He wasn’t the best player on the pitch in the 4-0 win, but Steven Gerrard, maybe for the first time this season, was finally completely comfortable in the role he was playing for Liverpool in the midfield, while his manager tries to perfect the roles of the players around him.
It was quite helpful that Fulham are pathetic when they play away from home, winning one match in ten so far this season. But there were plenty of positives from Liverpool’s side, besides their weak opponents. Stewart Downing is the first name that comes to mind. After 44 league matches and 16 months playing for this team, he finally has a league goal for the club, in what was probably his best match for the team.
Downing provided a true winger option for Rodgers on the right, as Raheem Sterling finally got some time on the bench which was long overdue. Last season Downing didn’t get enough time on the right, where he’s much more dangerous than as a left winger or whatever other position Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers used him in. Downing made something happen every time he touched the ball, and provided a lot of width Liverpool often miss in their attacking game.
The return of Lucas, slowly gaining back his match fitness, along with the deserved benching of Joe Allen, who has been in terrible for lately, allowed the perfect formation for Rodgers in this match, that probably maximized the talents of the players on the field. Jonjo Shelvey is the man who should be closest to Suarez from the midfielders, and while he wasn’t too involved, he looked dangerous enough when he got the ball. Suso continues to impress every time he goes out onto the field, playing in a much more responsible manner than the unexpected Sterling.
Gerrard, sitting dead center, couldn’t have asked for more. It’s not only about positioning and the players around him. As his physical attributed decline, Gerrard learns how to discipline his strides forward and still find the way to join the defensive efforts which simply can’t go on without him. You can’t completely mull the edge and the attacking drive in his game, even if it’s as efficient as it was before. You just need to create the right kind of system so his preference to join the attack from behind doesn’t hurt the team.
On the day, Gerrard made the right choices every time. His passing was accurate and always put the player in a dangerous spot, while he made things happen every time he joined the players in the box, mostly coming with his face towards the goal instead of playing with his back to it, a way in which he is far less effective. The goal and a couple of other excellent chances came exactly that way.
Luis Suarez had a frustrating day, as his tumbling and weaving in the box didn’t bring a goal or an assist for more than 90 minutes. Even his free kick was handled well by Mark Schwarzer. Eventually Suarez, who was experiencing some sort of goal drought, got the goal he deserved, making it to 11 this season.
It’s going to continue to be up & down for Liverpool, but some sort of constant shape is forming for Rodgers, even if Daniel Sturridge is truly going to join the team in less than two weeks. If he can make Stewart Downing a meaningful contributor once again and via that improve Steven Gerrard, maybe this season still has hope in it.