Usually, I’ll be writing some heartbreaking eulogy about the greatest player I’ve seen play in the Liverpool shirt. Steven Gerrard is synonymous with Liverpool for the young generation. His heroics in all those great finals, in simple league games, in so many uncountable moments…he’s no doubt one of the greatest ever players to have worn the red of Liverpool F.C.
But I have great ambivalence about this. On the one hand, I really want to see him thrive in an attacking midfield position, or even as striker. Benitez was right in that Gerrard’s lack of positional discipline and his attacking nous means he should move further up the pitch as he grew older. Just look at how Totti is still so effective for Roma today, or Lampard for Man City.
Then there’s the argument that his game has always been about his physical abilities; his strength, his shooting, his ability to change the game with a magical moment. He’s not about arriving late in the box to score like Lampard, or a pure creator like Totti. He only has a passing resemblance to Alonso or Pirlo in the latter half of the 13/14 season; his lack of discipline, defensive nous and legs were totally exposed this season without our prolific front-line.
I’ve wanted him rotated more to preserve his abilities for the big games. I’ve advocated for his move up the pitch, which has shown flashes of effectiveness. I’ve wanted him out of that deep midfield role, because it was wasting his abilities, causing trouble for team balance, and just terrible to watch a great player becoming completely anonymous, or worse, becoming a burden for a team he’s been carrying for so many years.
I blame Rodgers for the mismanagement, but as news filtered out about Gerrard leaving Liverpool for L.A. Galaxy, I realised that given the circumstances, he was never going to stay. He’s playing plenty of games already, and it’s clear his performances are dipping. But just being dropped a few times to the bench has gotten him concerned about playing time, and that talk with Brendan Rodgers had to happen eventually.
Even if he got a new contract in the summer, contracts mean nothing in the world of football. All we would have gotten is a transfer fee, nothing more. He wants playing time, and he wants to win a league title he cannot get with Liverpool given this season’s dismal performances. He had to be managed, but he doesn’t want to be. He also made considerations for his family, and decided leaving Liverpool was the right thing.
In such circumstances, there’s nothing more to be said. All the talk about how we should have offered him a new contract earlier, should have made him feel wanted, should have kept him longer…it’s all nostalgia, especially on the back of the 4 goals he scored recently. We’ve often looked better without him in the team for quite a long time now, with greater balance from back to front, greater movement and slicker passing.
We needed to find his replacement long ago, to start phasing him out and to build a new team for the new era. We left things too late, and now we’re struggling to replace a man we should have known needed replacing years ago. But what’s done is done. It’s time for us to look to the future.
Goodbye, Stevie G. You’ll be missed.