Liverpool club captain Steven Gerrard has enjoyed a fine season on a personal level, while in terms of his club it is quickly looking like being the best campaign for the Reds in the last half-decade.
The football on show has been fluid, fast and hugely offensive-minded and even now, at 33 years of age, Gerrard remains at the hub of it all. For the No. 8 specifically, though, it has involved a change in role, a reducing of the amount of running and in increase in responsibility on his shoulders—albeit from a position further away from the opposition goal than ever before.
Gerrard has transitioned into operating as Liverpool's deep-lying, defensive playmaker, the single pivot behind a pair of attacking central midfielders, and has made the role his own to great effect over the past few months.
With defensive midfield having been one of the areas of the team that Liverpool most needed to attend to in recent transfer windows, manager Brendan Rodgers has managed to alter the balance and the consistency of his midfield trio—without spending a single penny in the market.
As far as registas go, one stands out above all others in the modern game: Italy and Juventus' bearded wonder, Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo has praised Gerrard's transition into the role and has spoken about how he can continue starring for club and country in his new position, as per Sky Sports.
The intelligent players adapt and Gerrard has the ability to do that. He is an excellent passer of the ball, possesses an intelligent football brain, and has great vision. Top European clubs are always progressing with what they can do off the field. If you look after yourself and are willing to adapt, there is no reason why you can't play at the top level until your late 30's. Gerrard is a top professional, it is very possible he has many years left for Liverpool and England in a new role.
Professionalism and looking after his body have never been issues which have been overlooked by England's captain, giving the Reds plenty of reason to think that he can he can continue in the role for several seasons to come.
Liverpool's previous regular starter in the role was Lucas Leiva. Currently sidelined with injury, the Brazilian will boost the Reds' squad numbers in midfield when he returns, though it is probable he will no longer be the first-choice defensive midfielder.
In itself, that is not a problem: Lucas was not originally intended as a holding, controlling player for the side in any case. His strengths lie in closing down quickly, pressing and tackling the opposition and in great stamina reserves. He can also pass the ball well, if perhaps not as adventurously at times as the likes of Philippe Coutinho.
Lucas, though, will give the Reds more great energy in the central role, another option to help control matches and, of course, the tactical flexibility to return to a 2-1 midfield shape when called for.
There is no reason to suggest that Gerrard occupying the defensive midfield spot should immediately signal the end of the No. 21's time at Anfield.
When Gerrard is absent, both Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen should provide cover for the skipper in the holding role, depending on which qualities are required.
So from being a priority in the transfer market due to a lack of depth and not quite offering the talents required in the system, the defensive midfield now seems relatively covered—though in front of Gerrard is another matter. Liverpool could yet opt to sell and upgrade on one of Gerrard's protectors, be it for a more creative player or a more physical one.
The latter could certainly be an athletic yet defensive-minded player who can play a box-to-box role in the main, aiding Liverpool's quick transitions, yet cover for Gerrard too as a regular holder.
The midfield in general is far from complete yet, and if the Reds have Champions League football next season, they will require six central players to cover themselves adequately. Even with Coutinho classed as one now, another one at least is required.
Rodgers will have other areas he urgently wants to strengthen—both sides of defence seems likely—but for now, while Gerrard continues to excel and has yet more Liverpool trophies in his sights, defensive midfield suddenly seems covered for the foreseeable future.
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