For so long, Steven Gerrard has been Liverpool Football Club. Some times, it felt like he was playing on his own against eleven other players. From the ‘Gerrard Final’ to the ‘Miracle in Istanbul’, Steven Gerrard has dragged and carried Liverpool across the finish line so many times. He will forever be remembered as the man that literally ‘Shook the Kop’.
|Steven Gerrard - Liverpool through and through|
Credit - Guardian
When Gerrard announced his departure from the Reds this January, there was a sense of worry and anxiety coming out from Anfield. Questions started being raised about who would replace the great captain. Even at 34 years of age and with a body in decline, Gerrard was still this season’s top scorer for quite a long time. The sheer reliance on Gerrard, even at this time, was there for all to see in the Champions League game against FC Basel. With a typical Gerrard free kick, he almost dragged a poor Liverpool side out of a hole even though he could not muster the energy to even run. There was no one in the Liverpool team that could even come close to the sheer aura that Gerrard posed.
However, ever since Gerrard called time on his Liverpool career, there has been a huge upturn in results and confidence. It could be argued that despite Gerrard’s match winning heroics, he was hurting the team in the long run. The general consensus was that Gerrard should have been used as an impact sub in the mould of Frank Lampard. However, Brendan Rodgers consistently employed him in the central midfield position where he was a passenger. Due to his physical condition, Gerrard could not utilize the all around game that had given him so much of success.
Liverpool have won all the games they have played this season without Gerrard. In fact, Liverpool have never lost a game with vice captain Jordan Henderson at the helm. In these games, the Reds have scored more goals (2.3 compared with 1.3) and conceded less (0.3 to 1.3) on an average. Additionally, Gerrard has on average been dribbled around at least once per game and averages only 1.8 tackles. To broaden the discussion, Liverpool have won 10 of their 12 games in all competitions without Gerrard. These stats give an idea that Gerrard has not displayed the match winning temperament enough to compensate for other flaws.
|Gerrard has struggled recently|
Credit - Anfield Online
Ever since Gerrard was left out of the team because of injury, we have seen players like Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho step up. They now have their own identity and character in this Liverpool side. It could be argued that they were hiding behind Gerrards’ shadow when he was playing. For example, there has been a considerable step up in Jordan Henderson’s shooting since Gerrard got injured from 1 to 3 shots per game. This has consequently allowed him to score vital goals against Manchester City and Burnley. The fact is that players in the team are scoring vital goals that matter, not consolation or inconsequential goals. Ironically, Henderson’s goal against Burnley mirrored a certain goal that shook the Kop 10 years ago.
While the Mario Balotelli incident created all the headlined for the wrong reason, there was one positive that could be taken out of the situation. Players are not shirking away from responsibility. The fact that there were two, if not three, players (if Daniel Sturridge was involved) wanting to win the game for the Reds can only be a good thing. In the past, the hope and pressure would all be on Gerrard to deliver the goods time and time again. Now, when the Liverpool faithful looks around Anfield, it sees players hungry for success and not scared to take on challenges.
The transformation of Phillipe Coutinho is the greatest example of players stepping up. Guilty so many times of overplaying the ball in the past, the Brazilian international has taken on the initiative in recent games. His goals against Southampton and Man City depict this. Last season, he would have gone for the easy side pass in those positions but he had the courage to shoot now and he was rewarded.
|Phillipe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson are proving their worth in Gerrard's absence|
Credit - Liverpool Echo
Even at the beginning of the season, there were genuine doubts about who apart from Gerrard could score for this Liverpool team. Coutinho, Henderson and Raheem Sterling were good players but never match winners. But, the greatest part of the Reds’ unbeaten run has been the players finally moving on past Gerrard. There are no more inhibitions and restraints on what this current crop of players can do. As Gerrards’ Liverpool career draws to a close, it is time to reminisce on what a great player Gerrard was and rest easy in the fact that his boots are in the midst of being filled. While there might not be a player like Gerrard again, new Kop heroes are being formed looking to put their own mark and continue the legacy of this great club.
Stats from WhoScored.com