Steven Gerrard – Time to take off those glasses?

This article was counter-argued by another article on the site today – read Phil Mahon’s ‘Gerrard: Still Invaluable’.

Steven Gerrard, ‘heart of the side’, ‘Liverpool Football Clubs talisman’ and ‘captain marvel’. Or is he? Past glories and his historic achievements aside, can anyone really tell me when our captain last performed at a level anywhere close to his full ability?

Whisper it quietly, Steven Gerrard is not performing and has not truly performed for LFC for a while.

Blasphemous words no doubt and after that intro I can already feel the anger directed my way from the Stevie G Fan Club and anyone else who chooses to view the captain solely through rose-tinted spectacles. But, pause for a moment if you will, take a deep breath, count to 10 and take a small step back before looking at the Steven Gerrard of today compared to the Steven Gerrard of Liverpools ’08-’09 season. Now, maybe, just maybe things will start to get clearer and a bit of realism might kick in.

During the ’08-‘09 season, our captain actually did deliver. On what was pretty much a game by game basis, Gerrard performed at and around his peak level, scoring 24 goals across all competitions and providing 17 assists in the process. His goals and assists aside, this was a season that Gerrard led by example, a season where he would run, tackle, block and basically give every ounce of effort for the team time and again. A Consistent series of performances that resulted in him rightly receiving the seasons Football Writers Footballer of the Year. Performances that served to drag up those of team-mates and help build a team greater possibly than the sum of it’s parts.

There really is no doubt that at that moment in time and that particular point in his career, Steven Gerrard represented everything good about Liverpool Football Club. And maybe more importantly at that time he could rightly be considered as integral to the clubs on field fortunes. Back then to have imagined a Liverpool team without the captain would have been very worrying to say the least. The trouble is though, that this moment in time and this place in his career is now over some 18-months ago. And although statistics can be used to prove anything, it’s maybe interesting to note that goals scored last season amounted to a mere 12. Todays Steven Gerrard, that is the Steven Gerrard witnessed throughout the whole of last season and this, is a mere shadow by comparison.

Steven Gerrard Liverpool 2010/11 Ramires Chelsea Liverpool V Chelsea 07/11/10 The Premier League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

At his best, Gerrards greatest asset was his dynamism determination and ultimately his visible desire, a desire that has been noticeably lacking. Age plays it’s part on the abilities and impact of every player but given Gerrards lack of tactical discipline (most notably highlighted by his positional failings and lack of awareness in the build up to Man Citys opening goal) and the fact that age appears to have blunted his biggest asset would suggest that his days of being ‘Mr Liverpool’ are behind him.

It’s not always about the quality of performance, Gerrards style and attitude is what endeared him to his public and something that helped set him aside a great captain. His motivational ability wasn’t questioned; he merely led by example. If a pass was misplaced then you knew you would see him working back a second later to try and recover even if that meant a 60-yard chase. Unfortunately the example he sets now is terrible. Watch him now and at best you might catch him tracking back for 6-yards or so before letting someone else pick up.

It’s hard to pinpoint why his form has so dramatically deteriorated and why his performances have been so visibly lacking in effort. Is it a case that he’s begun to believe his own hype and as a by-product doesn’t give the extra effort that he once instinctively did or instead, is it a case of age catching up with him and a simple case of his body being unable to perform to the previous levels?

There will be those who will suggest that maybe it’s not Gerrard and instead the changes witnessed to the playing personnel at Anfield. After all, the loss of Xabi Alonso is regularly cited as a critical factor in Liverpools poor overall performances last year, but surely the absence of any other player should never cited as a viable excuse for the captain not at least appearing to put a full shift in?

Naturally a Liverpool side playing without the threat and understanding of Gerrard and Torres for much of the season would naturally underperform, but again, it’s not all about performance. Having a fit Torres alongside him or not, there is no reason why his efforts should have been anything other than 100%

It’s maybe important to remember that the pinnacle of consistency achieved in ’08-’09 was largely influenced by the understanding built up between Gerrard and a certain Spaniard and as I’m sure some will suggest that the continued absence of Torres from the side for large portions of last season will have had an adverse effect on our captains performances. This is no doubt true, but I believe only true in so much as his goals and assists count.

This brings us to this season, and whilst we can all appreciate how low players might have felt at times, especially given the tactical choices and changes to the side introduced by Roy Hodgson, however, I find it hard to believe that any of Roys numerous failings can be used to defend a lack of spirit on the pitch by any player let alone the clubs captain.

It was very noticeable that the camaraderie visible between Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres this season had diminished. Although completely understandable if you consider that he was already aware of the Spaniards declarations of his intent to leave (be it at the end of the season or not as it turned out), although again it’s not enough to merit as an excuse for the captains’ efforts or lack of.

Steven Gerrard Scores 2nd goal Liverpool 2010/11 Liverpool V Napoli (3-1) 04/11/10 UEFA Europa League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Whilst off-field turmoil involving everyone from directors, the fans, manager and hangers on can be cited in his defence, it’s worthwhile noting that so called lesser players in the squad have managed to knuckle down and though unable to offer the same quality that Gerrard possessed, have offered a work rate and effort that is unseen from the captain most weeks.

It seem that whether we like it or not Steven Gerrard has lost his way at Liverpool, gone are the days where he would drag the team along and where once he might have strained and fought for the side, over the past 18-months our captain has more often than not demonstrated an increasing capacity to watch play pass him by and increasingly to moan and sulk.

At his peak Gerrard was instrumental in everything good about LFC and his heroics in the clubs most recent glories, most noticeably in Istanbul and Cardiff will ensure that he should be remembered as a Liverpool great. However, in my opinion his dwindling drive and increasingly poor performances should mean his status as key player and captain should be seriously questioned and maybe his role at Liverpool revised, more realistically to that of a squad player or that of an impact substitute leaving a place in the starting XI for players who are younger, fresher and most notably demonstrably hungrier.

Maybe it could take something as simple as a shift away from his favoured centre position, it could be that a deployment to the right hand side of Liverpools midfield could just allow him the time and space to required to once again perform.

Likewise a shift to the right of a front 3 including the quality striking additions of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll could prove equally successful in terms of reinvigorating the captains seemingly diminishing contribution to the side.

Either way, be it from wide right in a midfield 4 or further forward as part of an attacking 3, being out of the cut and thrust of the centre, Gerrard may just find the opportunity to perform and in turn provide performances worthy of his inclusion in the side. Who knows?

There’s no doubt in terms of crossing ability, he’s more than capable of being the equal of Kuyt, however it remains to be seen if the captain would be able to deliver as well in terms of work rate, application and commitment?

Certainly by the end of this season we might have a clearer picture of Gerrards future or lack of one at LFC.

I’m sure that many supporters will disagree and choose to blindly support and defend Steven Gerrard but there’s one important thing they might care to remember, and a point that they really shouldn’t forget, it’s Liverpool Football Club not Gerrard Football Club. No player, no matter how great their past achievements should be afforded blind loyalty and maybe, just maybe it’s time to take of those glasses?

What do you think? Do you agree with Will? Or is it a case of ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’? Has Gerrard found a new role at Liverpool FC? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

Will is a season ticket holder at Anfield and started writing for This Is Anfield in 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @willspeedevans.
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  • Jonathanwynne

    Stevie went Just wide of the post twice on Sunday with two superb efforts. If they’d gone in you’d never have written this article. You’re the kind of fan that would have sold gerrard to Chelsea if he hadn’t scored in the cup final against west ham or against olympiakos. There is a lot more to his game, and football in general, than forty yard screamers. Players like SG make us all love football. Writers like you make me hate the modern football fan. Gerrard is still very important for us and can still do a job for us for four years to come.

  • Nils Jørgen

    I was thinking in the same lines last summer, that maby 30M would be bether than an unhappy SG. But lets not forget the wonders he an make. I believe that we have to keep him if he wants to stay, but as time rolls by he might turn out to be a squad-player.
    I believe that with a good summer, bringing inn a couple of stars and prospects he will see that LFC will put in a real challange for the title next summer he vil once again find his fightingspirit and lead the team by example.
    He is no longer in the bad company of Torres who looked more and more unhappy and spreding his unhappyness around him.
    But, I believe that Kenny should have an nice long talk with him this spring, and if he wants to stay and fight he does, if he wants to go he should go for a heigh prize.

    But, in my hart i hope he will remain a one-club player, and that he will become our next great manager!

  • Aljohaimi

    If a player who is considered as one of the club’s legends, won us countless number of games and saved our seasons number of times has a drop of form, you stick by him not trash and take a cheap shot at him. I don’t think that any one would buy the author’s claims.

    I’m absolutely disappointed with this peace

  • Beatitudes

    I totally agreed with the writer. Stevie G is either past his prime or simply disinterested.

  • McrRed

    Good article, Will.
    Gerrard, as you say, has always been an integral part of our success but whether age, injuries or all the other behind-the-scenes stuff (including his marriage) has blunted him is yet to be seen.

    He was woeful until the utd game. He’s picking up after injury. Let’s hope he continues to improve (bringing the rest of the players along with him). Then we’ll have our Captain Fantastic back.

  • Thescally

    fair comments

  • rawma

    very good article…. It surely appears that Stevie G’s form has not been at the top for the last 18 months or so ( Whatever the reason). But he is still important to the team… Lets hope that King Kenny can guide him back to his top level…

  • Aka

    Both that assists against Bolton, The assist against chelsea, The haatrick against Napoli, this is all THIS season, I could go on. None of our players have really played to their full potential, we are still in a transition period back. So you cannot compare him to the 08/09 season where we finished 2nd. You have no idea how the other players are mentally stronger when he is in the side. He gives the fans and teamates a huge boost

    I think it is quite unfair to expect him to win us every game, there are 10 other players on the field you know.

    Sorry mate, I am all for difference of opinions, but you went and on and on. There is only so much illogical bashing I can take towards Liverpool legend and my idol, Stevie

  • TM

    Wow, you must be prescient; just look how well the team played without Stevie last night.
    Enough said

  • Frankjackson1

    He will play a major role in returning LFC to glory. This has been a very mixed season for the club and he has injury problems also. Give any club in the world the chance of having Stevie in their team and they would grab it. Looking forward to him leading us to glory again.

  • Eric

    I think your talking bollocks Stevie is still the best player on the pitch by a country mile I tell you what mate we don,t half miss him when he,s not out there on the pitch for us , so I think you need to take a long hard look at the rubbish you wrote and then write out an apology to Stevie for the crap you wrote

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