If last season was somewhat of a Renaissance for Steven Gerrard, this year feels more like the beginning of a wake, as an illustrious career is reaching its final stop, with the Liverpool captain looking like a player who has had too many matches and too many surgeries weighing down on his legs, body and soul.
Gerrard didn’t miss a minute of football last season for the Reds, until their hopes of qualifying to a European competition went down the drain, and he left in order to have yet another surgeryon a body that’s seen a bit too many of them.
Despite missing out on Europe, Liverpool finished on somewhat of a high, losing only once in their final 12 matches, giving everyone a taste for more entering the new season, with the expectations from Brendan Rodgers’ team to play some brilliant football with Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and the back-from-suspension Luis Suarez.
Problems? Coutinho is injured, Iago Aspas is horrible so far, and Liverpool are simply playing dull, painful-to-watch football at times. Brendan Rodgers has made some awkward, too defensive tactical decisions this season, like his four centre-back lineup against Southampton, or playing without a third central midfielder, exiling Jordan Henderson to a defensive job on the wing that might be helpful on a tactical level, but obliterates any chance of dominating matches in the middle with long stretches of possession.
Obviously, not having Coutinho is hurting the team, and Rodgers likes playing with two strikers and another forward in Victor Moses, playing as something of an attacking midfielder last match, but clearly, six matches into the new season, something’s not working. Most of their wins haven’t come through actually playing better, and their 3-1 win over Sunderland shouldn’t be something to be too proud of considering how bad the Black Cats are at the moment. Luis Suarez is another concealing sign, as his ability to be in two places at once can make you forget a midfielder is missing.
Gerrard was suppose to partially make up for that hole in the middle, but his defensive assignments and rarity in strides forward (no goals, one assist so far this season) have been too obvious to ignore. Gerrard finished with 10 league goals last season, most of them coming in the second half of the season. In the first, just like this year, he was too busy playing next to a defensive midfielder and helping him out. But this year, he seems slower, more mistake-prone, and sometimes not even like someone cut out to be playing in the lineup.
Maybe it’s just the tactical placement that’s holding him back, and once he gets to play a bit more forward up the pitch, further away from Lucas, things will look better for him and for Liverpool. However, there’s a very good chance that it’s all about him simply not having the stamina, fitness and strength to provide both services, and as the Nine Inch Nails song painfully says, May be too late as far as I can tell; This is the beginning of the end.