Did you see how many English players started last weekend against Swansea? First of all, there was the returning Glen Johnson, on-fire forward Daniel Sturridge bagging a brace, and midfield general Jordan Henderson running a man-of-the-match show from midfield. Even looking towards the future, right-back Jon Flanagan was playing at left-back, still comfortably Liverpool’s best defender that day.
However, it was another sight that England manager Roy Hodgson must be really comforted about. Seeing Steven Gerrard further acclimatising to his new role as a deep-lying midfielder would have given the ex-Liverpool manager much comfort ahead of this year’s World Cup.
For the first time in a long time, Hodgson will have a world-class player playing in a position English managers in the past have found notoriously difficult to fill. Pretenders like Owen Hargreaves, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick has tried to play this position for the Three Lions, to varying success.
The aforementioned three were/are positionally very astute, but what they lacked was that supreme eye for a direct pass, and that energy needed to drive an England team that always seems to be very lacklustre during tournaments. This is what Gerrard can provide playing from a deeper position.
Experience Behind Youth
Granted, England will miss Gerrard’s drive higher up the pitch, getting amongst the goals in and around the penalty box. But admittedly, those days are over. The buccaneering Gerrard of 2005 to 2009 is no more; though England fans fret not as there is the likes of Jack Wilshere, Wayne Rooney and even the wingmen in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana to name a few to provide the offensive thrust. All four are in red-hot form for their club sides now and if fit will surely be on the plane to Brazil.
For all the talk of Gerrard’s energy and enthusiasm, it is his presence closer to the back four that provides a calming effect for both Liverpool and England. His position behind the attacking thrust and slightly in front of the defence is the perfect area for which his country can benefit from his leadership.
Though Gerrard still have much to learn from this deep-lying role, he still has eleven more Premier League games to do so, and three more friendly internationals with England for him to adjust to his international teammates. Hodgson will want to build his team around Rooney, but if he wants to succeed at the World Cup – which for England means a quarter-final spot – the England manager must build his foundations around this all-time Liverpool legend.
And don’t forget to send Rodgers a thank you note as well.