London – Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has rarely suffered criticism in an illustrious career but accepted he deserved some flak for his below par performance on Saturday – even if manager Brendan Rodgers did not agree.
Rodgers is attempting to transform the 33-year-old into a deep-lying midfielder but Gerrard was overrun in the role by Aston Villa's youthful and energetic lineup in Saturday's 2-2 English Premier League draw at Anfield.
The industrious midfielder, renowned for his sharp shooting and driving runs, was all at sea as the visitors belied their lowly league position by racing into a 2-0 lead by swiftly countering Liverpool through the middle of the park.
Gerrard was switched back to a more attacking role with the introduction of defensive midfielder Lucas at halftime and secured a draw from the penalty spot in the second half after striker Luis Suarez was brought down in the area.
“I think because of the change, I expect people to talk about it,” the skipper told the club's official website (www.liverpoolfc.com).
“I've played attacking midfield for more than 10 years, so for me to drop back and become more of a controlling player, people are naturally going to talk about it.
“It didn't work today. I hope that doesn't mean it won't work moving forward in future fixtures. We'll have to wait and see what the manager decides to do.”
Rodgers remained steadfast in his belief that Gerrard could play the role, even though the failed experiment resulted in his side dropping eight points behind leaders Arsenal.
“Probably across the board we were not very good,” the Liverpool manager was quoted as saying by British media on Monday. “Myself included.
“We never got the control in midfield against their diamond and could not build our play, so we needed to change the structure of the team.
“But there is absolutely no question Steven can play the role and I don't regard it as a setback, not at all.
“It is a mark of his identity as a player that he could influence the game in that offensive area. It just shows his importance to the team, with the pass he played to put Luis in and his composure to take the penalty under pressure.
“The system is irrelevant. Our style will always be to control and dominate games and at times this season we have had to be flexible and adaptable in our play. You have to give credit to the players in that they did that and got something from the game.”
The player that arguably had the greatest influence was Lucas, the only true defensive midfielder in the squad, but his match was reduced to a 20 minute cameo after he went off injured with a knee problem.
The Brazilian left Anfield on crutches, according to British media, meaning Gerrard is likely to continue in the role unless Rodgers can get reinforcements in the January transfer window.
Liverpool face second tier Bournemouth in FA Cup fourth round action on Saturday before they host Everton in an eagerly anticipated Merseyside derby on Jan. 28.
Everton's possession game is likely to cause Liverpool problems if they persist with just Gerrard as the sole deep-lying midfielder.
“I, personally, struggled in there for 45 minutes,” the skipper said.
“It wasn't until Brendan changed the formation and went to three at the back with wing backs and the extra body in the midfield, that we got control. Then we took over and we became the better team.” – Reuters