Steven Gerarrd vs. Manchester United… there have been some great memories. However, his last – well, possibly – appearance looks to be one that will be remembered alongside the goals and kissing of the camera, but for all the wrong reasons.
In case you spent your weekend under a rock or oblivious to football (how?!?!) Gerrard was sent-off at Anfield against the club’s bitter rivals just 48 seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute.
His stamp on Ander Herrera was as shocking as it was unexpected, with the 34-year-old having matured into a composed player in his ‘elder statesman’ years. His slip against Chelsea cost Liverpool the title last season and this misdemeanour could end up preventing them from returning to the Champions League…
However, there are eight games to go, so all is not yet lost, however, the Merseysiders cannot afford any more mis-haps.
So having Gerrard out for a decisive run of games could be a positive… and here are FIVE reasons why…
48 seconds and a red card with his team 1-0 down. If that’s not the actions of a liability, then what is?
Gerrard was clearly pumped up and wanted to make his impact, and he can be forgiven for that, as he was operating on emotion and adrenaline, but the maliciously stamp on Ander Herrera seconds after clattering Juan Mata with a risky challenge was rather brainless.
Passion and guts are part of the game, but with Liverpool already trailing a fairly astute Man United team, the Reds needed to show some guile.
And now with the gap between the sides five points, careful tactical planning is needed more than ever over the coming eight games.
Even though United and Swansea have both closed out the Reds’ midfield combo fairly effectively in the past two games, Henderson and Allen look to be the best the club have, and have shown signs of genuine promise.
While the Welshman is all about recycling the ball and using it well in transition, the vice-captain provides energy and tenacity, making them useful in between two wing-backs and behind creative players such as Philippe Coutinho.
Gerrard’s lack of energy is a drawback if put in for either player, while reverting to a diamond to get him into the holding role may interrupt the form of Coutinho.
At 34, it’s clear that Gerrard will not ever be the physical specimen he was.
Time has not been kind to the Liverpool skipper, who, unlike great rival Frank Lampard, built his game on physicality and driving runs. While ‘Lamps’ has been able to continue his style of clever movement, Gerrard has been forced to manage his game after being ruthlessly exposed by the likes of Stewart Downing and Gabby Agbonlahor at the start of the season.
Liverpool now need quick, incisive passing and neat movement around the final third, which Gerrard cannot offer anymore.
The reality of Liverpool without Gerrard will kick in in a few short months time.
The veteran midfielder will enter semi-retirement (no offence, MLS) with the LA Galaxy, leaving the Reds somewhat rudderless. Despite his ailing form, ‘Gerro’ is still a key influence at Anfield, and not having him as captain will take some time and adjustment.
More preparation without him is sure to be of use and getting Henderson more accustomed to skippering the side can only be of benefit for when, rather than if, he takes the armband.
As narratives go, Gerrard lifting the FA Cup on his final appearance for Liverpool on his 35th birthday is pretty special.
The Reds have to negotiate a quarter-final replay at Blackburn without their captain, but winning at a midtable Championship side’s home ground shouldn’t really be a major issue, and from there Aston Villa await at Wembley.
Tim Sherwood’s side are much improved and Gerrard’s experience in London could be needed, with a potential final against Reading or, more likely, Arsenal on the horizon.
A short rest for Stevie G now could line him up for a full-throttle charge at silverware.