There have been rumours floating around in the media about the Reds chasing Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic. With Steven Gerrard apparently moving on to the United States in the summer, speculation becomes rife about Pjanic being Gerrard’s like for like replacement. But in this article, I am going to write about why he is not a replacement for the iconic Liverpool Skipper.
Pjanic is a technically gifted midfielder who plays centrally. He has played in all the key central midfield positions for his team, primarily as a traditional central midfielder but also in a deeper or a forward role as well. His strengths are his short and long passing, close control and dribbling, vision, composure and delivery of set pieces. His weakness is his average physical stature, as he is 5’10” and not as strong as Gerrard or others who are 6 feet and above. Also, it is pretty clear that he is not a goalscorer, with only 3 goals this season. If at all, he draws similarities to players like Iniesta and not Gerrard.
Well, I don’t need to describe the legend, but since we are trying to draw comparisons, it would be appropriate to analyze Gerrard as well. The Liverpool captain at his prime was known for his power, goal scoring, versatility and long range passing. Gerrard being a good runner, direct passer and a top shooter, was a counter attacking delight. He started off in a box to box role, soon moving further up in a number 8/ number 10 role leading the Liverpool midfield with dynamism. His weakness was that he was not really a classic technical player, which didn’t hurt him too much in the Premier League where his strengths were key to his performances.
What would Pjanic offer to Liverpool if he joins them in the summer?
Well, Miralem Pjanic would be an instant upgrade over Henderson, Joe Allen and Phillipe Coutinho in terms of playmaking ability. Though Henderson is better utilized as a box to box player, Allen would simply be ousted from the team if Pjanic enters the scene. A more consistent all round midfielder than Coutinho, Pjanic is likely to force his way into the Kop central midfield and want the game to be revolved around his strengths and abilities. Well, it has been a long time since that happened in Liverpool. In that regard, Gerrard was the last midfielder, who had a game revolving around him in Liverpool, and that too when he was in his prime, linking up with Fernando Torres.
With Pjanic as the main midfielder, who would seriously grab the whole team’s attention on the pitch, Liverpool’s tactical dynamics would be changed significantly. The case with Liverpool in the past decade was that their focus was not on being technically dominant but quick and direct. This way Gerrard’s strengths were well utilized and absorbed by the team. Miralem Pjanic would change that style of play for the good. Liverpool would be more composed and more dominating in nature than a team looking to be fast on the break or pressing very high up to nick the ball off the opposition.
With players like Sterling, Coutinho, Lallana and Balotelli (yes, him), Liverpool have players who are gifted with the ball at their feet. While Coutinho certainly needs an improvement in composure, he and the rest of the players can certainly adapt well to a passing game. Gerrard started played as a deep lying playmaker from last season. Well, it was not his best position as we all saw this season, but to be doubly sure about what I am writing here, I would like to emphasize on the fact that Pjanic won’t suffice as a lone deep lying midfielder. In fact, he would struggle more than Gerrard, for the plain fact that he lacks the sheer physical strength as well. So when Liverpool get a player like Pjanic, who is good as the main playmaker, somewhat a Fabregas role, occupying the central midfield, then it is highly recommended to get a top quality defensive midfielder to help him with the physical side of the job if at all the Reds want a double pivot and a trio led by Coutinho behind the lone striker.
While it is likely to get the best out of ideally, Mario Balotelli (if he stays at the club), it would certainly take the pressure of Coutinho’s shoulders. Coutinho would no longer be required to be the sole creative force behind the striker, where he hasn’t performed consistently to the expectations. Pjanic, while not directly assisting or scoring many goals, is an excellent provider to attacking midfielders. He would make the team play around him. If Liverpool do not get a defensive midfielder to help Pjanic out in the center, we are very likely to see a 3 man midfield with Can, Henderson and Pjanic while Coutinho and Lallana are likely to be rotated in the winger role supporting Sturridge.
It is impossible to replace Gerrard. It would be a rudimentary error on the fans’ as well as on the manager’s part if they try to make Pjanic the next Gerrard. But, it is very sensible to invest in a star player like Pjanic and move on to a more elite style of play and start a new era, which would ideally see the Bosnia and Herzegovina lad become a superstar and a cult hero among the Reds, and try to make his name a legendary one.