Steven Gerrard: How Liverpool Should Manage His Final Years

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Steven Gerrard: How Liverpool Should Manage His Final Years
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Steven Gerrard is 32 years old and after a decade of brilliance for Liverpool, the mileage he has put on his body is beginning to take its toll.

Gerrard's style of play, that of an all action dynamic attacking midfielder who covers every blade of grass, has wreaked havoc on his body throughout his career and even more so in recent years.

Gerrard has suffered from numerous hamstring injuries and groin injuries throughout his career and has been subjected to surgeries on his groin, time and again.

He doesn't have many years left in his career.

Some people will point at Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs as players who played well into their late 30s and say Gerrard can do the same.

That's all well and good but both of them chose to alter their games to extend their careers. Gerrard has had to change his because of injury.

Gerrard has also had far more surgeries in his late 20s and early 30s than either of the United legends.

And let's not forget that both of them became squad players, able to come in for a big game and then sit out for three or four games before returning again. They were able to do it flawlessly because of the ways they changed their games.

Gerrard won't retire after this season, or after next season. But the following season? Possibly.

Gerrard is still a player capable of being great in any given game but how can Liverpool get the best out of him for his remaining seasons?

The dynamic bursts from midfield that were his trademark are now gone, and his ability to hit blockbuster drives from 25 yards out appears to be gone as well. Gerrard has had to restrict his game because of his body, and that has probably helped him transition into Brendan Rodgers' system easier than he would have three or four years ago.

That's not to say he has flourished under Rodgers. Far from it. He has played well in a couple of games but has also had a couple of dreadful performances. Much of this is down to his waning powers while some of it is an unsuitability to the role he is playing.

Currently Gerrard occupies the middle role in Rodgers' staggered three in midfield, the role that Joe Allen was bought to play. It's not a role that suits Gerrard. Short passes, passing and moving, being the passing center of the team. Those are the requirements in that role. Not exactly Gerrard's strong points, largely because he's now 32 and has never been asked to do those things regularly.

When Lucas Leiva returns there will be a big question to ask of Rodgers: What does he do with Gerrard?

Arguably he will not be first choice in any of those three midfield roles. Lucas will start, we know that. Allen will start, we know that as well. It leaves the attacking midfield role.

Clint Hughes/Getty Images
Lucas' return will have a big impact on the team, and possibly Gerrard in particular.

Gerrard could compete with Nuri Sahin and Jonjo Shelvey for that role but Sahin seems better suited to the role in this system, and in 2012 he's a better player than Gerrard.

To pick Gerrard would be to pick on reputation rather than form.

So how can Rodgers best use him? He has a couple of options.

The first option is to use him as an impact sub. He could be the ideal player to unleash on tired teams after 70 minutes. His ability to play in at least six positions, to varying degrees, in the current Liverpool team would make him a fantastic option.

Gerrard could play in any of the three midfield roles if required. He could also come on and fill in at right back in games where Liverpool are dominant and looking for another attacking option. Gerrard's crossing and tackling ability, and the fact he's played right back in the past, make that a realistic option for 20 minutes in certain games.

He could also come on and play either side of Luis Suarez. He's arguably the best finisher at the club and is a proven goalscorer. Liverpool have lacked a goalscorer off the bench for quite a long time and Gerrard could fill that role.

The other option of course is to start Gerrard in one of wide forward roles. That could actually be the best option for a team that is struggling to score goals.

A front three of Gerrard-Suarez-Rahem Sterling in front of a midfield of Allen-Lucas-Sahin would make Liverpool a much stronger team, a much better passing side and potentially a more potent attacking force. 

Lucas' return will allow Allen and Sahin to play their natural games and have more of an influence on the game. They are two of the best passers in the league and with those two in tandem, and Lucas backing them up, they will be able to dictate matches to a far greater extent than they have done this season.

Gerrard's intelligence, movement and ability to finish, added to the genius of Suarez and the constant threat of Sterling, could possibly give Liverpool the front three to help them create better chances and finish them.

With one simple move, Liverpool could improve two areas of the team.

Gerrard's two best seasons in Liverpool Red were the 2005-06 season, when he played on the right of midfield, and the 2008-09, when he played behind Fernando Torres. The right forward role would be the perfect blend of the two roles and could give Gerrard a new lease of life in the Liverpool team.

In the latest episode of Being: Liverpool, Rodgers does seem to indicate that this is a possible role for Gerrard, so it will be interesting to see if he does follow through on that idea.

If Gerrard moves into this role and it clicks he could take the goalscoring burden off Suarez and provide the goal threat the Reds have been missing. It could save Liverpool a lot of money in January. 

Right now the Reds arguably need two attackers, a striker and a wide player. If Gerrard worked out in an attacking role, then perhaps only a striker would be required.

A seven-man group of Gerrard, Suarez, Sterling, Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi, Suso and a new player being rotated in the front three roles for the remainder of the season wouldn't be a bad group for Liverpool to be moving forward with.

The advanced role could give Gerrard an Indian summer to his career and remind people of just how good he was before he retires. Given the career he's had, he deserves that.

 

With the Merseyside Derby coming up this weekend, click here to read about the unique respect shared by Liverpool and Everton and why it exists.

Or click here to check out five potential successors to Gerrard as one of the star players in the Liverpool team.

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