Rodgers Risking Gerrard’s Liverpool Legacy
“One half step too late or too early, you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game every minute, every second.”
It’s only a snippet, I know, but it’s hard not to think of that famous speech from Any Given Sunday when you think of Steven Gerrard at the minute. You can imagine him, years down the line, as a manager, giving his players a similar pep talk with that infamous Chelsea game stuck in his mind. Few incidents have had such a polarizing effect on one player as *that* slip has on Gerrard.
The Liverpool captain had already gained legend status at Anfield long before last season but, with a career spanning the guts of 15 years, a long, long awaited title triumph would surely have cemented Gerrard’s place as their best ever player. That he was so responsible for their title challenge meant his error in that vital game against Mourinho’s men was equally as responsible for its collapse. That’s football for you: the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Inches.
It would be overly easy to blame the team’s failings – we’ll get to that – but simply put, Gerrard has never quite recovered from the trauma of last season’s events and much like any distressing incident, there is a process of which he is struggling to come to terms with. The result of which is that, when floundering badly in games, he seems to revert back to ‘Stevie G’. So desperate to turn back the clock and regain his former position as Liverpool’s saviour, he fails time and time again with one overcooked pass after another.
Frustratingly, though, Brendan Rodgers is not helping. Watching Frank Lampard last night against Bayern Munich, it’s easy to forget he is actually two years older than Gerrard and yet, arguably, he is still a far more effective player. For the last two seasons or so, Lampard’s employers have been adroitly aware of his depreciating fitness and utilised his talents more efficiently whereas Rodgers has continued to flog a dying horse in Gerrard.
He has started every Premier League game this season and all but one of their Champions League ties. In the majority of these games, he normally plays alongside one other midfielder. Frankly, at his age, that is just not enough and continues to leave him painfully exposed.
In fact, it wasn’t enough last season, either, and the goals against column shows it. The simple fact of the matter is that Sturridge and Suarez’s goals bailed Liverpool out of so many games last season and their absence is now exposing every one of Gerrard’s 34 years as a ‘defensive’ midfielder.
Is it time to put the Anfield legend out to pasture? Absolutely not. There is plenty of life in Steven Gerrard yet but Rodgers must come to the realisation, sooner rather than later, that he should not be the fulcrum of this side and that his place should no longer be guaranteed.
Like Lampard and Paul Scholes before him, Rodgers must find a way to optimise his strengths and minimise his weaknesses.
Whether that means playing three central midfielders and sacrificing a forward to accommodate his captain or rotating him with younger, fresher legs, who knows, but it will be the question that defines Rodgers’ immediate Liverpool career and will ultimately decide Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool legacy.