Jamie Carragher: A Season Too Far?

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2017

Liverpool's season has not got off to the start they had hoped for. There is no denying that.

With fans dreaming of finally ending that ever-growing wait for a league title after last season's impressive display, much was expected of Rafa Benitez's men.

But after three defeats in their opening eight league games, they face an uphill struggle to even be in contention for the title come early 2010.

Many explanations and excuses have been provided for why Liverpool aren't living up to the hype; from Benitez not being fit for the job, to the sale of Xabi Alonso, but one such suggested reason would have been unthinkable prior to the season's start.

Jamie Carragher is past it.

Many Liverpool players have been forced to face the criticism levied at them, from bit-part players like Ryan Babel and Lucas Leiva to the key men like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.

But before the season we all knew that Babel was too inconsistent. We knew that Lucas would struggle to fill Alonso's boots. We even knew that Gerrard and Torres could occasionally go missing in games.

But Jamie Carragher was always Mr. Consistent at the back. On the rare occasion Gerrard didn't step up to the plate, you could be sure Carragher would be there to help out defensively.

So far this season, however, Carragher has been one of Liverpool's worst performers at times. He has admitted such himself.

But is he really past it, or is he just going through a bad patch of form?

Carragher joined Liverpool's first team in 1996 and, as such, he is the longest-serving player currently at the club.

For much of his early career, he was used as a utility player, his versatility being his downfall in trying to tie down a regular starting spot, but this changed when Benitez took control.

Benitez put Carragher into centre-back, where he was a revelation. His performances on the road to Istanbul, and in Istanbul itself, were every bit as important as Steven Gerrard's.

Who could forget the last-ditch tackles and interceptions while his legs were ravaged by cramp?

At that point, there was no defender in the world I would rather have in my team.

Carragher was willing to die in that Liverpool shirt and, while he may not have been the most technically gifted footballer, he fast became one of Liverpool's most valuable.

And so he continued until, it would seem, this season.

Fans now see the man who has played almost 600 matches for Liverpool, including a club record 119 in Europe, as expendable. They suggest a centre-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger would be better suited for the team.

Now, I know there is no place for sentiment in football, but how could fans, particularly Liverpool fans who have adored him for so long, turn on him so quickly?

If you're not good enough, you shouldn't be playing, end of story. But Jamie Carragher is still good enough.

A few bad matches shouldn't mean a player who has given 13 years to the football club should be vilified.

Carragher has always been prone to the occasional mistake. This is an aspect of his game that has been greatly improved under Benitez, but no player can ever totally eradicate it.

He made a mistake against West Ham by conceding a sloppy penalty, and one against Chelsea when Didier Drogba got past him to set up Florent Malouda who made it 2-0.

As far as the latter is concerned, even the very best defenders in the world, a category under which an on-form Jamie Carragher could be placed under, would struggle with the pace, power, and trickery of Drogba in full flow.

No player should be exempt from criticism. Carragher has not been playing well this season, and he knows it. Gerrard has not been as good so far this season either.

To think about dropping either of them, however, is preposterous.

Carragher is still an integral part of the Liverpool team. I doubt anyone in red wants the team to win more than he does. He organises the defence and is every bit as influential as Gerrard.

Jamie Carragher is still among the most important players Liverpool have.

Expendable? Try indispensable.