After hobbling out of the impressive 3-2 win at home to Spurs, Steven Gerrard is now set for a three week spell on the sidelines. The Merseyside hero has damaged one of his ageing hamstrings, and with Lucas also out of action, Brendan Rodgers is set for quite a task to maintain his side’s fine run – they’re 2015’s form team in the Premier League.
However, out of a problem a long-term solution may be born, and we at FFC Towers think that Gerrard’s absence may actually the silver lining to a cloud that’s been hanging over the club since the LA Galaxy announcement… and here are FIVE reasons why!
It’s sad for Liverpool fans to have to admit this, but the Reds are becoming a better team when their captain is not on the pitch. The 34-year-old is no longer as mobile as he once was, and with the Reds’ game hinging on slick transitions, fearsome counter-attacks and movement in the final third, his skill set is not entirely beneficial. Gerrard is still able in terms of set-piece delivery and boasts fine range of passing, yet that’s not longer enough if Rodgers’ side are to continue their late top four charge.
Even though Gerrard’s powers are waning, a replacement will be needed in the middle – especially with Lucas also out. Although he’s been impressive in a back three since the turn of the year, Can’s long-term future is almost certainly in his more natural role in the centre of the pitch, and a brief cameo against Spurs showed that he’s more than up to the task.
Although not as complete a player as Gerrard, Can boasts fearsome explosive power, is a dominant physical presence and has plenty of energy. He’s already somewhat a cult hero at Anfield, and a few more impressive displays in big games against Crystal Palace, Besiktas and Southampton will only serve to bolster his growing reputation.
With the possibility of Can moving into the middle, Rodgers could go back to his 4-4-2 diamond. The last time the formation was used in a successful way came back in August during the 3-0 win at Spurs, and with Mario Balotelli having finally got off the mark – ironically against Tottenham – he might be deployed alongside Daniel Sturridge in a front two – their only start together came at White Hart Lane.
Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho could line up at the back, while Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho may be utilised in the centre of midfield.
Should the back three – let’s face it, Liverpool have improved drastically with it – remain intact and Can moves forward, then a gap would open up for Lovren to redeem himself. After a disastrous, error-strewn opening to the season, the Croatian has been bombed out of the XI of late, but after impressing enough with Southampton to earn a £16m move to Anfield, he is by no means a bad centre-back.
Perhaps in a three alongside Skrtel and Sakho, Lovren would be provided with a greater level of cover, even if his turn of pace is a little worrying.
With California calling, Gerrard will not be a Liverpool player after the final whistle of game 38 – or potentially the FA Cup Final – sounds, which will bring the curtain down on a glorious career at Anfield. The idea of Liverpool without ‘Stevie G’ has been almost unthinkable in recent years, but now that horizon is in clear view, and the Reds need to get used to life without him.
The only way to do that is to play without Gerrard in the XI, and the coming three to four weeks offer that opportunity in some big games.