Gerrard Era Over But Swansea Game Points To A New One
This is how events overtake you.
I quite deliberately chose to write this the morning after the game. I wanted to see the replays on Match Of The Day, wanted to see if the Twitter fury at half-time had been right.
Had the ball hit the defender’s face rather than his hands? It had. You know that, you’ve seen the same replays as I have. You know that the second penalty was fortunate but correct; a lucky bounce but a hand outstretched. The penalties were clearly going to be a large part of the story; the fact that a third, absolutely cast iron, nailed on, as blatant as you’d want penalty wasn’t given seemed to indicate that the ref knew exactly what he’d got wrong in the first-half. Shame, it would have been a winner, it would have been a hat trick of penalties for Steven Gerrard. It would have been an undeserved but necessary winner and it would have been a hat-trick in a display - both personal and team - that never came close to deserving one.
Let’s do the big story first though, shall we? It’s over. The Gerrard era is over. For a Liverpool fan though, for THIS Liverpool fan, it represents far more.
Gerrard’s been at the club since he was eight. Twenty six years. Started at the club while Kenny was still manager, while Dalglish was extending his playing career into a managerial career. Steven Gerrard is a direct link back to the glory, he’s the last in the line of those who were there at the time. Young as he was, coming in at the end of the glory days as he did, he’s still a link back to that and in the years since, he’s BEEN the glory. He was the heart of everything that we’ve achieved - and you may think we haven’t achieved much since the 90s but it’s still more than most clubs ever dream of.
That he’s moving on was obvious. From the moment that Brendan pointed out that ‘Steven’s next decision would be based on a lifestyle choice’ a few weeks ago, America stood out as the obvious destination. The time is right. He’s not the player that he was. Nobody is the player that Steven Gerrard was. Point out one player to me that has given as much to his team as Gerrard has, that lives and breathes his club in the way our number 8 does and unless his surname’s Dalglish, I’ll tell you you’re an idiot.
He’s not having the effect now though. Perhaps the end of last season has hurt him beyond repair, perhaps the way that last dream vanished has taken everything out of him. Or perhaps the sheer effort, the leadership, the passion that he gave that took us so close has burnt him out. The two penalties aside, he didn’t affect the Leicester game in any positive way. The negatives though? We’ll come to them in a second, no matter how ungracious they’ll seem.
Despite not being at the races, despite the way that the first-half had been functional rather than impressive, we’d swept a relegation bound side with a small minded away section to one side on our way to putting ourselves six points off third placed United. Unfortunately the second-half happened. And Liverpool’s second-half performance was pathetic.
Everything that had been put back in place in the Swansea victory vanished again. We lost Lallana to injury. Brendan made the ‘interesting’ decision to replace him with Fabio Borini. I’d have done a better job. We ran out of ideas, we made Leicester look like world beaters, we fell to two very good goals that should have been well sorted out far higher up the pitch.
We still had half an hour to put things right tough. We didn’t. We got worse. And worse. And, just when you thought we couldn’t get any worse, we did. It was as bad a 45 minutes of football as we’ve seen from the lads in red all season. And we’ve seen some bad football this season. Leicester were the better team. We were lucky to come away from the game with a point.
So, what was the difference between the Swansea game and the Leicester game? Steven Gerrard unfortunately. I hate to write it, particularly on the morning when one of the two greatest servants the club has ever seen has announced that his time is reaching an end, but Gerrard shouldn’t have played yesterday.
Perhaps it was sentimentality on Rodgers’ part. Perhaps, knowing what was coming, he felt his captain deserved one last hurrah before the news leaked. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. The team from the Swansea game didn’t need changing. The formation worked, the personnel worked.
Moving Henderson from the centre of midfield where he gave a captain’s performance to wing-back where he struggled again, weakened the team. Gerrard’s anonymity weakened the team. Fabio Borini’s appearance weakened the team. We were a weak team. We created very little. The high pressing, the high tempo, the fluidity, everything that had come back in the previous match was gone again.
That’s not Gerrard’s fault, that’s Rodgers’ fault. He had no need to change the formula. Steven Gerrard could have been an impact sub. Or he could have been given a rest across Christmas with the idea of him being important in the run in to the end of the season; a season where we could still potentially win three cups, could still finish in the top four, could still pull back a modicum of glory and once again achieve more than smaller teams can dream of.
We’ve had a flash of a post-Gerrard future. We had it in the Swansea game. It worked. Life goes on. Life always goes on. It’s the end of an era? Best make sure that it’s the start of a new one then.
But genuinely, sincerely, it’s not about the Leicester game. That’s just one of those days now, one of those games lost that shouldn’t have been lost. This is about the fact that one of the greatest players that we’ve ever had the privilege to watch live - and we’ve had so much privilege with so many players - is moving on.
Good luck Steven, thanks for everything.