1. Liverpool face up to life without ageing Steven Gerrard

Liverpool face up to life without ageing Steven Gerrard

While the emotional bond formed of 17 years sterling service to his boyhood club ensures Steven Gerrard's...

By: | London | Published: January 4, 2015 7:45 AM

While the emotional bond formed of 17 years sterling service to his boyhood club ensures Steven Gerrard’s exit will be an emotional occasion, his ageing legs and dwindling reserves of energy mean the hero of yesteryear had already departed.

Gerrard, who announced on Friday that he was quitting Liverpool at the end of the season for a new challenge abroad, can rightfully lay claim to be one of the club’s true greats.

But the days when he would drag Liverpool over the line by willpower alone, when his mere presence on the pitch meant no situation was so dire that he could not conjure an improbable escape, are now gone.

The reality, therefore, was that had Gerrard stayed at Liverpool, his appearances were going to become more sporadic.

At 34 years old, he had entered the period in most careers when talk turns to protecting tired legs from the exertions of the modern game.
Questions had started to be asked about whether he could still be an effective part of manager Brendan Rodgers’s side, where a high-intensity pressing game seemed to be the preferred method of attack and defence.

He was able to make a big impact on Liverpool’s title challenge last season largely because the manager had created a role in the team, the deep-lying quarter-back, tailor-made to enhance his assets and hide his growing weaknesses.

As Gerrard arrowed long-range passes into the feet of forwards Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in one of the most attacking Liverpool sides in recent years, few questioned his place in the side.

Yet with Suarez gone and Sturridge injured for most of the current campaign, Gerrard has looked a shadow of last season’s playmaker, with his passing range counting for little with the more sedentary Mario Balotelli leading the Liverpool line.

Without a moving target to aim for, teams came armed with spoiler tactics to restrict Gerrard’s creative influence and Liverpool’s title challenge was over before it had barely begun.

This is not the first Liverpool side that Gerrard has played in who look a long way off challenging for the Premier League.

It is the first, however, where the cracks of mediocrity cannot be papered over by the majestic talents of the captain.


It is fair to say, therefore, that the biggest impact of his departure is likely to be the lack of his gargantuan presence behind the scenes.

Especially at a club where there is now arguably not a single player who can claim to hold the highest stature in the world game.

Former defender Jamie Carragher, who shared many of Gerrard’s finest moments, was among those calling for the club to make more effort to retain Gerrard for precisely that reason.

“I look at what is happening with Ryan Giggs at Manchester United now and I am dismayed that Liverpool are letting that experience leave,” he said.

Giggs, however, was ushered into a coaching role from a recent title winning side, without the micro-analysis of his situation every time he started a match on the bench.

Gerrard was never going to be afforded that luxury in a struggling Liverpool outfit.

If he started on the bench, he was always going to be the centre of attention, win lose or draw, which was part of the reason for the timing of Friday’s statement on his future.

“I am making the announcement now so that the manager and the team are not distracted by stories or speculation about my future,” he said.

If there is some solace to be had for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers as he begins to make plans for a life without Gerrard, it perhaps lies in the fact that arguably their best performance of the season came with his captain on the bench.

The midfielder was a mere observer as Liverpool recreated last season’s attacking verve in a 4-1 victory over Swansea City a few days after Christmas.

There remains, however, a sense that Liverpool have a squad with few natural leaders.

A transfer policy that has focused primarily on recruiting young talent with potential rather than finished products means there are few stand-out candidates to replace Gerrard as captain.

For many years, Gerrard was the difference between Liverpool competing near the top of the table rather than scrapping it out with the also-rans.

Although his impact on the pitch is no longer what it was, Liverpool could still pay a hard price for failing to replace his know-how and experience off it.

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