Good Form: Stevie “Ageless Wonder” Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has had one of the most storied careers in English football history. Since 2000, he’s been a mainstay in the Liverpool and England lineups, and has accomplished almost everything a professional footballer could ever dream of. He’s endeared himself to the hearts of Liverpool fans around the world, and has made it impossible to tell the history of the club without him. And wether you care for him as footballer or not, there’s no denying his leadership, relentless pace, vision, and long-distance striking have made him one of the best midfielders in the world.

But, as is the case with every athlete, the sun must set on Gerrard’s illustrious career. And at age 33, when he should be exiting his prime, that time is drawing nearer for “Captain Fantastic.”

Just don’t tell him that, because he’s not playing like it.

Now, I’m not saying he’s not showing signs of slowing down; certainly his more defensive or holding position in the midfield instead of the attacking one we’re so used to seeing him in is a clear indication that age is catching up to him.

2/23 against Swansea. A good example of his more defensive role

2/23 against Swansea. A good example of his more defensive role

He’s had to step back and make room for younger players such as Philippe CoutinhoRaheem Sterling, and Jordan Henderson which has naturally reduced his attacking chances. And an attacking player is one who in theory should have more opportunities to score goals and get assists (aka more fantasy points), right? Well, while that may be true in most cases, Steven Gerrard is showing that even in a more subdued role he can still shine for club and fantasy team. Let’s explore how he’s staving off father time to accomplish this.

To begin, obviously the first thing most people do when determining how well or how poorly a player is doing is look at how many goals he’s scored. And while Gerrard’s total (7) is nothing to scoff at, it must be noted that 5 of those have come from the penalty spot, thus inflating his total number slightly. Instead, let’s focus more on his shots on target.

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As you can see from the graph, 19 of his 30 shots this season have been on target. Yes, 30 shots is a relatively small sample especially when you compare it to the 97 from teammate Luis Suarez, but the fact remains, when he does shoot (remember he doesn’t get forward as much) he’s on target most of the time (61% of the time to be precise). And the more shots on target = the more opportunities for the ball to find the back of the net. Of course being the captain and being the one to take the team’s penalty shots does add to his value, but his shot accuracy suggests that a few more goals are possible.

The next area of focus, and one where he’s currently excelling, is his passing–and more specifically his assists. Always one to be able to “pick out a pass”, Gerrard’s vision and being able to find a teammate making a run has always been one of his calling cards. He’s currently tied with Wayne Rooney and Suarez atop the league with 9 assists and while 7 of those have come off set pieces, when you dig even further you see that he’s actually created a total of 51 chances this season, good for second on the team behind Suarez (65). Obviously having players like a Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge helps as they’re constantly finding open areas and making runs, but like a certain famous band from Liverpool once said: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” The fact that he’s created that many chances–especially as a CDM (Central Defensive Midfielder)–only further proves how integral he is in the Scouser attack.

*Side Note* “Chances Created” = assists + key passes. “Key Pass” = a pass that leads to a shot on goal but isn’t converted.

Looking at his overall passing, his 1,200 completed passes out of 1,401 attempted (86%) is good for 9th in the league. And out of those, he’s completed an outstanding 151 long ball passes (pass over 30m). This demonstrates his superb vision and touch of the ball–which can’t be taught, and also shows his effectiveness in the team’s attack even from a withdrawn position. “S n’ S” (Suarez/Sturridge) can do what they do and press the action because the Skipper is still patrolling the middle of the park.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 12.07.57 PMAnd finally, when speaking of Gerrard and his current role within the club, one must not forget the defensive duties that now accompany said role. Now, he’ll never be renowned for his defensive prowess, but his tireless pace allows him to track back and cover the ground he needs to to help the team on both ends of the field.

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Here you can see that while the number’s not overwhelming, he’s still successful on more than half of his tackle chances. And in addition to the 48 tackles, he’s also chipped in 11 blocks and 31 interceptions–all aiding not only to his value to Liverpool Football Club, but to fantasy teams as well (assuming your league accounts for defensive stats that is).

In summation, yes, age is slowly creeping up on Steven Gerrard, but it’s hard to tell when you look at his play. He’s not the midfield dynamo that he used to be, but he’s not exactly ready to be put out to pasture either. In fact, when you look at his total involvement you’d have to say he’s playing some of the best midfield in the Premier League right now. Liverpool will continue to attack as they’ve done all year, and even though it’s with a more behind the scenes role, Gerrard figures to still be right at the heart of it.


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