Remember that goal against Olympiakos, Istanbul, the 2006 FA Cup. The question was not if he’ll do something otherworldly but when.
The reality is that more than a decade separates Gerrard from his greatest achievements with Liverpool. His excellent Anfield hat-trick against Everton in 2012 is one of the more recent highlights but Liverpool still finished in eight place in the league that season, four points behind the Toffees.
Since then the Anfield idol has arguably been more of a hindrance than a help.
His slip against Chelsea last season was unfortunate. His inability to bounce back from his mistake in that game wasn’t. An earlier version of Gerrard would have taken the game by the scruff of the neck and forced those beside him to react. Sadly his store of magic had been severely depleted by a decade of having to constantly dig his team-mates out of holes. For all his rousing cries of “We go again”, he couldn’t. The well was running dry.
What was noticeable at times last season has been undeniable far too often this season.
Liverpool too frequently look a poorer side with their captain in it. Gerrard no longer possesses the legs to take part in Brendan Rodgers‘ high-tempo, pressure style of football. His inability to cover the ground like he once did creates gaps in the midfield and undermines the philosophy of a team playing as one cohesive unit.
The numbers back this point up:
- With Gerrard in the team this season Liverpool have a 38.9% win rate across all competitions.
- Without Gerrard in the team Liverpool have a 68.75% win rate.
That’s a significant difference.
In truth the fault lies largely with the manager. He’s the one who keeps putting Gerrard in the firing line. Brendan Rodgers must be seeing on the training pitch what we can see on match days and yet he too bought in to the delusion that the Gerrard of 2015 is just as good as the Gerrard of 2005. Or he has lacked the courage to bench a legend. Either of these scenarios should be a point of concern for Liverpool fans.
To argue in Rodgers’ favour perhaps he was giving his captain a chance to prove he could still cut it at the top. If anyone deserved that opportunity it’s Gerrard.
Sadly he can’t cut it anymore, at least not as a regular starter. And hubris was always going to make the relegation to an impact player a difficult reality to accept. If it had been possible then perhaps Liverpool would at least be in the Champions League places right now but that would have required Gerrard to be a very different kind of man. The kind of man who wouldn’t have had the dogged determination to drag his team back from the death against Olympiakos and AC Milan and….etc, etc.
Hopefully the move to MLS will breath some fresh life in to his ageing legs. It is conceivable that the impact of last season’s fatal slip, compounded by his irresponsible red card against Manchester United this season, took the heart out of the man. Installed self-doubt into a mind unused to such a concept. The harsh reality of throwing away his last chance of lifting a Premier League title with the only club he’s ever played for.
Should he have moved to Chelsea when he had the chance? Would Liverpool have won the title last season without him?
Questions we’ll never know the answer to. What we can say with greater certainty is that it’s time for him to leave. He himself needs a fresh start, freedom from the oppressive responsibility of being Steven Gerrard, Liverpool captain.
Liverpool will benefit from his departure too. His reputation has kept the likes of Jordan Henderson in the shade and forced the manager to make choices he’d rather not have made.