No Gerrard, more problems for Liverpool
Last week Steven Gerrard shocked the footballing world by announcing his intention to leave Liverpool at the end of the season. Many were surprised that a one-club man like Gerrard would ever consider plying his trade away from Anfield. It always seemed certain he would finish his career in the red of Liverpool Football Club; the reality now is come July Gerrard will be strutting his stuff in the MLS for LA Galaxy. Liverpool now have a real struggle in moving forward without their talismanic captain.
Preparing for a Legend’s Farewell
Obviously there was always going to be a Liverpool after Steven Gerrard. No one player is bigger than any club, so Liverpool should still be challenging for silverware after the midfielder’s departure. The sudden surprise caused by Gerrard’s decision implies that Liverpool weren’t altogether prepared for being without his services so soon. It may perhaps take longer to adjust to life after Gerrard.
Rivals Manchester United have had similar issues in recent years. Midfielders Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are no longer playing for the club following their respective retirements. Questions were asked over how United could possibly replace them.
In all honesty such talents are near-on impossible to replace. When a player becomes synonymous with a football club in the same way someone like Steven Gerrard or Paul Scholes have, it’s about more than just simply signing some else for X amount of money.
Sure, there are plenty of midfield talents in world football that could come in and do a job at Anfield for manager Brendan Rodgers. But who else can have the same effect off the field? Who else can shoulder expectations and carry the team like Gerrard has done on so many occasions before?
The biggest problem for Liverpool is that unlike Manchester United, Steven Gerrard is still Liverpool’s most important player. In their latter years at Old Trafford, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs saw their appearances decrease season after season. It wasn’t just because of age and the stresses of playing three times a week. They played less so the team could get used to playing without them.
Without Scholes on the pitch, for example, it would be down to someone else to keep possession and dictate the tempo of the game. Michael Carrick has now taken that mantle on. Having played with Scholes for many years, Carrick took on his role and responsibilities when Scholes wasn’t in the team. He is now arguably Manchester United’s most influential player, with United currently unbeaten in the league since his return from injury almost three months ago.
Gerrard’s Influence Is Too Strong
Liverpool have not been able to gradually phase Steven Gerrard out like Manchester United did with Paul Scholes. This season Gerrard has been involved in 19 of his side’s 20 EPL matches, including scoring two penalties in the 2-2 home draw with Leicester City.
Manager Brendan Rodgers cannot afford to leave Gerrard out and hope someone else can influence a football match like his captain. Liverpool are simply a lot weaker without him. Take Steven Gerrard out of the team and you can kiss goodbye to Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the top four. There is no other player at the club who looks like they can drag the team out of peril with a moment of magic.
Raheem Sterling has the potential to become such a figurehead but he is too young to shoulder that responsibility. Daniel Sturridge’s injury record is a concern and has hurt Liverpool’s goal tally. Even with these two players back and on form, who will stand up and be counted, who will lead the team when times get tough?
Forget spearheading the historic comeback in the 2005 Champions League final, or scoring the vital equaliser in the 2006 FA Cup final – Gerrard had to bail out Liverpool yet AGAIN against League 2 side AFC Wimbledon this week!
Between now and the end of the season, Brendan Rodgers has a huge dilemma. The only certainty is that his captain, club legend Steven Gerrard will leave in the summer. Does he dare risk dropping him, in the hope someone like Jordan Henderson could step out of the shadows and show that he can lead the team next season or beyond? Or does he continue picking Gerrard at every given opportunity in order to secure Champions League football?
Two seasons ago, Liverpool lost Jamie Carragher. Their defensive record and performances since are proof that his loss has been felt enormously. Last summer, Liverpool lost Luis Suarez. Their goal tally has almost been halved without his creative genius this season. And now, they will lose Steven Gerrard. A lot of work is required by the players and staff if this worrying downward trend isn’t to repeat itself when Gerrard leaves Anfield.