Don’t call it a comeback, but it probably sort of was. Steven Gerrard missed only 18 minutes of football this season for Liverpool, but will have to miss out on the remaining couple of matches, which mean nothing anyway after missing all chance of making a European competition or finishing above Everton in the table, in what was his best season in five years.
Suddenly, just before his 33rd birthday, Gerrard found his fitness again, playing in more matches during one season than he’s ever played before for Liverpool, at least in the Premier League. He scored nine goal and added nine assists, his best production since that 2008-2009 season, when Liverpool came quite close to winning the league title, drawing too many times at home to allow their doubles over Chelsea and Manchester United.
Gerrard has been through the Liverpool decline of the past few years, has been a big part of it. His own fitness issues have swayed Liverpool from building around him, instead moving the focus to Luis Suarez, who has been a success and failure all at the same time, drawing the club into unnecessary ethical battles, better avoided on most days. Gerrard was never the issue in those, but his resurgence this season once Lucas returned seemed to be a vital part of the new enthusiasm the team seemed to be playing in, although it wasn’t enough for a team that won only twice in their first 10 matches.
And while Gerrard has been one of the more consistent performers in the Premier League this season, earning a place on some ‘team of the year‘ for some, it’s clear that there isn’t too much more he can endure. His ability influence the game is waning, along with his ability to score goals from outside the box, which we were reminded of a time or two this season. It’s not the power that’s gone, but his own balance and speed of shot that’s simply not the same.
A heroic season? Some would say, at least those who think anyone over 31-32 should stop playing for a club that considers itself among the top in England and in Europe, at least by name and prestige. Steven Gerrard simply played as someone as talented as him should be at this point of his career, despite all of the injuries to slow him down recently. The new fitness and health regime at Anfield certainly helped him “turn back the clock.”
Now a shoulder operation, and once again a hopeful summer of getting back the team to the place it belongs. Soon enough, the best thing for Liverpool will be not using Steven Gerrard in the lineup if it knows what’s best for them. For now, it doesn’t seem like Brendan Rodgers and the club are planning on pushing him out of the way. With this kind of ability, they shouldn’t be, not yet.