It’s been a couple of seasons since we’ve seen the best of Steven Gerrard from a domestic point of view. A one-time member of the midfield “Golden Triangle” along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard, the Liverpool skipper rescued many a Gameweek (and Liverpool) with his typical barnstorming displays but injuries have reduced him to no more than a peripheral figure in recent times.
Last term was a huge disappointment for Gerrard. Sidelined by a groin injury for the start of the campaign, his return to action in late September lasted a mere four matches before an infected ankle put paid to his comeback. Eventually finding his way back into Kenny Dalglish’s first-team again in Gameweek 21, Gerrard was utilised cautiously as the Anfield boss chose to focus on his side’s progress in cup competitions, in light of the Merseysiders’ poor league form.
A run of five back-to-back starts was the most he could muster and, with the club making their way to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea, Dalglish handed his captain just one appearance in the final six league matches. Last season he was signed for £9.2m, and the season before has was signed for £18.5m highlighting a perceived drop in availability and performance. Gerrard produced just five goals and a couple of assists over the entire season, returning a haul of 150. A total of 18 appearances, with six of those coming from the bench, summed up his lack of impact but this summer’s Euro 2012 displays suggest form and fitness could well be his allies once again.
As Brendan Rodgers brings his patient passing game to Anfield following the dismissal of Dalglish, a change of playing style is on the cards next season. The former Swansea boss is likely to implement his preferred 4-3-3 formation and much will depend on how he utilises his central midfield options.
At the Liberty Stadium, Rodgers tended to have two sitting deep and a more creative, attacking type fielded further forward, as was the case with Gylfi Sigurdsson in the second half of the season. Fortunately for Rodgers, Lucas is on the road to recovery and looks in line to return at the start of the 2012/13 campaign – whether Gerrard will partner him in a deeper role or be handed a position further up the field will be keenly anticipated by Fantasy managers. Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani are all in the mix, though Rodgers will surely look to move on at least two or three as he goes about restructuring his somewhat bloated squad.
A price drop on the back of last term’s negligible returns looks inevitable but he is likely to keep set-piece and spot-kick duties in his locker. A more attacking role, with Rodgers freeing him from the shackles of defensive duties, would allow Gerrard to preserve his energy and link with the likes of Luis Suarez up top – this would substantially boost his appeal and present us with an entirely different proposition altogether. Intriguingly, such a move was predicted by Rafa Benitez back in 2008, when the-then Reds boss reckoned:
The natural progression for him, when he becomes a bit older and loses a bit of pace or stamina, is to be a striker. He will never lose that eye for goal or accuracy in his shooting.
While pre-season may offer us a hint into Rodgers’ thinking, the Red’s tricky starting schedule, which sees City, Arsenal and United all rolling up to Anfield by Gameweek 5 will give us time to assess the situation and determine just whether Gerrard still has a part to play in our Fantasy thoughts for the campaign ahead.