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Ian Rush: Gerrard still the man at the helm

Ian Rush: Gerrard still the man at the helm

Aug 14 2007

by Ian Rush, Liverpool Echo

Steven Gerrard

LIVERPOOL could have spent hundreds of millions on new signings during the summer, but it still wouldn’t have changed the identity of their most important player.

Steven Gerrard is the main reason why I believe Rafa Benitez’s side can compete for the title this season, and he proved it against Aston Villa.

He’s a special talent, and I truly believe there isn’t a better central midfielder in the world.

I’m sure Liverpool will have a better season because Benitez has brought in players who can ensure Gerrard plays in the middle far more.

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He’s a great player on the right, a good player on the left, and an effective player everywhere else he’s used. But in the centre, he’s the best. That’s the difference.

It pleases me to see Jermaine Pennant continuing to improve, while Ryan Babel can play either flank and Yossi Benayoun can do the same.

This means, for the first season Benitez has been here, he has the option of using Gerrard in his most dangerous role without upsetting the balance of the team.

Not only did he score the winner, it was his driving run through the middle which led to the free-kick.

The threat he gives from that position is pivotal if Liverpool are to take that extra step, and with better players around him I see Benitez’s side getting stronger.

It would be ridiculous to judge the importance of Saturday’s winning goal in the context of a season which has barely started, but psychologically there’s no question what it meant to the players.

I don’t see many clubs winning at Aston Villa this season. Martin O’Neill is a top manager, and I see them getting better and better.

They’ll probably make a few more signings, so by the time United, Chelsea and Arsenal go there, they’ll find it difficult to get a result.

It wasn’t all about Gerrard, of course. As we’ve seen over the years, no matter how good he is, he needs quality around him to produce moments as he did at Villa.

So I was really pleased with Fernando Torres’ debut.

As a striker, obviously I watch him as closely as any, and what struck me first and foremost was the intelligence of his movements.

He possesses a natural football brain and seemed to make runs in the right areas, getting himself into good positions.

He was unlucky not to score, but at least he worked the goalkeeper in the build-up to the first goal, which ultimately contributed to Liverpool scoring.

If he continues to play as he did, he’ll get plenty of chances and I’m sure he’ll score a lot of goals.

There was a lot to be happy about. Liverpool have got to start converting more chances so they don’t have to rely on last-gasp winners all the time, but it’s the sign of a good side when you can find a way to win late in a game. That was the basis of United’s Premiership win last year.

The side which finishes top at the end of the season always deserves it, but strokes of luck along the way always play a part.

With Liverpool winning late and United losing Wayne Rooney for a while, let’s hope this is a taste of what’s to come when good fortune is being handed out.


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