Liverpool's Midfield Conundrum: Options Aplenty or Lacking Quality?
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard took the headlines and plaudits this week following England's qualification for Brazil, most notably from his national boss Roy Hodgson and club manager Brendan Rodgers.
"He's a remarkable man and a remarkable captain" eulogised Rodgers at his pre-Newcastle press conference.
The influential captain is one of just four Liverpool players to have started all nine League and Cup games this season. Simon Mignolet, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson are the others.
Last season, Gerrard played every minute of every League game prior to undergoing shoulder surgery and missing the final two fixtures. Still, he finished the season with the most appearances in Rodgers' squad.
It's unusual for a player who is 33 years old to be such a mainstay in a top Premier League team. Mind, Gerrard's entire Liverpool career has been above the norm, he's broken records and barriers throughout his 16 seasons at the club and continues to do so now.
Upon Joe Allen's arrival from Swansea last summer, I expressed my hopes that this would mean less game time for Gerrard. I was roundly criticised for such remarks, but my argument was that less of a reliance on Gerrard would allow him to prolong his career further.
Things didn't work out for Allen in his first season, and Gerrard instead continued to be as important to the team as ever.
Ask a selection of Liverpool supporters about their midfield, and you'll either be told that they seriously lack quality and that it's the weakest area of the squad or, alternatively, that we have more than enough options—especially if Rodgers continues with two in the middle within a 3-4-1-2.
So which is it?
The answer isn't easy. As with all aspects of football, it's subjective. Opinions differ.
Personally, I'm more toward the lacking-quality side of the debate.
For me, it's about time Liverpool were less reliant on their captain and that there were options and other players able to take over his mantle. Not that that's an easy task. Nobody will ever match what Gerrard has achieved at Liverpool FC.
The midfield argument largely revolves around Lucas Leiva. Some see him as the player he was just before his initial injury two years ago, while others see a player far from that level.
The Lucas-Gerrard midfield, argue a large majority, lacks a dynamic element.
Whether you think Lucas is a 'hero' or not the one thing he isn't is 'unsung'.— Michael Sweeting (@M_Sweeting) October 17, 2013
Who would be your midfield 2 for LFC?
Jordan Henderson came in for Lucas against Crystal Palace and performed admirably in a more natural central role. He adds energy and drive, much needed qualities in midfield. Henderson made seven of seven tackles, four clearances, recovered the ball 12 times and completed 69 of 75 passes, as per EPL Index.
So it would seem it would be harsh to drop Henderson for the returning Lucas. And as discussed, it's unlikely Rodgers will rest Gerrard.
Rodgers may opt to play Henderson, or even Allen, in the no. 10 role centrally behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at Newcastle. But it's safe to assume that Philippe Coutinho will occupy that role once he's fully fit.
So, there clearly are options, but are those options of the quality required to push Liverpool into the Champions League?
That's a matter of opinion. Perhaps we'll see what Rodgers opinion is come January.
Who would be your preferred midfield partnership?
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