Throughout the last couple of seasons I’ve heard grumblings from some Liverpool fans about the importance of Steven Gerrard, suggesting that it may be time for him to step aside and start some matches off the bench instead of being a midfield rock in the lineup. Well, with his hamstring injury keeping him out for at least a month, we’re going to find out very soon.
So what are the other options Brendan Rodgers has? He has started using a trio of Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard in the last couple of matches, while Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho play in a bit more forward positions, much closer to Luis Suarez.
It does mean quite a hit in terms of Rodgers’ ability to make rotations heading into the Christmas schedule, but it’ll be an opportunity for someone like Joe Allen to show that the money spent on him last summer wasn’t a complete waste, and he can become a new central figure for the club in the middle of the park. Lucas, who has lost his place in the lineup to the joy of many who still hold a grudge since his early days, will probably be the man to fill Gerrard’s lineup spot, moving Allen and Henderson a bit more forward.
That is if Rodgers keeps his lineup the same. He might opt for something different, like he does plenty of times. There is the formation that Liverpool haven’t used this season which involves playing like most teams in the world do right now – something of a 4-2-3-1. How? Using Allen and Henderson, or Henderson and Lucas (a creative disaster, at least in theory) as the two central / holding midfielders, while Coutinho, Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling, or possibly Luis Alberto and even Iago Aspas, play in front of them and behind Luis Suarez.
Rodgers is creative, sometimes a bit too much, trying formations that don’t suit his players and this team, resulting in some embarrassing performances, like the 1-0 loss at home to Southampton with his famous 4-centre back try, or the loss at Hull City which was Liverpool’s worst match this season.
But there’s more than just tactical importance to Gerrard. There’s the influence factor, which can’t be measured with anything empirical. Is Luis Suarez enough to make up for it? Does Coutinho and the others have what it takes? The position we’ll find Liverpool in once the December marathon is over we’ll be telling of not just how deep this squad is, but of the club’s future without its captain who has been around for the last 15 years.