What Role Will Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard Play over Coming Seasons?
There was a year left [on my contract] which was quite unusual—I think it was the first time I've got that far down into a contract. I'm glad it's all done and it's happened at the right time before the season, so I can just focus on playing as well as I can for the next two years.
As such, Gerrard, now aged 33, will be 35 at the end of the 2014-15 season, when his new contract is due to expire. That, of course, is the current age of the recently retired Jamie Carragher, and suspicions must be that Gerrard will choose around the same age to retire.
Much will depend on how Gerrard fares in that 14-15 season and how often he plays. So he could feasibly see another year or so, but this is likely to be Gerrard's last awarded contract when he is still an undisputed first-team player.
Gerrard's Role Last Season
A far cry from his old attacking midfield role playing just off the forward, 2012-13 saw Gerrard deployed in a much deeper role. His technical ability and understanding of movement saw him able to pick out passes from in great space.
Not the deepest of the midfielders, Gerrard operated ahead of a defensive midfielder—generally Lucas Leiva—and yet was responsible for forming a pair ahead of the back four off the ball.
Now that he's not as physical or as rapid in acceleration as he has been in previous years, the space afforded to Gerrard in the deeper role allowed him to bring his greatest attributes to the fore without needing to continually press and push forward as the main man in the final third.
He also showed a greater level of fitness than in previous years. Gerrard played in 36 matches in a row before missing the final two games of the season for surgery on his shoulder.
What to Expect in 13-14
At least to begin with, it should be more of exactly the same from the captain.
He will be aiming for a peak fitness level to be attained over preseason to allow him to feature as often as possible. With no European action to be squeezed in midweek, Liverpool will only play around 42 to 45 games this season, meaning Gerrard could well figure in most games, injury permitting.
Rest time between matches should allow him to be fit and ready for most league games.
His role will not change, and given the expectancy that he plays often, it could mean a season of struggle for Joe Allen in particular to get significant game time.
Gerrard will also be aiming for one more effort at the international level with the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil next summer. That will almost certainly be his final outing with England and as captain—if the nation goes on to qualify, of course.
Performance levels cannot be predicted, but there is little reason to suggest that Gerrard should suffer a dip, especially if he comes through this preseason unscathed and in good condition. The time for rest and recuperation between games this season will aid him in this regard.
Two Years Down the Line and the Future
After a full season and a World Cup in 2014, there could easily be a significant fall in both Gerrard's capacity for playing regularly and his ability to perform to a consistently high level as a mid-30s midfielder.
The assumption must be that Brendan Rodgers is looking to the 2014-15 season as the one where Gerrard might either be phased out or, within his particular position, outright replaced.
That doesn't necessarily mean he won't play as much—he could switch to an even deeper role in midfield or be used elsewhere by the manager.
No decision is likely to be taken on his future beyond 2015 until close to the end of that season, to see how he copes physically and technically at that point.
Liverpool will, of course, hope to be playing in the Champions League by this point and therefore be able to attract (and retain) significantly better players, so looking to who might be taking his place is almost guesswork. But within the current squad, Suso and Allen must be the contenders.
Gerrard has played 630 times for Liverpool, and his immediate targets over these next two years must be to reach the 700 mark, something he can do if he stays clear of injuries and retains a sufficiently high level of performance.
He'll hope to add another piece of silverware in that time as well as play in the Champions League one more time. But with the end of an era at the club fast drawing in, fans and Gerrard himself should savour every performance left of the legendary No. 8 in a Red shirt.
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