Why Steven Gerrard Is the Biggest Issue Brendan Rodgers Faces at Liverpool
He is the second-greatest player in the history of Liverpool Football Club behind Kenny Dalglish. In fact, some might argue Gerrard is the better of the two.
The club has long been criticized for an over-reliance on Gerrard.
As some have written before, Gerrard has been the physical embodiment of Roy Race from the Roy of the Rovers comic strip. The 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup finals were the two greatest examples of Captain Fantastic metaphorically putting the entire team on his back and carrying it to victory.
Jamie Carragher said in his autobiography that upon Rafa Benitez's arrival in 2004, the manager had a talk with a few of the club's key players. One of the first things said was that Gerrard was a good player, but he ran around too much.
Carragher said that Gerrard looked absolutely devastated because his ability to run around the entire pitch was something he really cherished.
Benitez was making the point that those runs would throw off the team's tactics as other players would have to move to compensate for Gerrard.
In his prime, Gerrard was able to make lung-bursting runs while still having a positive impact. Now at 32 years old, he lacks the ability to save the Reds as much as he once did.
In addition, he isn't the kind of player like Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes who will continue to play great at an advanced age. Gerrard doesn't have the ball skills of either player.
Jonathan Wilson wrote a very good article in The Guardian in April which discussed whether or not playing Gerrard was still good for Liverpool. Wilson doesn't come to a definitive conclusion, but the stats brought up in the article didn't favor Gerrard.
Liverpool needs to cease to be a club that revolves around Gerrard.
The hiring of Brendan Rodgers represents the beginning of a long-term project at Liverpool. Realistically, any long-term plans should not involve Steven Gerrard. And if that's the case, it would make sense to start moving in a younger direction.
The more Gerrard is a focal point of the midfield, the less opportunity it gives Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson to hit their respective footballing peaks.
A central midfield three of Shelvey, Henderson and Lucas makes a lot of sense.
Lucas is the holding midfielder in front of the back four. Henderson could play the box-to-box midfield role, and Shelvey would act as the playmaker/attacking midfielder.
Henderson was one of the most maligned players last year, but playing with Gerrard did him no favors. Wilson found the statistic that in matches Gerrard played, Henderson's tackle success rate was 63.64 percent. Without Gerrard in the lineup, the figure was up to 92.59 percent.
This would also give Henderson some tactical consistency as well. Last year under Kenny Dalglish, he looked to be lined up in a different position from week to week.
Moving away from established players is a very delicate process, as was seen with Chelsea this year. Andre Villas-Boas tried to build a new Chelsea without the likes of Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard, to no success.
Of course, Chelsea went on to win the Champions League.
The difference between Liverpool and Chelsea is that without significant moves in the transfer window, the Reds lack the overall talent to win much in 2012-13.
Liverpool finished eighth in the Premier League last year, 37 points off winners Manchester City. Chelsea had managed to finish second, only nine points off Manchester United before Villas-Boas deemed it was time to move on from the old guard.
Now would be the perfect time to begin building for the future.
This is not to say that Gerrard should simply be cast aside. Gerrard is a great competitor, so it would be unrealistic that he would simply be content to watch from the bench every week.
Instead, the club should begin shifting the focus of the squad and reign him in from running around the pitch.
Gerrard would, however, be advised to look at fellow Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher. It is apparent that Carra's best years are far behind him, and Liverpool have solidified their back four with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger in the center. Carragher has offered few, if any, complaints.
This was made much easier, though, as it was very clear how much of a liability Carragher could be at the back at times.
It's a very difficult process for Rodgers, no doubt. However, the way he handles it may dictate how successful the next few years are for Liverpool.
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