Gerrard: I've told our lads to defend like Jamie Carragher
Steven Gerrard has told his U18s team to follow the example of club legend Jamie Carragher as they aim to tighten up at the back when they face Everton in the mini-derby on Friday night.
The young Reds have scored goals for fun so far in 2017-18, netting on 12 occasions in league and cup, but have also conceded 10.
After last weekend’s 4-3 victory over Middlesbrough in the U18 Premier League Cup, Gerrard has overseen extra defensive work at the Academy as he tries to strike the right balance between solidity at one end and creativity at the other.
And one player in particular was cited as a ideal example of the complete defender, with the former Liverpool captain urging his charges to try and study the manner in which Carragher regularly put his body on the line for the cause.
“Going forward we look a real team, we are passing the ball really well and creating lots of chances,” Gerrard told Liverpoolfc.com.
“We are a very dangerous attacking team, but I know that sometimes comes at a cost in terms of you can’t be a very fluent attacking team unless you are a little bit open.
“We are trying to teach and educate the kids to counter-press better, stop counter-attacks further up the pitch and be a little bit more tougher in one-on-one situations; put their body on the line a bit more and manage the game a bit better.
“In 90 minutes last week, Middlesbrough had eight attempts on our goal and scored three against us, so obviously it’s very entertaining for the neutrals and people who are watching our games, but from a coach’s point of view people are scoring goals too easily against us and that’s certainly the area we are giving a lot of attention to at the moment.
“Defending starts from the front and it always has done at this football club for many years, even before I was born. We had legends like Ian Rush, Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Kenny Dalglish who were masters at defending from the front.
“We are trying as a team to improve defensively but what it boils down to is you’ve got to want to defend. You’ve got to take an elbow in the face, get a bloody nose or take a shot in the privates!
“Defending hurts. It hurts your body and it’s tough, but these kids have come out of schoolboy football and they are in a man’s game now, which is tough. We are trying to toughen them up individually and get them to put their bodies on the line.
“I played with Jamie Carragher, who wasn’t known for 40-yard passes or dribbling out from the back; he was known for blocks, he was known for organising and pulling people into positions and defending.
“He was a constant noise in your ear for 90 minutes and that’s how you defend at the top level.”
Gerrard’s attention this week has been firmly fixated on tonight’s encounter with Everton at the Kirkby Academy in front of the live LFCTV cameras.
During his playing days, the midfielder scored some memorable goals against our neighbours and captained the Reds to some historic derby victories.
And, even as he prepares to face the Blues for the first time as a manager, the fixture remains just as special.
“I can’t wait for it and I wish I was playing in it myself!” Gerrard added.
“Derbies were my favourite games as a player and I hope they will be my favourite games as a manager as well.
“Everton are a tough side and I’m sure they will set up to try and stop us playing, which is what they do at first-team level.
“I’m sure they will be very concerned about us as an attacking threat and they will try and spoil our play and cause us problems.
“Friday night is all about defending well from us. If we can defend well then I’m very confident we can get the right result.”
With four Scousers set for starting berths, the Reds will certainly have passionate players ready to battle for the bragging rights.
But Gerrard has drawn on his personal experience to spell out the importance of controlled aggression to his side.
He said: “You’ve got to channel your passion for these games in the right way. I’ve been guilty as a player in the past of overstepping the mark and getting too fired up for a derby.
“I’m trying to put that across to the lads, they have got experience of playing in a mini-derby, so it’s important they channel their aggression in the right way.
“It’s important we keep 11 players on the pitch but I’ve got no doubt that they are ready for this one. The Scousers, the local lads, know what this derby means and I’m sure they will spread that around the squad.
“The lads are excited and they understand this is a big game. They know there will be extra people coming down and they know LFCTV are showing it live, they know Jürgen Klopp and the first team will probably look in as well, so the stage is set for them and it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to shine.”
Watch the U18s face Everton live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO with our coverage starting at 6.30pm BST. Click here to find out more.