Steven Gerrard's Potential Injury Could Be a Blessing in Disguise for Liverpool

Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2013

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Whisper it quietly, but the news that Steven Gerrard could miss this weekend's match with Fulham could be a welcome development for both the player and the team.

The 33-year-old captain has been an ever-present for both club and country this season, starting every match he has appeared in, whether it be Premier League, League Cup, international friendly or World Cup qualifier.

That's 17 appearances in 13 weeks—a lot for a player younger than Gerrard, and certainly a lot for a player in the twilight of his career.

Last season, Gerrard played the full 90 minutes of every Premier League game until shoulder surgery forced him to miss the final two fixtures.

Understandably, Brendan Rodgers speaks highly of Liverpool's inspirational captain—which he undoubtedly is, especially of late, Gerrard's form and fitness have created a talking point among Liverpool supporters. The reliance on him for both club and country looks to have taken its toll.

This isn't to suggest that Gerrard should be "dropped", but a 33-year-old midfielder should be "managed" more effectively. He shouldn't be starting every single game, especially when he looks as laboured as he has of late.

The use of Gerrard in the two League Cup fixtures was a waste for some. Such games should be used to allow rest for Gerrard and as an opportunity for squad players.

Rodgers, perhaps fearing a backlash if he weren't to pick Gerrard, could learn from the way in which Alex Ferguson rotated Ryan Giggs from a similar situation, therefore prolonging Giggs' playing career and getting the most from his stalwart.


Arsenal Performance

As noted by the excellent Zonal Marking tactical blog, Gerrard was ineffective against Arsenal on Saturday:

Liverpool’s midfield zone seemed rather disorganised, with Gerrard and Lucas often bypassed too easily.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: A dejected Steven Gerrard of Liverpool looks to the big screen after they conceded a second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on November 2, 2013 in London, Engla
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Kristian Walsh wrote in The Telegraph that Gerrard's play suffered:

His 90 minutes against Arsenal was one of his worst in recent memory. His passing was erratic, while his movement off the ball was one-paced and lackadaisical. Mikel Arteta, a midfield of some class but not much dynamism, had plenty of space to operate, bursting forward while Gerrard shuffled behind. One such burst eventually lead to Arsenal’s opening goal.

At his age, Gerrard isn't able to press high up the pitch and still be able to recover quickly to counter dynamic midfielders as talented and mobile as Arsenal's, which Liam Tomkins of tweeted:

Can somebody tell Steven Gerrard this is not a testimonial match.

Rodgers though, does not seem willing to remove his captain, no matter the circumstances or how abundantly clear that Gerrard isn't playing well.

At The Emirates, Rodgers had a sub remaining and Joe Allen on the bench. Even with Gerrard having picked up a knock, the manager still didn't sub him.


Opportunity for Allen

Liverpool's lack of control in midfield this season has become a major talking point, with Lucas Leiva and Gerrard struggling to provide the dynamism required in the key area of the pitch.

This when a player whose main skill is keeping possession, who was signed for £15 million to do just that job, sits on the bench.

The potential injury to Gerrard could be just the opportunity that Rodgers needs to re-introduce Allen to the side.

A Liverpool side with Allen and Philippe Coutinho in midfield should provide the possession football that you would expect from Rodgers' side.

Regardless of injury, it could be argued that Rodgers would be better off resting his captain against Fulham at Anfield on Saturday.

There's yet another international break after this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures, with England playing two friendlies. Injury for Gerrard would also provide the opportunity for him to miss those and thus have a three-week break before the Merseyside Derby.

Liverpool have been over-reliant upon Gerrard for more than a decade, so now's the time for Rodgers to protect both his player and his team.