Imagine this scenario:
You have a very good right-sided player, a great defensive midfielder and another good CM. You are offered the chance to swap your good right-sided player for the best CM in the world, at no cost. Accepting the deal means that one of your good central midfielders will go to the bench and you’ll have to play your back up on the right who isn’t quite as good as the player you’re swapping. What do you do? You jump at the chance, knowing that the jump from very good to world-class is much bigger than the fall of from very good to decent.
That’s exactly what Liverpool did this summer when they moved Steven Gerrard back to the inside. Gerrard was a very good player on the right for Liverpool, but he’s not quick enough, doesn’t provide enough width and doesn’t beat players one on one enough to be a great right-sided player. He is, however, a great central midfielder.
Now, I don’t want this to devolve into another debate about whether Gerrard is truly world class, or whether Gerrard is better than Lampard, or how Gerrard isn’t fit to carry Darren Fletcher’s jock strap, or whatever else you want to argue. Suffice it to say, I think Gerrard is world class, and despite my allegiance to Liverpool, I don’t think that’s an unfounded opinion. In fact, I think Stevie-G is the best CM in the world, except for perhaps Michael Essien. (Obviously, I am considering Kaka a forward because he is clearly better than either.)
Think about this. Let’s say that Spurs swapped Berbatov (Very, very good) for Kaka (World Class) this summer. And let’s also say, for the sake of argument, that they weren’t allowed to play Kaka in midfield where they really need him and had to use him as a forward. That would mean Keane, their second or third best player, would have to go to the bench because the two couldn’t play together. Imagine how transformed the team would be anyway. Wouldn’t that be the only thing anyone would be talking about? And wouldn’t Spurs have been preseason favorites to finish fourthâ€”at least? And I doubt that they would be in the bottom part of the table after five games either.
This isn’t to say that I think Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic is as good as Kaka, so the example may be slightly exaggerated. But I do think Berbatov the forward is better than Gerrard the right-sided player, and I think the difference between Berbatov and Kaka is about the same as the difference between Gerrard on the right and Gerrard in the center, if you can believe it.
I know Gerrard was great on the right two years ago, but he certainly wasn’t last year, and he’ll always be better in the center, as just about everyone knows. Did you see how incredible he was against Chelsea, even playing with a broken toe? He was clearly the best player on the pitch. And I expect I’ll be able to say that about him in a lot of time this year.
So was the most important acquisition of the transfer window Spanish starlet Fernando Torres? Or “Next World Superstar” Ryan Babel? Or was it Florent Malouda or Alex? Or Thierry Henry or Owen Hargreaves? Anderson or Nani? Maybe the tastefully named Dudu? Nope. It was Liverpool adding the world’s best central midfielder. And that is why Stevie-G finally has a real chance to be kissing his (and Liverpool’s) first Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
1st Premier League, 19th league trophy – just clarifying you guys jump all over…