Gerrard out to solve midfield muddle for club and country

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The Independent Online

The debate over Steven Gerrard's finest position for England and Liverpool was given added spice by the man himself last night when he claimed his talents - and therefore the interests of club and country - would be best served by a return to central midfield.

England's vice-captain has maintained a diplomatic stance over his right-midfield role under both Steve McClaren and Rafael Benitez this season, with a lack of cohesion alongside Frank Lampard at international level and his club manager's preference for Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Sissoko - with even Boudewijn Zenden chosen ahead of him at Arsenal last weekend - leaving little option but to suffer in silence.

After a brief return to the centre against the Netherlands on Wednesday night, however, albeit as part of a three-man midfield including Michael Carrick, the 26-year-old admitted he is more suited to McClaren's tactics in Amsterdam than in four previous fixtures as David Beckham's replacement on the right.

With Sissoko now out for three months at Liverpool with a dislocated shoulder, Gerrard also revealed that he had spoken to Benitez about a possible switch at Middlesbrough this weekend. Gerrard said: "The manager wanted me to break from the middle and I had two great chances to score against [the Netherlands]. I always enjoy it in the middle. That's where I feel I can get the best out of myself. I spoke to Benitez and he said I will get a lot more time in the middle now with Sissoko's injury. We need to start picking up performances on the road for Liverpool, starting on Saturday."

Gerrard's comments will not go unnoticed by Benitez, but neither will they provoke much surprise. The Liverpool manager is well aware of his captain's opinion and has been irritated by the constant debate over the player's position this season, regularly referring to Gerrard's contribution in the last campaign when, almost exclusively from the right, he scored 23 goals.

It is the indifferent form of Gerrard and several Liverpool players involved in the World Cup, plus the minimal impact from £25m worth of acquisitions this summer, that is most culpable for the club's disappointing League campaign.

The midfielder, who missed two good chances at the Amsterdam ArenA, added: "I am lacking a bit of composure in front of goal because the goals haven't been flowing for me this season. I've every confidence the goals will come. This season I've been getting in the positions to score and it has not quite happened. Last season mis-hits and deflections were going in for me. The goals will come because that is all that is missing at the moment."

Despite the disappointment of conceding an 86th-minute equaliser to Rafael van der Vaart, and the away wins for Croatia and Russia that pushed England out of the qualifying places in Group E, Gerrard said the performance in Amsterdam had rebuilt confidence that McClaren's men would qualify for the European Championship. "Looking at the bigger picture, we are confident we can qualify," Gerrard said.

"We know we have the talent to win all our remaining games. The lads were disappointed for the Croatia game and we know a big improvement is needed for the remaining games."

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