So, still frustrated following Sunday’s match and with questions over the tactics, I went back to see where Gerrard’s played when he scored, seeing as he has the most goals by a healthy margin. In addition, what formation and with what players on the field when Gerrard, and Liverpool, have scored said goals.
But before I get to the stats, I’m going to toss out a few disclaimers. First and foremost, it’s dumbing it down when I write about ‘4-2-3-1 v 4-4-2.’ It’s really a debate over two “holding” midfielders with Gerrard or two strikers in front of him. Take Blackburn for example – Gerrard, Alonso, and Masch all started, but Alonso played as far forward as Gerrard for the majority, and it could just as easily be described as 4-1-4-1. And 4-2-3-1 with Riera and Benayoun on the flanks is different than Babel and Kuyt. It’s also very, very different when Torres isn’t the lone striker.
So I reckon the clearest way to label it is “two holding midfielders with Gerrard” and “Gerrard as a central midfielder with two strikers.” Just so we’re clear.
These stats only include games where Gerrard’s started, which is 27 out of 34 games. He came off the bench in the draw against Liege and the win against United, and missed Villa (draw), Crewe (win, Carling Cup), Spurs (loss, Carling Cup), Fulham (draw), and PSV away (win). Liverpool’s record in games where Gerrard’s started is 17-9-1 with 48 total goals scored.
With two holding midfielders – 12
1-1 Everton 01.25.09 – draw
1-0 and 4-1 Newcastle 12.28.08 – win
1-2 and 2-2 Hull City 12.13.08 – draw
3-1 Blackburn 12.06.08 – win
1-0 Marseille 11.26.08 – win
2-0 Bolton 11.15.08 – win
1-1 (pen) Atletico 11.04.08 – draw
1-0 (pen) Portsmouth 10.29.08 – win
1-1 and 2-1 (pen) Marseille 09.16.08 – draw
Total Liverpool goals: 27
All Scorers: Gerrard 12; Alonso, Kuyt, Torres 3; Keane 2; Babel, Benayoun, Hyypia, Riera 1
As a central midfielder – 3
1-0 Everton 01.19.09 – draw
3-0 PSV 10.01.08 – win
2-1 Boro 08.23.08 – win
Total goals scored: 21
Scorers: Keane 5; Kuyt 4; Gerrard, Torres 3; Riera 2; Arbeloa, Carragher 1
Understandably, the three penalties don’t care as much weight as the other goals. But it’s worth noting they were three out of the four penalties won all season, and all penalties were won in that formation.
I can’t go without discussing Torres, who has a huge impact on both Liverpool’s fortune and tactics. He’s started 15 games this season. Nine – five wins, three draws and a loss – were with another striker and six – three wins and three draws – on his own up top.
So, what does any of this mean? Like the majority of Liverpool’s season so far, I’m left with more questions than answers. Gerrard’s at his most dangerous in a free role, but Liverpool’s totaled more draws and scored less goals per game. And most of those games have been without Torres. Keane, on the other hand, is top scorer when Liverpool uses Gerrard in a 4-4-2. Torres has played more games with another striker (usually Keane) than alone up top.
I’ll end with one final stat. There have been four games this season where both Gerrard and Torres have started with two holding midfielders. Liverpool’s won three of those (Marseille twice and Manchester City), with the lone draw coming in the last match.