Gerrard not as good a defensive playmaker as Pirlo?
Steven Gerrard has been receiving high praise lately as he has re-discovered himself as a deep-lying midfielder, having previously operated as high up the field as a second striker behind Fernando Torres. Brendan Rodgers indicated that the Liverpool skipper could be the club’s Andrea Pirlo, with Gerrard lauded as a top class ball player. But, is this the reality, or has Gerrard’s relative renaissance been exaggerated?
Gerrard versus West Brom
Against West Brom, Gerrard sat in the deep midfield role in front of the back four as we can see below:
Firstly, this clearly demonstrates that he is no longer the same attack minded player he once was for Liverpool and it is undeniable that he has undergone a transformation under Brendan Rodgers from an attacking midfielder (arguably even a second striker under Rafael Benitez) to a defensive midfield player.
Liverpool’s number eight’s main role in this system is to sit deep, plug gaps and to move the ball around effectively. He does this by dropping back to pick the ball up off of the centre-backs and spreading the play.
Most top class ball playing midfielders complete around 60+ passes per game, while Gerrard completed 48 passes versus West Brom, equating to a passing accuracy of 81%. Europe’s finest top ball players tend to enjoy a completion rate of closer to 90%. Below we can see Gerrard’s misplaced passes from this fixture:
As we can see Gerrard misplaced several of his attempted long passes in this fixture, which in turn relinquished possession to the opponents. Over the last four games, the England captain has started as a defensive midfielder and in these fixtures his passing accuracy has been as follows, 75% (versus Stoke), 73% (versus Aston Villa), 76% (versus Everton) and 81% (versus West Brom). In essence in the period where he has been praised for his transition he has averaged just 76.25% pass completion, which is very low for a deep lying midfielder (his average for the season is 86%). Gareth Barry, who also averages 86% pass accuracy and has been playing the holding role for Everton has averaged a pass completion rate of 85% over his last four games.
In contrast Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta who plays the role for the North London club averages a pass accuracy of 92%. Across Europe’s top five leagues the best passers complete more than 90% of their passes, as Marco Verratti at PSG does (92%), Philipp Lahm (92%), Sergio Busquets and Xavi also boast a passing accuracy of 93% each. All of this puts into context how relatively low Gerrard’s pass completion is and how it is not good enough for him to be considered a top defensive midfielder.
Gerrard’s resurgence as a defensive midfielder has been good, if not great. His abilities in this role have been exaggerated, as has his passing ability, which is what is the hall-mark of a top deep lying midfielder. Gerrard does work hard for his team and look to plug gaps and is certainly playing an important role for Liverpool but, he is certainly not in the same league as Europe’s top defensive midfielders.Published 04 Feb 2014, 18:45 IST