Tactical Review: Steven Gerrard

19 Oct

Liverpool 1 – 1 Manchester United

The match didn’t quite live up the pre match billing of biggest game in the world by Alex Ferguson but it did give a good indication of
how Liverpool will play now that Gerrard is back in the team. Liverpool’s record against United at Anfield in recent years has been nothing short of exceptional winning their last three in a row with Gerrard scoring in the last 4 matches.  Possibly because United had an important result to get in the Champions League on Tuesday and definitely because he doesn’t like to play Rooney in Merseyside United started without Rooney or Nani and went for a more defensively solid 4-2-3-1 with Jones moving alongside Fletcher to anchor the midfield in a response to the perception of Gerrard playing of Saurez.  The other surprise was Nani being left on the bench for Park who has so far this season been used for Europe.

As discussed in the match preview Dalglish’s biggest problem was what formation to select and the players to get the best out of it.  As a result Liverpool (as recommended ha) reverted back to the more dynamic team shape of 4-3-2-1 of last season with Gerrard lining up in the middle with the ever dependable Lucas and improving Adam.  More importantly Kuyt was chosen over Carroll with Suarez playing as a solitary front man.

Gerrard’s Position

It looked like Gerrard had never been away picking up the combative all action style that has become his signature. As previously
mentioned United looked to pack the middle of the park with two anchor men and Giggs dropping in from the No 10 position to make a three man midfield with the aim of reducing the space available for Gerrard to link with Suarez as he used to do so effectively with Torres.  However Gerrard as last season Gerrard was deployed to the right of midfield and often finding himself playing between Evra and Young with neither really picking him up as they were being occupied by Kuyt and Kelly.  If we look at the passing and link up play of Gerrard and Suarez you would assume that United’s tactic had worked forcing him to find space elsewhere, however if you compare
his positioning to last season you will be amazed at the similarity in position and his link, or lack off, with Suarez.

As can be seen Suarez plays down the channels to receive the ball and barely links directly with Gerrard through the middle.  This was a feature of Liverpool’s play who throughout the game made an incredible 33 crosses in the game with none successful in the first half and only 4 in the second.  Considering the amount if investment in this area with the like of Downing bought to help provide the ammunition for Suarez, Dalglish must view this as an area for concern seeing a similar failure against Everton the previous week.  Looking at this you have to wonder why Ferguson didn’t go more adventurous and play a more attack minded centre mid such as Anderson who was highlighted as a key threat in the pre-match  review.

Gerrard in Defence

With Liverpool having 3 in the centre of midfield and with Downing and Kuyt dropping inside when out of possession Liverpool reduced the spaces in the channels (between the Centre Back and Full Back) which United have thrived upon so far this season.  As a result Young had to drop closer to the half way line to receive the ball whilst Park only received the ball 9 times in the whole game.  The key to this was Liverpool’s defensive shape.  Playing a tight midfield diamond which, anchored by Lucas and spearheaded by Gerrard, they were able to hunt as a pack ensuring there were no large gaps to play between players forcing a predictable wide ball to Young which Kelly was exceptional at reading.  As seen in the diagramme Adam pushed Jones back to Fletcher who was immediately closed by Gerrard forcing it wide to Evra.  At the same time anticipating the next ball down the line both Kuyt and Kelly moved to reduce the space and step into the path of the ball.  From this interception Liverpool were now able to launch counter attacks with Adam and
Gerrard already high up the pitch to support Saurez who one this occasion had a one on one with De Gea.

Liverpool's Defensive Shape

With Gerrard back it also meant there wasn’t as much pressure on Adam to recover to a defensive position when out of possession as Gerrard and Lucas would be able to provide the cover.  As a result Adam was able to venture further forward to receive the ball.

Gerrard in Attack

As previously mentioned when Liverpool we’re in possession Gerrard mainly played on the outside of Kuyt with the latter playing as an inside forward.  Consequently the United defence was pulled out of shape which was exposed several times allowing Suarez and number of 1 vs. 1 opportunities with Ferdinand.   In terms of actual creative play it was more what Gerrard did off the ball more than on it that was so valuable for Liverpool in attack as showed in his stats only creating 1 chance in open play.  The movement combinations between
himself and Kuyt on the right really pulled United apart.  With United’s primary focus on Gerrard the more often than not two out of Evra, Fletcher or Young would attempt to pick him up.  As a result this left space for the likes of Kelly to exploit down the wing or for Adam and Saurez to exploit through the middle.   The best example of this came on the 36th minute which resulted in a 1 vs. 1 between Suarez and Ferdinand which was pulled up for handball.  A move which started with Adam on the half way line Carragher moved forward in the right back position.  Instantly Gerrard moved towards the ball taking both Evra and Fletcher away which then allowed Kuyt to move Evans out of the middle leaving Ferdinand standard by himself.  Instead of the predictable ball to Gerrard, Carragher shifted the ball to Suarez who played a great one two with Kuyt.   This same movement happened on several other occasions to equally good effect.

Gerrard's movement in attack

With the introduction of Henderson for Lucas, Gerrard slotted in as anchor man alongside Adam starting the move that led to the goal.  From then on you can see how Gerrard dominated the centre which saw Liverpool drive for the win with Henderson going close twice one with a wonder save from De Gea.

Summary

It was great to see Gerrard starting again in the Premier League.  There was no bigger game for Gerrard to return to for his first start of
the season but he was at the heart of Liverpool’s performance.  Liverpool looked more solid in defence and were more dynamic in attack.  The concern will be the lack of link up play with Suarez who was a solitary figure in the United box at times with aimless crosses being pumped into him.  One of the best examples of this was out with Gerrard back I’m sure the support and quality of pass for Suarez will come.

It’s good to have him back.

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One Response to “Tactical Review: Steven Gerrard”

  1. Omar October 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Brilliant article, just thought i’d let you know in a friendly manner its Suarez before the spell freaks get on your back

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