. Especially in a first half where the Merseyside club were
The situation could be repeated when Liverpool face the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.
This begs the question, should Steven Gerrard’s time as a certain starter for Brendan Rodger’s side come to an end?
Gerrard still offers a lot to Liverpool’s midfield. The Liverpool
legend has adopted a new deep-lying midfield role, from where he
controls his side’s attacking play.
At times his role most resembles that of a quarter-back in American
football, lying deep, picking up the ball and spraying passes across the
But one cannot help to compare him to another Liverpool legend who,
like Gerrard, reinvented himself as a central midfielder, namely
Barnes became a star with England and Liverpool flying up and down
the left-wing, setting up goals and scoring for fun. But when
injuries took their toll, Barnes switched to midfield where he used
his technique and vision to good effect.
Before too long, however, he became too slow and immobile to defend
his place in an ever-improving Premier League, and duly retired.
When Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool from
Swansea before last season, he was lauded as one of the most
talented managers in England.
Advocating a modern brand of football, that emphasises quick passing and intense pressure off the ball.
That is not what we are seeing from Liverpool at the moment.
More frequently they defend sitting deep, trying to pounce on
the counter-attack, playing in a 3-5-2 system.
With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in superb form this has worked
well so far in the Premier League, bringing Liverpool third.
But if Rodgers wants to challenge the very best teams in the division, he will need to adapt his midfield.
That means Gerrard needs to be replaced by a two-way midfielder, who
is tactically disciplined, quick, aggressive and can contribute with
around 10 goals a year.
Gerrard has been a fantastic player for Liverpool and England for the
last 15 years, and the fact that the Anfield faithful rate him as
Liverpool’s best player, alongside Kenny Dalglish speaks volumes.
But the player, who was once Liverpool’s greatest strength might just have become the club’s biggest weakness.