If I were to say 12 months ago that Steven Gerrard, Liverpool’s talismanic captain, would find it difficult to get into the starting line-up, I would have been checked into a psychiatric ward.
Here we are, though, in the infancy of the 2011/2012 season and Liverpool’s form is sky high. Only three league games have passed, yet 7 points are already on the board and the club have already recorded their first league win at Arsenal in more than a decade.
With Steven Gerrard recovering from a serious groin injury, Dalglish has begun the season with Lucas and Charlie Adam in the central midfield berths. Lucas, who was voted the ‘Standard Chartered Fans player of the year’ for the 2010/2011 season, has started the current campaign in fine form and Charlie Adam has slotted seamlessly into the team.
The favoured formation thus far has been 4-4-2, albeit in a very fluid structure, with King Kenny preferring a two-pronged strike force.
All of which begs the question, where does Steven Gerrard fit into these plans?
Without doubt, Steven Gerrard’s best position is in central midfield, where he can utilise his endless qualities. However, with Lucas and Adam occupying the two central midfield positions, it seems as though Steven Gerrard may have to change his role to warrant starting.
Another option for Dalglish is to use Steven Gerrard as a right midfielder. Rafael Benitez controversially used Gerrard in this role at the beginning of his tenure as Liverpool manager and received widespread criticism. Despite this, Gerrard bagged an impressive number of goals from right midfield and his crossing ability would provide Andy Carroll with stellar service. Even so, Jordan Henderson is improving with every game at right midfield, and another new signing – Stewart Downing – looks lethal when he cuts in from the right onto his favoured left foot.
In recent years, Steven Gerrard has played as a ‘second striker’, usually behind Fernando Torres. At times, the ‘G & T’ partnership was unstoppable, as Stevie G made late runs into the box and released his strike partner with perfect passes. Gerrard performed at his best in this formation with Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano behind him.
Crucially, Liverpool once again have two very similar players who can play those roles – Charlie Adam and Lucas respectively – which suggests Gerrard could quite easily occupy this role in the current Liverpool side supporting either Luis Suarez or Andy Carroll. Nevertheless, it seems as though Dalglish wants his two January signings to forge a partnership between themselves.
The likelihood is that Steven Gerrard will slot straight back into the Liverpool starting XI, but he is no longer guaranteed a start in a resurgent Reds side on the rise.