Traditionally, Gerrard has played a very similar role for club and country, but his recent switch of roles at Liverpool could see him being forced to switch into international mode under Roy Hodgson this summer.
However, there are some fundamental differences between a 38-game Premier League campaign and a World Cup run with a maximum of seven games, albeit in under a month, that could shape Gerrard’s role this summer.
Brendan Rodgers adapted 33-year-old Gerrard’s game during 2013-14 to sustain the midfielders career and his performance in each game.
No longer able to regularly carry the team forward with his pacey attacking bursts, Rodgers began to sit Gerrard deeper.
His new role in front of Liverpool’s back four, in between defence and midfield, preserves Gerrard’s energy.
From here, he acts as a deep-lying holding midfielder, able to step back into central defence when called upon and distribute possession by way of short passes to midfield team-mates, or his distinctive, sprayed long balls across the pitch.
With his experience and intelligence of the game, his new role allows him to dictate the play of the overall game—slowing things down when needed, but often relinquishing the start of Liverpool’s relentless attacks that made them such a force during 2013-14.
He remains the catalyst of Liverpool’s attacking play but from a much deeper, considered role.
Playing in this smaller pocket of the pitch, with cover and options on all sides of him, allows Gerrard to conserve energy. He played 34 of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League games in 2013-14.
By contrast, Hodgson may well ask Gerrard to sit in a very conservative and English central-midfield role, wrapped in a familiar 4-4-2 formation—or close to.
While the objective of Gerrard’s new Liverpool role is to maintain his services over the long haul of the season, Hodgson could well be canny by exploiting Gerrard’s attacking abilities with such a short fixture run in the World Cup, with games an average of five days apart.
Gerrard’s England role may see him sit as one of a central-midfield two, with less defined responsibility.
Gerrard would alternate between attacking and defensive central-midfield duties with his partner—likely to be Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere—enabling each to contribute to both attacking and defensive phases of play while maintaining a hold and control over the game.
Gerrard and Wilshere must have a good understanding of each other’s games, and communication will be vital to orchestrating an effective partnership if Gerrard is to move away from his role at Liverpool.
For both Liverpool and England, though, Gerrard’s captaincy plays a major part of his role.
England are comprised of a mismatch of Premier League personalities who must unite and play football cohesively if they are to achieve any sort of success in Brazil this summer. Gerrard’s leadership will be crucial to forming that unity, in much the same way he does for his club.
Liverpool’s resurgence, and in particular the rise of their English players, could well benefit Gerrard and England this summer.
Potentially having Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him will enable the transfer of familiarity over from club to country.
Gerrard must be adaptive in his game for England this summer, while conserving the energy to last 90 minutes, but he has shown several times in his career that he has the versatility, confidence, intelligence and experience to switch roles effectively.
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