Gerrard carries heavy weight of expectation

To watch Gerrard grimace and frown through an England press conference is to know the pressure of playing in one of world football's most talented midfields without ever feeling that your best attributes are being used. The 25-year-old, substituted in Belfast, was ruthless in his assessment of his own form, of the challenge that faces him and Frank Lampard in making themselves compatible and the imperative of making next summer's World Cup a better experience for him than Euro 2004.

Sitting in the Windsor Park dressing-rooms after the match on 7 September, Gerrard said that he felt that "embarrassing defeat" could have serious repercussions for his career. "I think I felt I could be dropped, I think it was in every player's mind and it was definitely in mine," he said. "I have been a little bit worried about my form at international level but I am confident in my ability and confident I can produce."

One month on, with Austria on Saturday, and there is no question that Eriksson will dispense with either of his midfield maestros so the two of them will be left once again to interpret yet another new formation - the more familiar 4-4-2 system this time. Under the 4-5-1 system - with David Beckham striking long passes out towards Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Rooney - Gerrard and Lampard were left as little more than bystanders at the scene of one of England's worst defeats.

"It is strange, me and Frank have been kicking lumps out of each other for the past week and now we have got to be best of mates and improve this relationship in the middle," Gerrard said. "But there is no friction. Liverpool versus Chelsea are massive games and you know the tackles are going to be flying in and the tempo is going to be quick but when you meet up everything is forgotten.

"The most important thing is getting the points but it would be nice to entertain as well and pay the fans back for that embarrassing defeat in Belfast. I think the partnership can definitely improve. I don't think we have set the world alight but you are talking about two fantastic players who will be able to adapt and who will be able to make it work. I have spoken to Frank about it a lot and we will work on the partnership and are confident we can make it work.

"I am a little bit more naturally defensive than Frank and he is more forward thinking. That is how it will work but what the manager does want if one of us breaks forward is for the other one to be disciplined and stay. I will be a little bit more defensive than Frank. It worked well at times in Euro 2004. Frank's form was really good in the tournament."

The question of who stays back and who goes forward when England attack was supposed to be answered in that infamous meeting between Eriksson, Beckham, Gerrard and Lampard before the Wales match last month in which the 4-5-1 formation was first floated. Gerrard defended his manager - "He asked for our opinions. We gave them" - and the resolution now seems to be that with Beckham pushed back to the right Gerrard will occupy the role of holding midfielder.

That is a job that Dietmar Hamann generally performs for Gerrard at club level while the Liverpool captain often plays one step ahead of his club's midfield in support of the lone striker. It was with a degree of understatement that Gerrard admitted it would be "a bit difficult" to adapt to his new role. "It's difficult to play five or six games as an attacking midfielder for Liverpool and then come in to the holding role," he said. "But I do feel I have the ability to adapt."

Despite the knotted brow, and the prospect of an unfamiliar role on Saturday, Gerrard said that he still enjoyed playing in a national team that three years ago was trying to make a left-sided midfielder of him. He said he had not been able to watch the video of the defeat to Northern Ireland and he had been thankful that Eriksson had not deployed the kind of shock therapy that saw the player watch a replay of the 4-1 defeat to Denmark.

"Pressure to perform," was how Gerrard described the expectation on him and Lampard with the acknowledgement that two players considered the best at their clubs should be able to play together. It is almost unthinkable to consider an England team without either of them but of late it has been equally hard to imagine them thriving in one another's company.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice