Should Liverpool’s captain be an automatic starter? The statistics suggest that he shouldn’t but we know how influential Steven Gerrard has been in the past. He has played 22 games this season, nine of them they have won, while they have lost seven. The overall win percentage when he has played has been 41 per cent. Since his injury, the Reds have played six games and won every single one. Jordan Henderson has thrived in his absence and has scored two goals in his last three Premier League games. If these numbers are taken into account than Gerrard will find himself on the bench but he is still important to Liverpool. Just before his injury Brendan Rodgers played him in a more advanced position and freed him from the burden of having to get back and defend. The 34-year-old’s best position has always been as an attacking midfielder and his output in terms of goals has been excellent over the years. But currently Rodgers is trying to play a more expansive game, which involves pressurising the opposition further up the pitch – Gerrard just doesn’t have the legs to perform this duty. Also the flexibility of the front three ensures that Liverpool do not become predictable, if Gerrard were to be introduced, it would affect the balance of the side as he would most likely play as an orthodox number 10 – this could also mean a change in system. This is something Rodgers is unlikely to do considering the success of the 3-4-3.
Chelsea currently have a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League following Manchester City’s 1-0 loss to Burnley. As a result, City have now been dragged into the race for Champions League places and find themselves only one point ahead of Arsenal, and two ahead of Manchester United. The importance of this game against Swansea was magnified as it gave the Reds a chance to close the gap, and they duly delivered. Their excellent run-of-form continues and they still haven’t lost a league game since losing to United back in December. What has been even more remarkable is their defence with Simon Mignolet looking unbeatable in goal, while those in front of him provide a good protective shield. Rodgers has opted for two old-fashioned defenders who love tackling as well as the physical aspect of the game. While in Emre Can they have a cultured player who compliments them well. His ability on the ball is crucial – particularly in a back three were the onus is often on the defenders to initiate the attacks. The Reds have not conceded in their last six away games – which is a club record.
It was an intriguing tactical battle which Swansea dominated in the early stages. Their diamond in midfield completely negated the threat of the 3-4-3 as it stopped the supply line from defence, and it also nullified the threat of Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Philipe Coutinho. However, Rodgers changed his system and matched Swansea’s and this shifted the momentum towards them. Ki Sung-yueng was very influential in the early parts of the game, he was controlling the tempo alongside Jack Cork, but the South-Korean was also offering a threat further up the pitch. Liverpool struggled to contain him and this gave Swansea’s midfield superiority. But when the Reds altered their system it effectively became a five in midfield, which forced Swansea to retreat defensively. Liverpool dominated possession in the second-half with 70 per cent, so it was inevitable that they would eventually find a way through.
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