Ranking the Best Seasons of Steven Gerrard's Liverpool Career

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Ranking the Best Seasons of Steven Gerrard's Liverpool Career

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    As there seemingly has been throughout his Liverpool career, there is an awful lot of talk about Steven Gerrard at the moment.

    The Reds captain's new, deeper midfield role has seemingly become a topic of national and international debate over the past few weeks, with opinions fluctuating as wilding as Gerrard's performance levels did in the draw with Aston Villa and then the hammering of Everton.

    Three goals in his last four Premier League games show that Gerrard can still have an influence on the Reds team no matter where he is played within it, and that has certainly been the case during what has now become 16 seasons of performing at the highest level.

    The England captain will turn 34 in May, shortly before he leads his country out to battle at the World Cup in Brazil.

    On Merseyside though, it is only his Liverpool performances that fans ever take notice of, with the last count standing at 654 appearances going into Saturday's match at home to Arsenal.

    Gerrard has scored 165 times for the club to sit seventh in their all-time list of goalscorers, just seven goals off the great Kenny Dalglish. But which have been his greatest seasons at the club?

    Here we count down the top five, starting with a campaign in which a great partnership was born.

5. 2007/08

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    Liverpool league position: 4th

    Trophies: None

    Gerrard games: 52

    Gerrard goals: 21

    The arrival of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007 added yet more attacking talent to a Liverpool side which had reached two of the previous three Champions League finals, and it didn't take Gerrard long to strike up an understanding with the Spaniard.

    After scoring a stunning late free-kick winner on Torres' Premier League debut at Aston Villa, Gerrard set up the forward for a goal on his Anfield bow against Chelsea a week later. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

    The pair scored 54 goals between them over a campaign in which Liverpool comfortably finished in the top four, but the efforts of the dynamic duo weren't enough to get past Chelsea in a topsy-turvy Champions League semi-final, which the Blues won 4-3 on aggregate.

    Although substituted by Rafael Benitez in a Merseyside derby for not "playing with his brain", Gerrard's personal highlights over the campaign included becoming the first Reds player in 18 years to score in seven consecutive matches, an FA Cup hat-trick against Luton Town and Champions League strikes on unforgettable Anfield nights against Inter Milan and Arsenal.

    He was voted into the PFA Team of the Year at the end of the season and, along with Torres, was nominated for the Player of the Year award, too.

4. 2000/01

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    Liverpool league position: 3rd

    Trophies: League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup

    Gerrard games: 50

    Gerrard goals: 10

    No-one was really prepared for the wild ride that Gerard Houllier was about to take Liverpool on in the 2000/01 season, and probably least of all the Reds' skinny 20-year-old right midfielder.

    Gerrard had emerged in the team in the previous two campaigns, initially as a right-back, but he slowly carved out a niche for himself further forward, playing in front of raiding right-back Markus Babbel.

    A couple of league goals in the first half of the campaign showcased his talent, before what became known as his trademark long-range strikes in Anfield matches against Arsenal, Southampton and most notably Manchester United, whose goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was left helpless with a stunning 30 yard drive into the top corner that was seen all around the world.

    Of course this was the season of knockout cup success for the Reds, and Gerrard started the League Cup final victory over Birmingham City in Cardiff to give him his first senior honour.

    Now a fixture in the side, he played a key role as the Reds went back to the Welsh capital for an FA Cup final that was stolen from Arsenal by Michael Owen, before Gerrard scored his first goal in a major final when he put the Reds 2-0 up after 16 minutes of the UEFA Cup final against Alaves in Dortmund.

    A crazy match ended 5-4 to Liverpool after extra time, with the season capped off by the Reds securing Champions League football on the final day with a 4-0 win at Charlton.

    At the end of the campaign, Gerrard was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

3. 2004/05

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    Liverpool league position: 5th

    Trophies: Champions League

    Gerrard games: 43

    Gerrard goals: 13

    When he looks back at his career this will undoubtedly be the season that Gerrard recalls most fondly, pretty much exclusively for its golden, scarcely believable ending.

    The arrival of Rafael Benitez meant that a new air was sweeping through Anfield, with Gerrard's two goals in a Champions League qualifier away in Graz securing advancement to the group stages of Europe's premier competition. How important they would be.

    League results were up and down for Benitez in the first season of his tenure, but what was undoubtedly a success was his decision to bring Xabi Alonso to the club in midfield, a move which allowed Gerrard to go forward and express himself.

    Needing three goals in the second half to beat Olympiakos and advance from the Champions League group stages, Reds substitutes Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Neil Mellor grabbed one apiece, before Mellor set up Gerrard for a stunning, spearing drive into the back of the Kop end net which had just seen yet another dose of late drama.

    A scarcely fathomable route to the Istanbul final had opened up, and Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea were all beaten to set up a showpiece with AC Milan.

    Having been overrun in the first half and 3-0 down, Gerrard―who scored in a Merseyside derby and struck one of the best goals of his career in a match against Middlesbrough in the league during this season―pulled a goal back at the start of the second half with a fine header. The rest is history.

    At the end of an exhausting night, the Liverpool captain lifted the Champions League trophy aloft; something that no-one would have thought he'd be doing at the start of the season, the start of 2005, the start of the night and certainly the start of the second half.

2. 2005/06

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    Liverpool league position: 3rd

    Trophies: FA Cup

    Gerrard games: 53

    Gerrard goals: 23

    If you end a season with an FA Cup final named after you, then you know it must have been a pretty good one.

    But before "The Gerrard Final", most of the talk was of Rafael Benitez's decision to move Gerrard over to the right of midfield to accommodate a a central pairing of Xabi Alonso and one of Dietmar Hamann and Mohamed Sissoko.

    Gerrard started the season scoring a hat-trick in a Champions League qualifier against Welsh side Total Network Solutions, and he was a regular scorer as he came in off his right flank into attacking positions to support forwards Peter Crouch, Fernando Morientes and Djibril Cisse.

    An early exit from the Champions League meant that Liverpool's main focus for glory now centred on the FA Cup, and they beat Manchester United, put seven goals past Birmingham City and saw off Chelsea in a semi-final to reach the Cardiff final against underdogs West Ham.

    An improved league season―which featured Gerrard scoring in a Merseyside derby win, being sent off in another and scoring a stunning goal against Aston Villa―was put to one side in the Welsh capital, but the Hammers stunned the Reds by going 2-0 up. Enter Gerrard.

    A pinpoint assist for Cisse was followed by a fierce strike to make it 2-2, and after West Ham thought they'd won it when future Red Paul Konchesky's cross floated into the net, Gerrard stepped up in stoppage time to score a stunning 30 yard drive which flew into the bottom corner and broke Hammers hearts.

    Gerrard also scored in the penalty shootout as the Reds clinched the Cup, a fitting reward to go alongside his PFA Players' Player of the Year prize.

1. 2008/09

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    Liverpool league position: 2nd

    Trophies: None

    Gerrard games: 44

    Gerrard goals: 24

    We're basing these rankings on personal performance though, and you could argue that Gerrard reached his peak in the 2008/09 Liverpool side which came close to finally ending the club's wait for a league title.

    His partnership with Fernando Torres having been established the previous season, Gerrard started the campaign with a typically dramatic last minute winner against Middlesbrough, before scoring his 100th Liverpool goal with a trademark free-kick in a Champions League match against PSV Eindhoven.

    Liverpool lost only one of their first 26 league matches of the season as they made their strongest tilt at a Premier League title charge of the post-1992 era, but frustrating draws at home to some lesser lights and injuries to Gerrard and Torres were holding them back.

    When fit though, the captain was in superb form.

    He scored twice on his 100th European appearance as Spanish giants Real Madrid were hammered 4-0 at Anfield, before scoring a penalty in a stunning 4-1 win at Old Trafford and then notching a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Aston Villa. It was a run of form which led to French legend Zinedine Zidane to place Gerrard amongst the very best players in the world, declaring that he might even be the best, as per The Guardian.

    A thrilling 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League quarter-final (without the injured Gerrard) couldn't prevent the Reds from exiting that competition, and despite pushing Manchester United all the way for the Premier League title they eventually had to settle for second place with 86 points and just two league losses all season.

    Gerrard, Liverpool's top scorer for the campaign with 24 goals, ultimately had to settle for the Football Writers' Player of the Year award, the PFA Fans' Player of the Year prize and a spot in FIFA's FIFPro World XI.