Steven Gerrard missed a considerable portion of last season after struggling with a long term groin injury. Over the early summer he had a groin operation to rectify the problem, but unfortunately he has now suffered complications and could be out for the first few months of the season.
A few years back this would have signalled alarm bells for Liverpool. The Liverpool side in previous years was defined by many as a two man team, heavily reliant upon Gerrard or Fernando Torres. Gerrard was absolutely vital to the Liverpool side, and his absence would have had many a Liverpool fan worried, but has all that changed?
Gerrard missed considerable portions of last season-only featuring 21 times-and during his absence Liverpool played outstandingly well. This could just be due to the revolution under Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke that took place, rather then Gerrard’s absence. However, the side did play better as a team when he wasn’t playing, with players like Lucas Leiva, Raul Meireles, Maxi Rodriguez and Jay Spearing really stepping up to the plate and performing to their potential in Gerrard’s absence.
With Stevie in the side, it seems as if the players around him try too hard, and rather than focus on their own games, focus too much on the captain’s. Gerrard is also at times guilty-probably because he has had to do it so many times in the past-of trying to do everything himself, demanding the ball, and trying to go at it alone, which obviously would have a negative effect on his team-mates and their own confidence.
With more new recruits coming in over the summer, Liverpool are certainly not lacking in the centre of the park for replacements, and they will be queuing up to fit into Liverpool’s starting 11 in Gerrard’s absence. Meireles did the job exceptionally well last year, and we saw the best of the dynamic midfielder in a free roaming role. Charlie Adam, could also slot right in there, with his deft passing and creativity. Gerrard’s absence gives others the chance to impress, and this competition for places at the start of the season can only be a good thing for the side, as each could push each other onto greater things. If Liverpool do start the season well, it then brings up the question of where Gerrard fits when he returns to fitness?
I am not disputing Gerrard’s quality or his importance to Liverpool over the years, he has produced moments of sheer brilliance that have salvaged the club and propelled them to achieve great things on so many occasions-FA Cup, and Champions League titles-and nobody has done more in the past to save distinctly average Liverpool teams from the brink of defeat. On his day Gerrard is unrivalled, a man single handedly capable of winning a game, the heart and soul of the club, but he isn’t getting any younger and performances of that outstanding quality will now become rarer. It seems as if his role needs to evolve somewhat as a part of Dalglish’s new side. Suffering with fitness and lacking the dynamism of old, perhaps his role needs to change to become more of a team player rather than a one-man-battering-ram. There are now better players around him-which is maybe what Gerrard was lacking all along-, players that he should trust and with less pressure on him to do everything, he can concentrate on his own strengths, and we could see the best of Gerrard again.
Liverpool showed last season that they are arguably a better team without Gerrard in the side, but they can also be a better team with him in it as well, they just need to adapt his role slightly, so that the other players and Gerrard himself can shine together. A fit Steven Gerrard should always be the first name on the team-sheet, but Liverpool certainly shouldn’t fear his absence any more, as once may have been the case.
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