Steven Gerrard has completed more key passes than any other player in the Barclays Premier League so far this season — perfect proof for the Liverpool captain’s assertion that he is still able to “hurt the opposition.”
Finding the back of the net with a powerful free-kick from distance at Hull City on Sunday increased the midfielder’s tally for 2013-14 to three, following penalties against Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
The 33-year-old also ranks higher than the likes of Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil, Manchester City duo Samir Nasri and David Silva, Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard and Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney with regards to creating opportunities for a teammate.
Gerrard acknowledged that he is operating in a slightly deeper role than in previous seasons, under direction from Brendan Rodgers, but warned that his swashbuckling days are by no means a thing of the past.
“If you play around good players, they make good movement and put themselves in good positions,” the No. 8 explained to Liverpoolfc.com. “My job and what the manager wants me to do from my position is to try to create and be a playmaker in there.
“Maybe I’m playing a little bit deeper this year but I can still get into areas where I can hurt the opposition. That’s what I’m trying to do. I wasn’t aware of the stat but it’s nice and I’d like that to continue until the end of the season.”
Notably, Gerrard’s accurate and consistent deliveries from set-piece scenarios — both free-kicks and corners — have contributed to a number of Liverpool goals during the current campaign.
Daniel Sturridge was the most recent beneficiary, glancing one home in the 89th minute at Goodison Park to rescue a 3-3 draw in the Merseyside derby last month after being advised where to position himself by the skipper.
“Communication on the training pitch and also in the games is vital,” Gerrard continued. “I knew exactly where I wanted to put it; putting it there is a different matter.
“I actually hit one right where I wanted it, and told him where to run and where to be. But it’s still hard to finish those chances off, so he deserves 50 percent of the credit as well.
“We do work on set-pieces. It’s a part of my game that I’ve tried to work on all my career — to put good deliveries into the box.
“I’ve been putting the ball in really good, inviting areas and the forward players and defenders have been finishing them off. The statistics in football, when it comes down to set-pieces, are huge and can be the difference between winning big football matches and where you finish at the end of the season.
“It’s important that we keep scoring from set-pieces, but also that we tighten up and become more aggressive and ruthless when we’re defending our own goal.”
After 13 Premier League games last season, the Reds were in 11th position in the standings and had amassed 16 points. As things stand now, Rodgers’ side is seven places and eight points better off.
So, as Gerrard and Co. prepare to bounce back from defeat by Hull with quick-fire home games against Norwich City and West Ham United, what differences has the captain noticed in the team?
“The manager has added to it, we have got more strength in depth,” Gerrard responded. “I think, over time, since Brendan has been in, people are getting used to the way he wants to play and his ideas.
“Also, players settling in and getting used to it — the likes of [Philippe] Coutinho and Sturridge. Obviously Luis [Suarez] staying was a massive boost for everyone here, and he has come back firing as well. When you’ve got world-class players firing, it helps the whole team.”