The name Gerrard doesn’t need an introduction to the Liverpool fans around the world. A job in the Scottish club Rangers FC, the club which has started off brilliantly this season has really set Steven Gerrard as a manager to a greater standard. The exceptional midfielder is considered as one of the greats in the central midfield, and one of Liverpool’s greatest players ever. He has spent 26 years at the Merseyside club, including 9 years in the youth academy. He signed for the Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, following the 2014-15 Premier League season, however, just after one season, He decided to retire from all sorts of professional football, as he faced difficulty in travelling for the away matches in the US, due to its vast expansion and varied topographies and climate. Steven Gerrard as a manager has really hyped up Liverpool fans around the world, who has already lined up Liverpool as one of his future destinations.
Start of Gerrard’s managerial career
A lesser-known fact about Gerrard is that a few days before his retirement as a player, He was offered the role as the manager of the English club MK Dons in 2016, who got relegated to the 3rd division at that time. However, Gerrard refused to take the responsibilities, saying that he was not ready for the job.
Soon after, He was appointed as the youth coach, and U-18 manager of Liverpool, and also managed the U-19 Liverpool team in the 2017-18 UEFA Youth League. He had a 50% winning rate in the 334 days he remained as a U-18 manager of Liverpool and a 75% win rate in the UEFA Youth League as a manager.
At this stage, Steven Gerrard as a manager, used various formations, mainly 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, etc. However, After impressing Klopp and other coaching staff at Liverpool with his performances with Liverpool youth, He felt it was time for him to start his career as a top-flight manager, and with this, his next phase as a manager got initiated.
Gerrard as Rangers FC manager
In late April or the beginning of May 2018, it was announced that the 37-year-old Steven Gerrard as a manager, would be joining the Scottish Premiership side Rangers FC on a 4-year contract. He succeeded Graeme Murty, the interim manager, who was handed over the role after the sacking of Pedro Caixinha, the former full-time manager of Rangers.
“I have enormous respect for this football club, and its history and tradition. I can’t wait to start this new journey at Rangers as we look to build on the many successes that this club has achieved.”Steven Gerrard upon joining Rangers FC as their manager.
The start as a Rangers FC manager wasn’t good for Gerrard. It’s especially a tough start for the manager of a team when your rival team is at a top form at the moment. The rivalry between Rangers FC and Celtic is well renowned in the world of football. The Glasgow based ‘Old-firm Derby’ has its own history written in books, and Rangers and Celtic being the torch-bearers of Scottish football in history, as well as recent times, the job as a Rangers manager demands much efficiency. Steven Gerrard was given the responsibility to restore the good old days of pride for the Rangers.
After the merger of the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League which had occurred in 2013 to form the Scottish Premiership, Celtic has been the champions in all the occasions, and no-one was even close to them. The first challenge for Steven Gerrard was to be prepared for the thrust of the rivals Celtic. The other good times would’ve surely followed, once he could cope-up with the rivals.
Gerrard’s first competitive game as Rangers manager was on July 2018, a Europa League 1st round match against Macedonian club FC Shkupi, and he succeeded in managing his team through to the 2nd round with an aggregate of 2-0. However, Rangers’ European run ended that season, in the group stage (3rd position). They managed to finish 2nd in the league to Celtic(winners) and their Scottish Cup run ended in the quarterfinals with a loss against Aberdeen. Celtic became the winners of the Scottish Cup too, that season. In that season, Gerrard lost his 1st Old-firm derby as a manager to his ex-boss Brendan Rodgers, who was having a fine domestic season with Celtic at that time. However, in the return fixture, Steven Gerrard as a manager showed resurrection and won 1-0 against the rivals with his 4-3-3 formation, which he used ever since.
The next( 2019-20) season, Gerrard took his team to the Europa League Round of 16, where they lost to Bayer Leverkusen. Domestically, Gerrard lost the league, league cup and Scottish cup to Celtic yet again. It was an utter disappointment for the Rangers squad as a whole, as well as the Rangers fans worldwide. It was time Steven Gerrard realised, the next season should be an all-or-nothing for him.
Steven Gerrard as a manager: The turning point in the 2020/21 season
The 2020/21 season for Rangers FC and Steven Gerrard as a manager has been sensational so far. They have remained unbeaten in the Europa League so far and qualified with ease to the Round of 16. Though their Scottish League Cup run ended in the quarterfinals with a 3-2 loss to St. Mirren, they are the league leaders at the moment, with a 16-point lead over the chasers Celtic (who still have 3 games in hand). This season, Gerrard and Rangers might just run away with the title with ease.
Out of 19 matches in the league this season so far, Rangers have won 17, drew 2 and lost none! They dominated over the rivals Celtic with a 2-0 win at Celtic Park and are waiting for the return fixture at their own backyard in January. Let’s look at how Gerrard is leading his team to such a season.
In this season, Gerrard has deployed his men in a 4-3-3 attacking, 4-2-3-1 or occasionally a 4-3-3 defensive formation. His men have defeated every opponent they have faced so far, except Europa League draws to Benfica in both the fixtures. His main squad and tactics this season included:
- 2 offensive fullbacks: Right-back and the team captain James Tavernier is now the highest goal contributor (17 goals and 14 assists in all appearances) for his team, and in the league as well. His fullback partner Croatian Left-back Borna Barisic perfectly complements him with 2 goals and 10 assists overall. Also, both being exceptional setpiece takers, Gerrard likes to operate the game through these two fullbacks by keeping the possession wide, crossing the ball and they also help in defence once they lose possession.
- 2 solid centre-backs: Gerrard stuck to a permanent CB in Connor Goldson, who has started all the games for Rangers. He is physically well-built and good in building up play with long passes, gaining back possession, good with headers from setpieces. He is accompanied by either Filip Helander or Leon Balogun, who have a similar style of defensive play.
- 1 or 2 midfielder/s in the no.8 role: Usually between either of Ryan Jack, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield, Gerrard uses one of the midfielders to remain back when the fullbacks go upfront, to help in the defence, and also play the orchestrator role.
- A box-to-box midfielder: The role usually played by Joe Aribo, Scott Arfield or Ryan Jack, where the midfielder covers almost the whole pitch to contribute in all the departments.
- Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent, Joey Jones or Joe Aribo in an attacking midfield playmaking role, or as a Classic no.10 playmakers. Gerrard tried to use the 4-3-3 formation with wide forwards initially, but his tactics failed. Hence, he rather uses 2 no.10s behind a lone goal-poaching forward like Alfredo Morales, Kemar Roofe, Jermain Defoe.
- Rangers press their opponent aggressively, trying to win the ball back and initiate the attack through the 2 fullbacks, or playmaking No.10s. Pretty much similar to how the Premier League champions Liverpool play.
A possible heir to Jürgen Klopp at Anfield?
Possibly yes. If not the immediate heir, maybe in the late 2020s to early 2030s. Top clubs always want their ex-players to manage their team in the future, as they are well aware of the philosophy of the club, fans, their expectations and everything else that matters. Steven Gerrard at every moment refers to Liverpool, be it using the strategies of ex-managers under whom he played, or bringing Liverpool players to his team (Flanagan, Ryan Kent, Ejaria, etc).
“I’d try to fuse the best of Rafa’s tactical thinking with Brendan’s skill as a man manager,”Steven Gerrard in his autobiography, on becoming a football manager one day.
Managers require time to settle in a new club. Silverwares follow the patience and trust the club and supporters bestow upon their manager. Anfield’s own Stevie G has apparently well settled in his life at Rangers. His contract with Rangers is up to the 2023/24 season which is same as Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. The same playing styles, the same initial disappointing seasons as Klopp at Liverpool, the same time of contract expiry. If Steven Gerrard becomes the next manager of Liverpool, fans must be assured of seeing a pretty much similar style of football.
“They aren’t going to pick me if I am only the 20th-best candidate.”Steven Gerrard on his interest upon being a Liverpool manager via Mail.
Just like many other Liverpool fans, Steven Gerrard himself knows he isn’t prepared yet to take such a strenuous job of managing Liverpool. His managerial career, though being in an exquisite state at the moment, is still at its embryonic stage. He is currently aged 40, and he still has time to be more successful at Rangers or any other club in between, before coming to Anfield.
“I think it’s inevitable that he will be the Liverpool manager one day. But hopefully that’s after a successful period at Rangers.”Former Rangers Left-back Steven Smith via Bleacher Report
“When that scenario unfolds, Steven Gerrard, I’m quite certain, will come into the thoughts of everyone at Liverpool. He knows the club inside out and is proving himself to be a very capable young manager at Rangers.”Kenny Dalglish on the post-Jurgen Klopp period via The Sunday Post
Liverpool is under a genius named Jürgen Norbert Klopp at the moment, who has brought back the glorious days of the past at Anfield. Considering Gerrard’s current age, experience and the love and affection of fans towards him, the Kop aren’t much in a hurry to see their favourite Stevie G as their manager. Instead, They would wish him luck at Rangers and want him to gain more experience, as managing Rangers and Liverpool aren’t the same from any perspective. However, time will tell when he is given the job.
What do you think of Steven Gerrard as a manager? How soon do you think you will see Gerrard as a manager for Liverpool FC? Let us know in the comment section below.