By Paul Culff
So this article is being written on the assumption that the Jordan Henderson deal will go through as publicized heavily in the media. The rest of the midfield roster will remain as per the end of season 2010/11.
Clearly our midfield is currently overstocked, especially the central midfield area. With many of our roster returning from injury or with a point to prove, some decisions have to be made and I am interested to hear people thoughts on the possible midfield shape for the 2011/12 season. With Jordan Henderson, our midfield stocks will look something like this (and this is not including those reserve team players on the fringe of the first team squad or out on loan)
- Steven Gerrard
- Raul Meireles
- Lucas Leiva
- Jordan Henderson
- Maxi Rodriguez
- Jay Spearing
- Jonjo Shelvey
- Dirk Kuyt (if not classified as an attacker)
- Joe Cole
- Milan Jovanovic
- Christian Poulsen
This list is clearly stacked with Central Midfielders and I do assume that we will be buying some wide players but how would we line up if this is what we had.
Let’s start with the 4-4-2 or possibly a 4-4-1-1. I would expect Lucas Leiva and Raul Meireles to play centrally with Steven Gerrard and possibly Dirk Kuyt providing the width. Jay Spearing would provide cover in the middle of the park, most likely taking a place on the bench. Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson are a little more versatile and attacking. It is for this reason that they would be more likely to be injected before Spearing since they can provide width and also more creativity.
Now let’s look at a possible 5 man midfield. Player of the year Lucas Leiva would most likely play the defensive holding midfielder (in the Mascherano mould). I would expect Meireles and Henderson to play in front of him with Gerrard wide right and Kuyt wide left (with the option to switch). Spearing, Shelvey and possibly Maxi to provide back up from the bench.
What about a 4-3-3? In this instance it is probably important to look at our front men as well. I would certainly have Carroll playing as a central striker with Kuyt to his right and Suarez on the left. Behind them it might make more sense to have Gerrard play centrally due to his work ethic, possibly Henderson on the right and Maxi on the left. Lucas and Meireles on the bench with Spearing and Shelvey possibly missing out.
All these scenarios don’t have a place for Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic or Christian Poulsen as I expect them to be sold and if not, there are better players ahead of them. Maxi Rodriguez would also seem to suffer slightly as I am not sure where he fits into Kenny’s plans. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a place but I’m not sure where he would fit, especially if we sign specialist wide men. Shelvey and Spearing would also become more of a backup bench option if we reinforce the squad. This way they can gain more first team experience or could possibly get loaned out?
Now the Steven Gerrard conundrum is almost debate for another article. The debate is certainly not if he makes the lineup since he is our talisman and one of the greatest to wear the shirt. The question is where to best utilize him? Does he play centrally or does he play wide? Alternatively, does he play in the whole just behind the striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. His versatility, skill and work rate make him an option in all three areas but what is his best position? It should be noted that he did score many goals from a wide position as he has freedom to move and this is also where he has excelled for England over the years.
Obviously formation and positioning may depend on the opposition but I wonder how Kenny will accommodate to overload of “Central” midfielders. I will be interested to hear your thoughts…..