Why Liverpool Should Be Positive About A Future Without Gerrard
After Steven Gerrard inspired his Liverpool side to an FA Cup victory against League 2 minnows Wimbledon earlier this week, the following headlines were published as expected.
‘Gerrard shows Liverpool what they will be missing’ cried one publication, while others labelled the ex-England captain as ‘ageless’ – a player whose experience is as valuable as his undoubted qualities. Therefore, as the 34-year-old prepares for his American adventure, can the Merseyside club really afford to lose such an influential talisman; a midfielder at the heart of their side for so many years?
The answer is yes they can. And Liverpool will be better off as result.
Frank Lampard’s impressive, however unlikely, role at Man City this season has filled fans with scepticism regarding whether his former international counterpart Gerrard is indeed past his best. The reality of the situation is that an argument can be formed to support both sides.
On one hand Lampard has been a revelation in, mainly, cameo roles for his new club. His uncanny ability to finish from 20-yards out or closer has proved profitable on more than a few occasions in the current campaign; most notably with that late equaliser against his former side that undeniably aggravated Chelsea fans who had cheered on the Stamford Bridge icon for so many years.
Nonetheless, aside from the above incident where Lampard actively took points away from the league leaders, have Chelsea really missed the midfielder in anything other than a moral sense?
One look at the quick, punishing side Jose Mourinho has created would suggest otherwise. The central duo of Matic and Fabregas has been instrumental in Chelsea’s scintillating play in the Premier League this season. They possess a pace and potency based around their young, technically excellent core, and have scored a league-high 44 goals as a result. Chelsea fans may be lamenting the decision to allow Frank Lampard to move to another Premier League club, but do they regret the decision to embrace life under a new-look midfield outlet? Absolutely not.
Luckily for Anfield supporters, they need not worry about the potential emotional horror of facing Stevie G as he suits up in the kit of a Premier League rival. Indeed, Gerrard has already assured Liverpool fans that there’s no chance of him staying in England after his current contract expires.
Unlike Lampard, the soon-to-be LA Galaxy man is heading over to the United States to stay there. There is fundamentally no chance of Gerrard taking points away from his beloved Liverpool, and in his absence, they will improve as a side.
Jordan Henderson, whose unlikely rise from overpriced stopgap to future Reds captain has been nothing short of astonishing, will only continue to grow as a top class midfielder now very much with the chance to make this Liverpool side his own. Steven Gerrard’s guidance and example set for the ex-Sunderland player has undoubtedly been invaluable, but Henderson is now capable enough both mentally and quality-wise to be the new leader in front of the Anfield faithful.
No longer will Liverpool’s players in the middle of the park face constant comparisons to the one-time Champions League winner, who has acted the heart and soul of the Merseyside club for so many years. The likes of Emre Can, who has looked mature and confident for a 20-year-old, will continue to flourish, and be given a greater chance to perform with Gerrard out of the picture.
Moreover, whilst the one-club man has displayed a stunning level of consistency and class over his 16 years at the club, this season has found Brendan Rogers having to deal with an issue no manager has ever faced. Indeed, for the first time in his career, Gerrard is not a guaranteed starter. At times, this has led to an unwanted distraction in an already difficult campaign for Liverpool. Start Gerrard, and Rogers could find himself bombarded with complaints of sentiment over sense; drop him, and you appear to be questioning a legacy that has surpassed 500 appearances.
Gerrard’s departure removes this dilemma, and allows the Northern Irish manager to make selection decisions without the possibility of fans rallying for the inclusion of a player who has been at the club far longer than his current boss. With Gerrard gone, it is very much Rogers’ Liverpool team, and he can do what he wants with it without fear of hysteria.
Steven Gerrard is an extraordinary player; his role at Liverpool since before the turn of the Millennium has created an unprecedented career that will never be forgotten. He has been a man to rely on; a player to look to when all else is failing, and a leader that has inspired hundreds of players over his time at the club. But, now, Liverpool can be confident of succeeding without him as they embark as a unit, perhaps not defined by world class individuals, but very much as a team.