Even if he is the oldest player on the team, soon to turn 34, Steven Gerrard continues to be irreplaceable for Liverpool, switching roles over the years but remaining just as important, only in a different way than in the past, to the prospect of success that has eluded the club for quite some time.
Even if Luis Suarez is the best player on the team; even if Daniel Agger, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet set the tone on defense; even with the rejuvenating Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, Gerrard remains in the center of midfield as the man who the team depend on the most.
Consistency wasn’t a part of Liverpool’s vocabulary last season, as the losses to West Brom and Aston Villa at home, just when things seemed to be looking up, can attest to. European qualification wasn’t too far from reach, but not being able to win matches that should have been bagged & tagged turned out to be too much for the strong finish to make up for.
But Gerrard didn’t miss a minute before all hope was lost and Rodgers decided it’s time to send him off to have another surgery. No longer an attacking influence as in the past – Suarez is the one who pretty much dictates how well Liverpool do on a certain day in terms of scoring, Gerrard still enjoyed his highest scoring production in four seasons with 9 league goals.
The early three wins this season were an example of his current role with the team. Age does have its effect, so Gerrard doesn’t scorch the field from top to bottom as before. He supports the attack, but sits behind Coutinho, Iago Aspas and Jordan Henderson. His role is to provide assistance from behind, but mostly help Lucas hold down the midfield.
While Agger and Kolo Toure seem to be turning out as a solid centre back duo, while Simon Mignolet is turning out to be the signing of the season, the defensive midfield is often the most important factor to a team’s success on defense.
Lucas is a solid player, but with a very limited ceiling, and some very clear flaws. His passing is always simply and usually bad when under pressure. He has a tendency to foul near the box at terrible timing, and in general, can’t do this job on his own. Steven Gerrard is here not only to help, but take over.
The win over Manchester United was a perfect example of how he can take away the pressure off of Lucas and the defense. Calm and still strong enough to win most physical battles, Gerrard is the key to a lack of panic, as the flanks on the defense could be better, especially on the Glen Johnson side of things.
Maybe Liverpool should have outgrown this phase of relying on Gerrard, but it’s no use speculating. The situation at the moment means they can’t do it without him defensively and to a certain extent on offense. For one more year at least, it seems like one of the greatest players in club history can go on carrying the load of expectations.