The Many Faces of Steven Gerrard: How the Liverpool legend's position evolved through the years

In some ways, he is the ultimate midfielder

Liverpool, Steven Gerrard

File photo dated 03-02-2013 of Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring. Picture by Peter Byrne PA Wire/PA Images

Midfielder is very much a catch-all terms when it comes to footballers.

From box-to-box to deep-lying playmakers to holding players and No 10s, many defined roles form the subspecies of an organism that is at the heart of football's great stylistic battles.

Heck, wingers are often classified as midfielders when squad lists are being broken into the four portions of the field.

And as Steven Gerrard calls time on a senior playing career that began all the way back on November 29th 1998 - 18 years ago this week - it's apt to remember that the long-time former Liverpool captain was a midfield shape-shifter in many ways.

Whether it was by choice or down to the whims of individuals managers, Gerrard never became a specialised midfielder of any sort as he flitted between different roles in that section of the teamsheet.

By the time his Reds days were coming towards their conclusion 2-3 years ago, the 36-year-old had been turned into a deep-lying playmaker by Brendan Rodgers.

During the season that Liverpool almost won a league title (Gerrard did not manage to end his championship drought at LA Galaxy either unfortunately), the skipper played at the base of midfield and impressed.

He will remember - and constantly reminded by non-Liverpool fans - that slipping onto his backside played a role in missing out on the 2013-14 Premier League title, but one mustn't forget that Gerrard was not out of place as a nominee for the PFA Player of the Year award that season in that playmaking role in a high pressing team spearheaded by Luis Suarez.

File photo dated 31-03-2001 of Steven Gerrard scores Liverpool's opening goal during the FA Carling Premiership game against Manchester United at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture by David Davies PA Wire/PA Images

"My job, and what the manager wants me to do from my position, is to try to create and be a playmaker in there.
"Maybe I'm playing a little bit deeper this year but I can still get into areas where I can hurt the opposition. That's what I'm trying to do," Gerrard said of that role.

Unfortunately, the 2014-15 season was far less impressive as opposition sides pressed him and also his positional capabilities defensively showed that he wasn't a natural holder.

Indeed, the role that defined him most was the all-action style that could in some ways be called box-to-box.

But let's not forget that he was also a nominal No 10 or second striker under Rafa Benitez during a fruitful partnership with striker Fernando Torres.

It worked because he had the playmaking and long-range passing abilities of Xabi Alonso behind him as well as the more attritional and holding qualities of Javier Mascherano as the base. That was in the era when the 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formations were in vogue.

That combination almost delivered a title in 2008-09 until Manchester United pipped them.

While second strikers, central box-to-box roles in 4-4-2s and playmakers are essentially central roles, he also played in wider positions numerous times during his career. 

While one could argue about his positional discipline in comparison to some contemporary midfielders of the era outside of Ireland or Great Britain, the fact that Gerrard could fulfil so many different roles was down to the fact that he had strong attributes in many categories. 

Physically at 6 foot, he did not lack the power to mix it in the often athletic and physically demanding engine room. His long and short-range shooting was powerful and often precise as West Ham for example found to their cost in the 2006 FA Cup final.

He was a decent header of the ball, could put in a good cruncing tackle and had a good passing range, even if some early memories of TV pundits used to highlight a penchant for the "Hollywood ball" fairly or unfairly. 

Along with set-piece delivery, his crossing was also excellent for a non-winger. 

Ultimately, while he was never the world's best player in any of the individual midfield roles, he was at least very good in each of them which makes him among the most versatile midfielders of his generation.