Why Steven Gerrard Should Be More Like Frank Lampard
Two veteran midfielders hit the headlines for very different reasons this weekend.
Steven Gerrard was rested by Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool beat Stoke 1-0 and had they not scored a late winner, then you can be sure that the pressurised Anfield boss would have had some tough questions to answer over his decision.
Also a substitute this weekend was Gerrard’s former England colleague Frank Lamapard. Yet there was no controversy over Manuel Pellegrini’s selection, as Lampard came on in the second-half to score a crucial goal for Manchester City in their 3-0 win at Southampton.
Lampard has been used sparingly by City this season and it’s a tactic that’s paid off. Now 36, the former Chelsea legend has only been on the pitch for a total of 205 minutes this season but has nevertheless weighed in with three goals. As a consequence Lampard now has the best strike rate in the Premier League, averaging a goal every 68 minutes, ahead of his City teammate Sergio Aguero on 81 minutes per goal.
City have decided to use Lampard as an impact player and it’s working perfectly for them. In contrast, Liverpool have remained reliant on Gerrard and both the player and team have suffered as a result.
Gerrard was a huge factor in Liverpool’s title bid last season. Playing in a deep position, he pulled the strings, utilising the space in midfield to ping balls all over the park.
This season the tactic has not been effective. Gerrard enjoyed a seemingly telepathic relationship with Luis Suarez - a player whose intelligent and non-stop running gave Gerrard options. With Daniel Sturridge injured, there is now far less movement for Gerrard to exploit with his passing.
Teams have also worked out that Gerrard can be nullified with close marking. Robbed of his ability to hurt the opposition from deep, Gerrard’s lack of defensive understanding has become more notable. Last season Liverpool were conceding plenty of goals but scoring more, but that’s no longer the case.
A little younger than Lampard at 34, Gerrard has still been used too often this season. In total he’s played 1095 minutes in the Premier League - more than five times the amount that Lampard has. It’s no wonder that one looks fresh whenever he’s introduced, while the other looks worn out.
Of course it is easier for Manchester City to be pragmatic with Lampard. He is only at the club on loan and made his reputation elsewhere. Gerrard on the other hand is synonymous with Liverpool and has been their most important player for years. The attachment between club and player is emotional. Liverpool without Gerrard doesn’t seem quite right.
Yet there comes a time in a relationship between player and club when things have to change. If Liverpool are to continue to profit from Gerrard’s abilities then they must accept that they cannot rely upon him as they once did.
Gerrard needs a prolonged spell on the bench. This will allow the team to learn to cope without him, while also recharging an ageing player’s batteries. The spot just behind the striker, where Gerrard could ignore the defensive duties that don’t suit him, is where he should be sparingly used.
Frank Lampard’s brief spell at Manchester City provides the blueprint for how Liverpool must move forward with Gerrard. Follow that plan and watch Stevie G roll back the years.