Liverpool news

Rodgers hails 'controller' Gerrard

January 31, 2014
By Mike Whalley

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's performance in Tuesday's 4-0 demolition of Everton at Anfield proves he has a future in a deeper midfield role, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.

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Gerrard made his name for his club, and for England, as an attacking box-to-box midfielder, but has recently been operating in front of the back four.

It was a move that, by his own admission, did not work when Liverpool had to come from two goals down to earn a 2-2 Premier League draw at home to Aston Villa on Jan. 18.

But with Lucas Leiva -- Liverpool's usual midfield anchor -- out until March with medial knee ligament damage, the England captain’s responsibilities in that area of the field have increased.

Gerrard was outstanding, scoring the opening goal as the Reds beat their neighbours, putting them in good spirits for Sunday’s trip to West Brom.

Rodgers said: "If anyone ever questioned whether Steven Gerrard can play as a controlling midfielder, he answered them. He put in one of the best performances I've seen from that position, as a playmaking controller, for a long, long time.

"I thought he was sensational in that role, opening up the game from behind and blocking space. He controlled the game."

Rodgers set up against Everton with a 4-3-3 formation, with Gerrard as the anchor alongside Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho in the middle, while Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling were asked to fill the wide attacking roles in support of Luis Suarez.

Sturridge expressed dismay at being asked to play wide on the left when he was at Chelsea, but his role against Everton gave him scope to move into a central attacking position. The forward ended the derby with two goals, and would have had a third had he not missed a penalty.

Rodgers said: "Our performance the other night was outstanding. It was a big game, with big pressure. It was brilliant for the supporters, great for the players. It means I can have a bit of banter now at the traffic lights with the Everton supporters instead of them shouting abuse at me.

“We scored four goals. I reckon we could have had seven, and we kept our concentration right to the very end.”

Rodgers admitted that he had used last Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth, which his team won 2-0, to work out a few tactical options for the derby, but insisted he had not specifically set Liverpool up to nullify Everton's threats.

He explained: "I wouldn't set up purposely for the opposition. I would always set up according to the availability of my players.

"If you look at the Bournemouth game, I played Daniel Sturridge from the right to see how that would work in terms of having one of the attacking players on the side -- and then changing by rotating it.

"Against Everton, I played Daniel from the left side. I also played Jordan Henderson left, because it offers you that bit of defensive solidity when the game breaks down."

Rodgers felt the displays of Raheem Sterling and Henderson during the derby win, in front of England assistant manager Ray Lewington, boosted their World Cup prospects.

Sterling, 19, played wide on the right in front of full-back Jon Flanagan, and was given the job of shutting down the attacking threat posed by defender Leighton Baines and midfielder Steven Pienaar down Everton’s left flank.

Henderson's job on the left of Liverpool's central midfield three, meanwhile, included giving left-back Aly Cissokho extra defensive support when Sturridge went forward.

Rodgers said: "I thought that young Raheem Sterling barely had a mention for his performance the other night. He's been outstanding in the last few games.

"Jordan showed real discipline in the game and he looks so composed now on the ball. How he presses is fantastic -- it allows the others to play.

"I'm sure Ray will have gone away from the game really impressed by those two players."

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