Steven Gerrard: 10 Possible Replacements for Injured Liverpool Captain
The latest injury to Steven Gerrard is not expected to keep the Liverpool star sidelined for very long, but it nonetheless continues a disturbing pattern of niggling injuries which have plagued the Reds star over the course of the past several seasons.
Before one can address any potential replacements, one must first decide exactly what is meant by the term “replacement.” Does it mean replacing him from within the team? Replacement via the transfer market? And then replace what... his play-making ability, or just his presence in the lineup?
Perhaps we ought to take all of the above into consideration and that being said, here are 10 possible replacements for Liverpool’s injured captain.
10. Maxi Rodriguez
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Beginning with current squad players, Maxi would more be along the “lineup” replacement for Gerrard rather than a substantive replacement, since he lacks Gerrard’s will, tenacity, vision, passing and leadership qualities. This is not a knock against the Argentine… okay, so it is.
The point really isn’t to bash Maxi, few would have thought that his high-profile move from Atletico Madrid would have resulted in more fizzle than sizzle, but such is the present reality as the scorer of the goal voted the best of World Cup 2006 finds himself a squad player at Anfield.
He’s a technically gifted player as the aforementioned goal attests and a proven goal scorer as evidenced by hitting 10 goals in 24 appearances for Liverpool last season. This is a bit of fool’s gold, however, as seven of those goals came during a flurry at the end of the season.
While he’s capable of playing on either wing—or even as an attacking midfielder—Rodriguez lacks the vision and ambidexterity of Gerrard, indeed one might be tempted to think that his right leg is useful only for keeping him upright, and overall would prove a poor replacement.
9. Jordan Henderson
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Four strikes in 71 games for Sunderland should have been all the warning Liverpool needed to let them know that Henderson was not a goal scorer. However, the young England international was fourth in the Premier League last season with 82 goal-scoring opportunities created for teammates.
Understandable, then, that Liverpool allowed themselves to be sold bill of goods when they paid £16 million to Sunderland to secure the services of the midfielder.
It's even more understandable given that they weren’t the only ones in hot pursuit of him, and one can rest reasonably assured that Sir Alex Ferguson is much more content with his own young midfielder, Tom Cleverly, at present.
Regardless, Henderson has potential. At 21 years of age, though, the “potential” label may soon start weighing more like an albatross around his neck, than as a sign of promises to come. He can round out the squad or go on loan for grooming, but on present form he is not a suitable replacement for Gerrard.
8. Charlie Adam
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Adam has enjoyed a rather indifferent start to his Liverpool career after a stellar Premier League debut with Blackpool last season. The former Rangers star impressed with 12 goals in 35 appearances with the Tangerines during their lone stay in the top flight.
This season, however, he has fallen back to earth with a heavy thud with just two goals and two assists in 11 games. Equally worrying is his penchant for ill-timed challenges, as evidenced by his two yellows and one red card.
Criticize his inclusion on this list if you will, but let’s not pretend as though Dalglish isn’t infatuated (or is it something more sinister at play… did someone say “blackmail pics”?) by his fellow Scot.
Here’s to hoping that he gets over his obsession with Adam; aside from having already auditioned for the job at the start of the season and found wanting, he remains a possible replacement from within, but clearly he’s far from being a suitable, let alone ideal replacement.
7. Jonjo Shelvey
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Shelvey is a very intriguing option. His youth and overall inexperience are his biggest liabilities on the Premiership level, as is his lack of pace. However, he possesses excellent vision and passing range and is proving himself a goal scorer too, given the freedom and opportunity to play his game on loan with Blackpool.
After failing to make a note in just over 18 months as a bench player at Liverpool, the England youth player is blossoming on the seaside with five goals and two assists in just seven matches. He admits to modeling his game after Gerrard's:
“'I've mirrored my game on Steven Gerrard—I love him to bits, everything about him, from the way he walks to the way he plays. I want to have played with him and against him by the time I've finished my career. That's my dream.”
His ambition therefore is on point but, sad to say that at this juncture of his career, his game is not. However, he is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.
6. Shinji Kagawa
The first of the transfer targets and a rising star in the Bundesliga, Kagawa is the first name outside of the current club that Dalglish and Comolli ought to pursue. Granted, he’s only played but one season in Germany, but he scored 10 goals in 23 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund.
Already this season he has three goals and three assists in 10 games, better than both Adam and Henderson combined. Yes, I recognize that the Bundesliga is not quite the Premier League; however, Kagawa has adapted quite well to the pace and rigor of the German league.
His speed and athleticism are qualities that would similarly serve him well in England, and he would seem a natural fit alongside Suarez. It's not quite a position for position swap for Gerrard, but an able replacement among the ranks.
5. Alberto Aquilani
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Yes, we know some of you are weary of the Aquilani talk, but you’ll just have to deal with it as more and more it seems that Liverpool are missing out on what should have been a fantastic component to the team.
As outlined just before the transfer deadline, there were good “Reasons Not To Loan Aquilani," including the fact that he was a much better passer than the other midfield options at the time. He is a good passer, with excellent vision and technique, and a dangerous shooter from distance.
His slick passing favors both Kenny Dalglish’s preferred “pass and move” philosophy, as well as the short passing European game, a flexibility of style which could assist in Liverpool securing its natural place in the Top Four and in European football.
Through nine games this season he has only one goal but five assists, long the strength of his game. His preferred position is the same attacking mid preferred by Gerrard and the source of some of the discord with Dalglish, but with Gerrard potentially on the decline, Aquilani may be among the more suitable (if unlikely) candidates to replace him.
4. Gaston Ramirez
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With his stellar play for Bologna in Serie A, the 20-year-old became the latest Uruguayan player to catch the eye of the Liverpool brass. The young midfielder moved comfortably into the role of the No. 10 in his first season in Serie A, moving straight from Penarol to the starting lineup for the Rossoblù.
He scored seven goals in 17 games for last season, and he already has three goals and three assists in seven appearances for the club this season. Reportedly, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have dispatched scouts to the Stadio Renato to keep close tabs on the young starlet, and should that indeed be the case, then the odds may not favor the Reds.
3. Mario Götze
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Reportedly being targeted by other top clubs, Götze stepped in for the injured Dortmund teammate, Kagawa, and made an immediate impact for the club. His play on the flank transformed the Dortmund attack as his pace and dexterity made life difficult for opposing defenders.
A naturally ambidextrous player, the young German is unafraid of picking up the ball deep and running at opposing defenses. Sound familiar? It should, because these are the very characteristics that endeared a young Steven Gerrard to Kopites everywhere.
Admittedly the longest of longshots to come over in January, Götze remains too intriguing a talent, and any list of transfer targets which fail to consider him would do a disservice to the conversation.
2. Eden Hazard
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Rumors have been swirling since the summer about Liverpool's pursuit of Hazard, and for good reason. Hazard has clearly outgrown Lille, and perhaps outgrown the French game itself as well. He has feuded with coach Rudi Garcia this season, and he can be pried away under the right circumstances.
The talk about Liverpool having right of first refusal in exchange for the services of Joe Cole is nonsense and would likely constitute an illegal restraint on the right to move about and work under European Union law, should any team, including Lille, hold him ransom at contract’s end.
That aside, however, his pace, close control with the ball at his feet and wizardry in the open field are dazzling to behold. This may be an even longer shot than Götze, but even if the faintest of hope exists, Liverpool fans will be generous in indulging the dream.
Perhaps the best player to replace Steven Gerrard however is…
1. Steven Gerrard
Call it a cheap stunt if you will… I don’t mind. At first I was about to list Xherdan Shaqiri, not necessarily as the "best” option but as yet another, but it is obvious that at this point there are few legitimate options for replacing the Liverpool captain.
Fans must therefore hope that at age 31 Gerrard still has a lot left in reserve, the odds notwithstanding. In his brief return, he showed a good ability to look for his opportunities to either shoot (revealing a great deal of rust in his game when he did) or to create for teammates.
Make no mistake about it however, Kenny Dalglish has made clear that he is not looking at a permanent replacement, and the Liverpool skipper is expected to soon rejoin his teammates in the squad. For better or worse, this seems the best possible circumstance for Liverpool
Which players would you consider were you in Dalglish and Comolli’s shoes?