Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard announced his decision to leave the Merseyside club at the end of the current season to prolong his playing career in the MLS with La Galaxy. The former England international, 34, has been with the Reds his whole senior career, and as a result many are disappointed Liverpool didn’t do enough to keep him at the club. But does Brendan Rodgers’ side need him anymore?
The experienced captain has been a regular in the first-team this season, but Liverpool have still picked up seven points from the three games he failed to start in. The one game Gerrard was an unused substitute – against Swansea City on the 29th of December last year – the Reds put in their best Anfield performance of the campaign. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Rodgers’ philosophy is an aggressive attacking style with and without the ball. When his side have possession, he wants free-flowing football, utilising off-the-ball player runs to drag the opposition out of position for advancing forwards to fill.
When retrieving the ball, Rodgers likes a high-pressing style to ensure the opposing team cannot pass their way out of trouble. It means if Liverpool win the ball back higher up the pitch, they have little of the pitch to cover to create a chance, while catching any opponents threadbare at the back too.
It’s a style of play that just will not work with an ever-ageing Gerrard, regardless if he’s being utilised in a deeper role. The 34-year-old has great fitness levels, but he has to cover a lot of grass to be of full effect for Liverpool, something he just cannot do anymore.
If Gerrard is unable to cover the ground required of him in this high-pressing style, it means other players cannot follow suit to leave him isolated in the middle of the park. His service to Liverpool cannot be understated, but the current style asked by Rodgers has seen his time come to an end.
And that the ex-England captain is going straight to the MLS would suggest top level football may be beyond him too, as well as the obvious financial implications being a lure.
The rise of summer signing Emre Can is also a factor in Gerrard’s exit. The German U21 international, 20, is starting to show his true quality for the Reds in both midfield as well as defence. He could be a mainstay in the holding role, with his all-round game having impressed Rodgers, which in turn means Gerrard’s eventual summer departure won’t be a big loss now as it would have been years ago.