Is Gerrard still a great player then or were the West Brom and Fulham games just glimpses of his glorious past? First of all, I’d like to underline that, quite obviously, Gerrard has played much less minutes of football so far than he did in the whole of the last campaign. Despite scoring only one goal per game in 4 of their first 5 encounters, the whole Liverpool teams’ attacking stats look much better than they did after the first 11 games of last season.
There is, however, one thing about Gerrard’s creativity stats that could be slightly worrying to Liverpool fans. Let’s have a look at where Gerrard received the ball in Arsenal game (top picture) and where his teammates passed to him in the Fulham encounter (the bottom one).
As you can see in the defensive dashboards from the compared games, Gerrard’s defensive contribution against Fulham was restricted to the two clearances in his own penalty area and one foul around the final third. For me, Gerrard is still a very good player, who does his job really well if the circumstances allow him to do so. That’s why I believe Steven is a perfect option against the sides that would drop deep and focus on their defensive game instead of trying to keep the ball. However, the performances he’s given so far this season are very confusing for the Anfield faithful. Last season Steven set his teammates up equally from set pieces (4 assists) and open play (5). What’s more, they even seem to show some improvement when it comes to his creativity. It is important for a deep-lying playmaker to get the ball in the areas where he can focus on distributing it without too much pressure applied from his opposition. He was looking for his teammates in his own half and then, as the move advanced, tried to get the ball to the wide areas or into the box. Against Arsenal, Gerrard performed fewer passes in the attacking zone, completing far less than he did against Fulham. With Liverpool having  control over the game, he could focus on his distribution rather than fighting for the ball.
Looking at all those pictures above, I’d say his horrible display was down to a few factors, none of which occurred in the Fulham encounter.

Even though he made quite a few passes towards the young defender, the attacking dashboards show that Steven preferred to look for SAS, passing into the Arsenal box or around its edge, rather than sending the ball to his right-hand side.
It’s also worth a  note that he seems to play better at home, having the Anfield crowd supporting him.
He’s not getting any younger though, and Rodgers needs to build for the future without his legendary captain.
Having said that, let’s have a look at some stats and see what the numbers have to say about the issue. His pass completion is almost the same as last year, actually it’s even slightly better. Given that the Reds are only just starting to get ruthless in front of the opposition’s goal, that statistic should look even better in a few months time. Gerrard’s minutes per clear-cut chance created ratio dropped from 805 to 241, which actually means he now makes it much easier for his teammates to score from his passes. A brief look at his stats from this campaign show that this balance has been disturbed, with the skipper creating 3 goals from set-pieces and only 1 from open play. Against Arsenal it was all messed up, with Steven’s passes made mostly in his own half, with no visible second phase of the build-up. He was also much more direct in the first of those two games, sending the ball into opposition’s penalty area rather than looking for his partners in the wide positions.
He couldn’t do that against Arsenal, however, as he was forced to battle the Arsenal midfield, which led to him making 6 tackles and failing with half of them.
First, he was dragged into battle in the middle of the field, playing under constant pressure, getting the ball in some difficult areas and trying to get out of them before passing it on. I would, however, hesitate to field Gerrard when facing the teams that have a strong midfield and look to take control over the game and press intensively. He then responded to that North London setback with a great show against Fulham, in which he created all of Liverpool’s four goals. Steven’s long ball accuracy looks similar to the last season, as it only worsened by 2%.
And what was the difference between that horrible Steven from the Arsenal game and the player that destroyed Fulham?

It made building the moves much harder than it was against Fulham, where Gerrard received most of the passes in two zones. As you can also see, he performed a similar amount of passes in both games, with a similar amount of them being successful. The pressure from Arsenal’s players and, to some extent, the lack of Coutinho, made him look for easier targets such as Lucas and Toure, none of whom are the most creative footballers ever. With the Arsenal defence known to be lacking some pace, he could be trying to look for the quick Liverpool strikers, especially Sturridge, to beat the defenders and go for the goal.
It seems like he’s no longer the kind of footballer that would batter the opposition and regain the control over a game if they dragged him into battle in the middle of the pitch.
A brief look at his pass completion in different zones of field shows us that his accuracy in the defensive half got slightly worse, but there was also a small improvement in the attacking areas.
First was deep in his own half, where he could focus on starting the Liverpool move without much pressure.
Finally, his crossing seems to be much better than last year, as Gerrard is 10% more accurate than he was in 2012-13 campaign. The second one was around the edge of opposition’s final third, even slightly deeper than that.
He didn’t have to deal with that much pressure there either, as his team were already all over the opposition, looking for the killer pass to find the strikers.
Against Arsenal, Gerrard’s passing was mostly to Lucas, Toure and Flanagan, whereas in the Fulham game most of his passes were sent towards Coutinho and Johnson. It’s hard to create anything, or even make the movement progress, by passing to the CB or DM, isn’t it? You should also take note, that if you compare where Steven got the ball in the Arsenal and Fulham games, to where he made his passes, it seems like against the Gunners he was looking for his teammates from the deeper positions than the ones where he received the ball. It may indicate that he was moving backwards before passing the ball in order to get out of the pressure, while it was quite the opposite against the Cottagers.

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