Steven Gerrard. A name that Liverpool fans will remember for the rest of their lives and tell their children and grandchildren about in years to come.
A leader of men, a world class player who has racked up 646 games in a Liverpool shirt and scored 162 goals. His CV boasts the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, two FA Cups, three League Cups and more than a century of England caps. Only King Kenny can rival him as Liverpool’s greatest player ever.
Gerrard turns 34 at the end of the season and the player himself has acknowledged that he may only have one or two more seasons left in a Liverpool shirt. Gerrard recently said:
“I realise I’m coming into the final chapters of my Liverpool career but I don’t think my relationship with the club is coming to an end – that will carry on for a long, long time. I want to make the most of these last couple of years on the pitch.”
Turning to the present, Gerrard has remained influential in a Red shirt. Gone are the lung-busting runs into the box and 30 yard screamers. This season, it is his set piece delivery that has been the standout feature of his game. However, whilst he has been brilliant at set pieces, it’s apparent that at the age of 33, he doesn’t possess the energy to press players quickly over ninety minutes – something that Brendan Rodgers has always desired from his central midfielders.
Gerrard’s recent hamstring injury created an opportunity to look to the future. Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson are two players who don’t often get the headlines like Gerrard due to their lack of goals and crunching tackles. However, their stand out performances in the dismantling of Tottenham showed exactly what they can offer in a Liverpool shirt. Their relentless pressing and quick passing allowed Luis Suarez, Phillipe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling to create havoc high up the pitch.
Amongst the euphoria of our performance, many Liverpool fans started to ask the question – would we have played as well against Spurs with Gerrard in central midfield?
Brendan Rodgers has often spoken about having an identity to his team’s play. Quick pressing high up the pitch and possession-based football was the mantra spelled out by Rodgers. However, it is arguable whether deploying Gerrard at central midfield would help the team achieve this. With Gerrard and Lucas Leiva deployed in central midfield, the high energy and quick pressing have not been seen.
However, with Lucas holding and Allen and Henderson ahead in a ‘1-2 triangle’, Liverpool finally started to show some identity to their play under Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers said after the game
“It was a brilliant all-round performance from us. The level of football was superb. We were like animals without the ball. Our hunger to get it back was fantastic.”
There was also a sense of a real team performance on Sunday. In the past, players like Sterling and Henderson have taken the easy option and simply passed the ball to Gerrard due to his stature in the game. On Sunday, all eleven players took on the responsibility and backed themselves.
There is certainly a wish from all Liverpool fans to ensure that the performance against Tottenham was not a one-off and instead, this style of play now becomes the norm. This will largely be dependent on Allen and Henderson staying in the team and keeping up their level of performances.
As for Steven Gerrard, personally, I think he still offers more than enough in a Liverpool shirt to stay in the team. Whilst, he doesn’t fulfil the objective of relentless pressing and quick passing in central midfield, there is possibly an opportunity to move him up further up the field ahead – for example in Sterling’s current position on the right – where he can score goals, cross a great ball into the box and offer great set piece delivery.
Liverpool fans owe a great deal to Steven Gerrard. He has provided us with countless memories and is an unbelievable captain of Liverpool Football Club. Brendan Rodgers now faces the task of retaining his identity in this team and finding room for his Captain Fantastic.
Do you think Gerrard still deserves a place in the team? If so – where should he play?