Liverpool: Why Brendan Rodgers Needs to Resolve Reds' Midfield Issues in 2013

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  (L-R) Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey and Luis Suarez of Liverpool look dejected after conceding a second goal during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Liverpool FC and BSC Young Boys at Anfield on November 22, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Until Brendan Rodgers sorts out the midfield, Liverpool will fail to find the consistency necessary for Champions League qualification.

The 2012/13 Premier League seasons has been quite frustrating for the Reds. They've put in some great performances, which were followed up with some absolutely abject ones.

Liverpool beat Fulham, 4-0, on December 22. Then four days later it played arguably its worst game of the season in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Stoke City.

Supporters can clamor for a striker all they want, as it's clear that Luis Suarez can't continue to single-handedly pick up the club by the scruff of its neck as Steven Gerrard was once able to do.

The Reds have reportedly looked into a move for Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder (via the Daily Mail). It's extremely unlikely to happen considering both Sneijder's age and wages.

In addition, the Dutchman wouldn't be a good fit for the team. Sneijder has to be the focal point of the attack, which is a title still held by Steven Gerrard.

It doesn't make much sense for Liverpool to shift from one aging midfielder to another midfielder in his late 20s. Sneijder's form has been on a slight decline ever since his phenomenal 2009/10 campaign.

While we're on the topic of midfield general, it's time that Rodgers begins slowly phasing out Gerrard. This will prove especially difficult considering how revered the player is by the supporters.

Rodgers shouldn't handle it the same way that Andre Villas-Boas tried to move Frank Lampard out of the Chelsea first team, but he needs to start making plans with the end game being having a Gerrard-less lineup.

It would be one thing if Gerrard remained the marauder that he was in his prime. At 32 years old, though, he's looked a shell of that player at times this year.

Gerrard's greatest assets were all based on his superior physical ability. Nobody could run around the pitch like he could, and nobody had the kind of cannon he possessed on his right foot.

Now that he's getting older, Gerrard can no longer rely on this things the way he has in the past.

Charlie Adam was criticized by many supporters for his penchant for launching "Hollywood" balls. Gerrard has been equally guilty of that this season.

This isn't to say that he's completely finished as a footballer. More specifically, Gerrard needs to adjust his game, and accordingly, Liverpool need to adjust his role in the squad.

Liverpool are a club in rebuilding mode. As such, one of the younger players in the team should start to take over as the midfield general.

The ownership is going to be patient with Rodgers. Fenway Sports Group isn't expecting him to turn the club around in a season. Finishing in the top four is one of the main goals, but the most important thing at this stage is that Rodgers has the Reds improving on the pitch.

With this security, Rodgers can afford to sacrifice the short term if it benefits the long term.

Sure the Reds could bring in better players to roam the midfield. Really, though, which club couldn't? However, Liverpool already has what could be the core of the team for years to come.

The club can reap the benefits that come with having a group of players together for a long period of time. The best teams in the world all have the kind of chemistry that only comes with time. Building that chemistry is what Rodgers should be striving for.

You look at the trio of Joe Allen, Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson, and you see players who could all complement each other.

Projecting Rodgers' 4-3-3 formation, Lucas would sit in front of the back four, Allen could be the pass master in the center of midfield and Shelvey could sit in behind the striker and look for long-range efforts on goal.

While he'll never justify the price the Reds paid for him, Henderson has the ability to play a multitude of positions in midfield and can provide depth behind the regular starters.

Building around the young players would mean that Gerrard accepts a lesser role in the team, and as already established, that will prove hard to do for Rodgers.

It's not all bad, though.

With Lucas getting back to first-team football, it's only a matter of time before Liverpool as a whole get better.

Lucas is one of the few players on the team that deserved to be penciled in the lineup each and every match. The Brazilian still isn't quite at full fitness because when you watch him you can see that he isn't hitting top speed.

Getting a fully fit Lucas back is huge, but Liverpool won't be able to reach its full potential unless Rodgers figures how best to line up his midfield.