Liverpool FC face Bulgarian side Ludogorets in the Champions League on Wednesday and find themselves in a must-win position. The Reds need to win both their remaining games in the competition for a chance to progress to the knockouts.
The Reds are currently in a slump, and have lost their previous 4 games in all competitions. This game comes at a crucial time and they just have to perform to give themselves some breathing space, and need to treat this game like a turning point. Brendan Rodgers has received a lot of criticism after his side lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace, in what was one of their worst performances this season. His selection methods have been thrashed and large sections of the media, as well as fans have questioned the selection of Steven Gerrard week in-week out.
The 34 year old midfielder has been used in a holding role, and has been sub-par for most parts this season. Gerrard gets massively restricted in that role and doesn’t do much for the attack and his weak legs are not enough to provide cover for the shocking Liverpool defence. He is caught standing a lot of times and his emphatic form of last season doesn’t seem like it is returning.
Former teammate and present TV pundit Jamie Carragher was vocal in his criticism of the entire team, but spoke about Gerrard in particular claiming that the vastly talented player should not be wasted as a defensive midfielder as he is not a Hamann and his game doesn’t suit that role or help the team.
“He’s not a Mascherano, he’s not a Hamann who played in front of me who were not really interested in getting on the ball, that was Stevie’s job or Xavi Alonso’s job,” said Carragher, speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme.
“All they (Mascherano and Hamann) thought about was defensively.”
“Over the years he’s had fantastic relationships with Owen, Torres, Suarez and Sturridge. He knows where they are, where the ball is going. He hasn’t got that at the moment with any of the strikers, Balotelli, Lambert, Borini.
“He’s not giving that creativity going forward because of that lack of understanding, he’s getting man-marked. I think they’d be better off putting someone else there, like a Lucas who is only going to think defensively. This team needs protection. Stevie’s not a great protector of the defence. He’s in that position for different reasons really.
But Brendan Rodgers believes the criticism Gerrard has received is unfair as people expect him to play the way he used to 10 years back. The manager said that there is nothing sentimental about him picking the captain every week and he can drop him whenever he wants and Gerrard is a good professional to be okay with that as he has the best interests of Liverpool at heart.
“For me it’s simple, I judge Steven on merit,” Rodgers said.
“The spotlight he has been under has been incredible. People expect Steven to be the type of player he was 10 or 12 years ago but sadly that’s not the case. Steven has been slowly adapting to a position I felt would really benefit the team – the playmaking role behind.
“That player who scored 15 a season and made 13 or 14 assists, he’s not that type of player anymore. It’s hugely unfair he gets judged on that level. He’s a wonderful player, I can safely say he’s the best player I’ve ever worked with – his mentality, commitment and loyalty he’s shown the football club has been incredible.
“I’ve shown in my time here as manager that I don’t deal in sentiment. There is nothing sentimental about me picking Steven. I judge him on what I see on the training field. I see the influence he has with the other players.
“Of course he’s coming to the latter part of his career but he still has a big contribution to make for me. He can play three games a week but not to the level he would like or I would like so it’s up to me to manage that. It’s fairly easy to manage because he’s such a top class professional player. He accepts what’s best for Liverpool. He knows that every decision is in the best interests of the club.”