Steven Gerrard has labelled the last three months—during which his Liverpool side fell agonisingly short of Premier League glory before he led England to a group-stage exit at the World Cup—as the worst of his life.
At the end of April, the Reds had the Premier League title in their hands after an extraordinary 11-match winning streak, but a 2-0 home loss to Chelsea handed the impetus back to eventual winners Manchester City.
It was in that match with Jose Mourinho's side that Gerrard's untimely slip allowed Demba Ba to run clear for the Blues' first goal.
Many have labelled the slip as the moment when Liverpool's grasp on their first English top-flight title since 1990 began to falter, and Gerrard calls it the beginning of a torrid three-month period for him personally, per David Maddock of the Daily Mirror:
I’ve probably been through the worst three months of my life. There’s nothing else to say is there? But if you ask how it’s affected me—it hasn’t. I have football to play in the future so you have to look forward, not back. Every time I speak to the media it’s going to be mentioned and that’s the only time I think about it, really. I appreciate how big it is when you go out of a World Cup, when you fall short, after going so close in the Premier League title race. I understand it’s going to be on the agenda every time I speak, and of course it is tough to take at the time but you have to move on in football.
I haven’t counted but I’ve seen it [the slip] a few times. I’ve been through the pain in the dressing room after and in the weeks and months after it. When something like that happens, you have to try to face it up. I’m man enough to take it on the chin and accept it. It’s happened and I can’t change it.
After the Premier League season, Gerrard captained England in the World Cup in Brazil where they were knocked out after two group-stage defeats to Italy and Uruguay, their worst tournament performance since 1958 per ESPN FC:
England are eliminated from the World Cup at the Group Stage for the first time since 1958.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 20, 2014
The 34-year-old subsequently retired from international football, citing prolonging his career with Liverpool as a key reason for his decision.
Indeed, with the Champions League to come for Liverpool for the first time since 2009, boss Brendan Rodgers will need his talismanic skipper to lead the way, especially after the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for £75 million.
Gerrard admits next season will be tough without the Uruguayan, but he believes the Reds can still compete on all fronts, per Maddock again in the Daily Mirror:
Of course it will be difficult, it would be difficult with Luis and it will be without. All the other teams will grow and improve in the summer. But the reason I have that belief and confidence is because of the experience of all the other games last year, and also the manager has been here for a bit longer, and because of the signings he is making. I’m pretty confident we can get right involved in it again.
Rodgers has been busy in the transfer market as he prepares for next season with the signings of Rickie Lambert, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi all confirmed.
However, there are those who doubt whether this selection of new recruits will be enough for Liverpool to challenge next season, per beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri:
Good point on Liverpool by @Sergio_Santome :110m€ were spent for Lallana,Markovic,Lovren,Emre Can,Origi,Lambert.Now,each one are good,but -1— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 29, 2014
...wouldn't have been better for Liverpool to spend those 110m€ for only 2-3 players but really decisive and that can make you win now?— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 29, 2014
What is certain is that, despite the new signings, Gerrard's prolonged performances are essential to Liverpool's prospects next season.
The skipper will be expected to sit at the base of the midfield and dictate possession, allowing the frightening speed of Sterling, Markovic and company to torment the opposition.
Gerrard is clearly full of motivation after recent disappointments, and a Premier League title next season would certainly provide redemption for a veteran of the English game.