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Gerrard tactics show what Rodgers, Rafa and Houllier taught him

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Steven Gerrard may have spent the entirety of his English playing career with only one club, but he worked alongside a variety of talented and successful managers along the way.

Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez oversaw 12 of his 17 seasons in the Liverpool first team, winning trophies at home and abroad. Gerrard lifted the League Cup for an Anfield legend, when Kenny Dalglish took charge for a second spell, and he also saw how a relatively young manager handled a massive club during his time playing under Brendan Rodgers.



Gerrard then took his first steps into coaching during the Jurgen Klopp era, by taking charge of Liverpool’s under-18s. He has worked with a very impressive group of managers, and with Rangers firmly set to win the Scottish title for the first time in a decade - being 23 points clear with 25 games played following a win over Ross County during his 150th game in charge of the Scottish side on Saturday - it’s interesting to consider what Gerrard has learned from the men who shaped his career.



When he spoke to the Echo back in 2019, the former Liverpool skipper made clear that he has learned from every manager he played for. "I have tapped into them all, Rafa, Brendan, Gerard Houllier, Roy Hodgson, all of them,” he said. "What Rafa would have said to us in that situation? What would Brendan (Rodgers) have said in and out of possession? So you try and take things from them all.”



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But how has this magpie-like accumulation of ideas over a two decade career in football manifested itself? The most obvious place to start is by considering how Rangers play and express themselves on the pitch.

Gerrard frequently deployed his side in a Benitez-esque 4-2-3-1 at times during his first season in charge, but has since relied far more frequently upon a 4-3-3 framework. And while there are many aspects of Rangers’ play which appear to be inspired by Klopp, the influence of the Spaniard who coached Gerrard to Champions League glory undoubtedly remains.

‘Own the pitch, own the ball’ is the catchphrase at Rangers’ Auchenhowie training ground. As a Daily Record article on the Gers’ impressive defensive record reported, “Every Rangers player looks drilled for every situation and games rarely become stretched or manipulated outside of their comfort zone.”

A line which could certainly be applied to the very best Benitez sides, and Rangers’ discipline at defending set pieces – they’ve yet to concede a league goal from a dead ball situation this season – would please the former Valencia manager too.

However, there are also plenty of similarities with the current Liverpool team. As noted on the Modern Fitba site, which provides statistics and tactical analysis of Scottish football, “if the opposition establish possession, Rangers will press and attempt to regain possession as high up the pitch as possible.”

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While FBRef only carry pressing data for the Europa League and not the Scottish Premiership, it’s notable that Rangers’ efficiency has improved in each of Gerrard’s seasons at the helm. His side were successful with 26.6 per cent of their pressures in 2018/19, improved to 29.8 per cent last season, and their rate for 2020/21 stands at 31.4 per cent ahead of their tie with Antwerp next month.

Both that improvement and that style are certainly hallmarks of a Klopp side, and the same Modern Fitba article also pointed out that Gerrard’s Rangers team play diagonal passes to full-backs high up the pitch.

This helps to explain how right-back James Tavernier is at the top end of the assist charts north of the border, just as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have been in the Premier League in the last few years.

The Rangers boss also emulates Klopp on the touchline at times. Gerrard received a ban in 2019 for comments made to the referee following an Old Firm derby, escaped punishment in October last year for a similar incident, and was involved in a heated exchange with Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim that month too.

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He’s also unafraid to show his emotion and voice his true feelings when dealing with the media. Most notably, Gerrard interrupted Jordan Rossiter during a press conference in 2018 as he felt he needed to address the question rather than leave it to a player who had been absent through injury.

But if he can seem like a hothead at times, Gerrard also displays an eye for attention to detail in quieter moments. He approached the start of his Rangers tenure in much the same way his mentor Houllier had at Liverpool, by dragging a hugely successful but somewhat outdated club into the modern era.

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Improvements were made at both Ibrox and Auchenhowie under Gerrard’s guidance, with the training complex being tooled with an ice chamber and a lecture theatre for analysis sessions, among various other updates and innovations which were implemented. The modernisation appears to have paid dividends in Rangers’ remarkable form this season.

It has been said that Gerrard’s man management style can be described as tough love, and that he is always looking for more from his players. This is particularly interesting to learn as Benitez was known for employing a similar style, which Gerrard did not appreciate at the time. He’s clearly learned how it can inspire the men under his charge.

It feels inevitable that Gerrard will manage his beloved Reds, not that he currently has any time for such talk. “The dream for me is to just win the next football match. That is all I need to focus on. I don't need to put time-frames on this or that,” he once said.

But assuming he does reignite something of the hallowed Boot Room tradition by becoming Liverpool manager at some point in the future, Gerrard will do so having been schooled by the best bosses the club has had in the last quarter of a century. It's clear in everything he does.


For more news relating to Rangers, visit our sister site Rangers Latest Live.

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