Steven Gerrard's Importance Takes a Hit as Liverpool Smash Spurs Without Him

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 15, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates after Daniel Sturridge scored his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 23, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It's fair to say Liverpool fans were suitably worried about their matchup with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday given the absences haunting their squad.

Captain fantastic Steven Gerrard out, defensive stalwart Daniel Agger out, prolific hit man Daniel Sturridge out, no recognised left-back in the fold—where's the love, twists of fate?

But it was Spurs who stole the limelight for all the wrong reasons, and it comes as something of a surprise that Liverpool's finest performance under Brendan Rodgers to date came without their talismanic playmaker manning the midfield.

The Reds have very much been a Gerrard-oriented team since Rodgers arrived at the club, utilising him as a deep-lying playmaker at the base of a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation.

For those uninitiated, think Andrea Pirlo, but on a lesser scale. The England captain has been pulling the strings from a deep position, flicking balls across the field with ease and setting up deadly attacks.

But the inverse of that strategy is a relatively slow tempo, as Gerrard's legs prevent a free-flowing midfield moving with pace and urgency.

You can scratch those concerns for now. Liverpool's game plan at White Hart Lane this weekend harnessed all the energy and work rate their roster could muster, and Spurs had no answer to a new-look outfit.

"We got five goals and could easily have had seven or eight" Rodgers said, per Sky Sports. "That was probably the most complete performance since I've been here, and just continues the evolution of what we're trying to do."

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Jordan Henderson of Liverpool is marked by Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on December 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Ph
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Jordan Henderson had himself the finest game in his young career so far, with his vertical running from deep in midfield epitomising everything with which Spurs struggled throughout.

Andre Villas-Boas set up a self-defeating strategy: play a high defensive line (with a paceless centre-back in Michael Dawson and a midfielder out of position in Etienne Capoue) but exert no pressure in midfield.

You don't have to be an outrageously talented passer to pick out a ball over the top against a high line if no one is hassling you, and the aggressive dribbling from Henderson added to the issues.

AVB will be called into question, no doubt, but as much as he is to blame for a shoddy showing, Liverpool played their hand perfectly.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Lucas Leiva of Liverpool marshalls Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on December 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by P
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Lucas Leiva has had a questionable season, but he looked nowhere near as hamstrung without an immobile Gerrard alongside him. Paulinho's occasional surges were limited, and balls into Roberto Soldado were nothing short of infrequent.

"Hendo" and Co. wreaked havoc by adopting a very vertical game full of energy, movement and runs in behind. The switches in play were still present—Philippe Coutinho received many excellent cross-field balls—but they weren't the fulcrum of the offensive strategy.

Balanced is the ideal way to describe it.

Matt Law of The Telegraph and B/R's Karl Matchett were also impressed with how well this group mixed:

A Gerrard-less Liverpool is a strong Liverpool. This is by no means a call to remove the captain from his duties, but it's now evident the Reds are not reliant on their legendary midfielder.

Good news all round for Rodgers.