Earlier this week Steven Gerrard told reporters that he about to start playing more games in the middle for Liverpool, and now his boss has confirmed that. The media no doubt feel they can take all the credit for Gerrard getting played in his “preferred” role in the centre.
Rafa Benítez said today: “When Momo was injured, I told Steven it was our idea to play him on the right against Arsenal, but he didn't need to worry because he would play more games in the middle in the future. Now suddenly I read how Rafa is changing his mind about where Steven should play.”
Believe it or not, Rafa says there might actually be a good reason why he keeps his tactics a secret from the media before a match: “I'm not going to say before games where Steven will be playing, because it's never a good idea to talk about your team and give the opposition information.”
So where will he play Gerrard against Middlesbrough this weekend? “The situation is clear. Steven could play on the right as he did against Arsenal, or he could play in the centre as he did against Reading a week earlier. We have one more training session today. I will check on the condition of all the players and then decide.”
Rafa also explained that despite the attention this issue is given in the media, it really isn’t that big a deal within the club: “I think maybe this is more a situation for journalists and commentators to talk about and isn't really an important issue at the club. I don't need to justify my decisions about team selection in every press conference.”
Rafa’s comments came after Gerrard had spoken in the wake of the England game on Wednesday that he was to play more games in the centre. Gerrard had said: “I spoke to Rafael Benítez and he said I will get a lot more time in the middle now with Momo Sissoko's injury.”
Momo’s surgery was a success and now Liverpool wait to see how long he’ll actually be absent for as a result. Rafa said after the op: “The doctors said the operation was very successful. We know we will be without Momo for some time, but we'll know more in a few days exactly how long it will be.”
Gerrard himself is hoping that he can start adding goals to his game again, and soon, but says nothing major is stopping him from scoring: “I think I am lacking a bit of composure in front of goal because the goals haven't been flowing in for me this season. I've done everything right except the finish but I was pleased against Holland that I was getting into those forward positions. The manager wanted me to break from the middle and I had two great chances to score.”
He went on: “I've got every confidence the goals will come. This season I've been getting in the positions to score and it has not quite happened for me. Last season mis-hits and deflections were going in for me. The goals will come and that is all that is missing at the present time.”
Still talking about his England role, Gerrard said that he enjoys playing centrally: “I always enjoy it there in the middle. That's where I feel I can get the best out of myself. The formation worked and the positive thing is we know we can use another formation now with 4-3-3 as well as 4-4-2. We need to build on this performance for the next qualifier.”
Liverpool fans are more concerned about how the team perform against Middlesbrough, and won’t be too bothered where Gerrard has played as long as he’s played a part in earning three points.