Steven Gerrard’s absence – Opportunies in disguise?

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So, finally after what amounts to over a week or so of speculation, one of this seasons worst kept secrets has been confirmed with the announcement that Steven Gerrard’s body has yet again succumbed to the strains and stresses encountered by a modern day footballer.

Confirmation of the players impending absence came in the form of a club announcement late this Friday afternoon. A Liverpool statement informing us that our No. 8 had already undergone surgery in a bid to relieve the latest in a line of increasingly troublesome and seemingly reoccurring groin injuries. A consequence of the surgery being that the captain will be absent from the Liverpool squad, let alone the starting XI for what is anticipated to be period of approximately 4-weeks.

Certainly not great news, but whilst many will view the prospect of a Steven Gerrard absence with severe trepidation; the thought of the side turning out minus the captain will certainly send shudders down the spine of many. I personally think it might prove better to view the situation with a more positive outlook. A positive outlook derived not, I might add (as some people might think), because I have any kind of deep seated hatred or even a remote dislike for Mr Gerrard!

There are two main reasons why I would choose to view the captains lay off with a glass half full approach.

It’s been obvious to some, that the captain hasn’t quite performed to his previously high standards, and to what degree I’m not going to debate here, but it’s been equally obvious to many other observers that the likely cause for any perceived dip is likely a culmination of varying factors; the main reasons suggested being a combination of age, injury, previous over exertions and a lack of any real break for the captain.

This I feel is where an enforced layoff could ultimately prove beneficial to both player and club.

Losing any player for a protracted period of time is never ideal, let alone a ‘talisman’ but the enforced absence and opportunity to recuperate and refresh his body may ultimately see Steven Gerrard and LFC reaping the benefit in the final weeks of the league programme.

There are sure to be people already shaking their heads at the very thought but let me try and explain and maybe give an example of how my warped mind is thinking. Take our only other resident local hero for example, during the opening months of this season Carra’s performances and relative poor form was openly questioned. Like so many he had at times looked a pale imitation of the player witnessed in previous seasons, albeit at a time when every defender at the club was probably as equally culpable. This all changed, Jamie’s season was brought to an abrupt halt following the 2-1 league defeat at Tottenham, a game in which he suffered the painful recurrence of a dislocated shoulder. The injury not only ensured that Carragher would be away from the squad for neigh on 2-months but that he had also unwittingly played his last Liverpool game under Roy Hodgsons stewardship.

Carra finally returned to an improving side under an all new management team but facing a Chelsea side complemented with the added attacking menace of a former team-mate. Not a game for the faint hearted, but despite the rightful concerns of some he managed to make an impressive return and to the joy of every red made a mockery of any earlier poor form by putting in a sterling performance. A performance more fitting of the player himself, and a performance best epitomised by the image of Carragher straining to block an early Fernando Torres effort, a block which in turn helped set the side towards a hard fought and equally well deserved 3-points at Stamford Bridge. And it’s not a case of this game being a one-off, performances since his return have managed to stay at a higher level. Whilst an element of the improved defensive displays is no doubt down to the impact of Steve Clark, it’s clear that physically, the enforced layoff has had a beneficial impact on his body

Jamie Carragher himself saying…

“You have to look at the positives of an injury in that it gives you a rest and takes you out of the firing line,” Carragher told Press Association Sport.

“Maybe you can look back and say ‘It’s done me good.”

“Maybe the rest will prove between now and the end of the season that it has helped me.”

When you look at it from this perspective and then apply the same reasoning towards our captain then surely a break from action and what will amount to effectively a 4-week rest for his body can ultimately only be good for the player, and a fully rested and rejuvenated Steven Gerrard for the run-in can only be good for Liverpool Football Club?

In addition to the rest and recuperation afforded to the captain, any layoff may also allow the opportunity for other squad members to show they are worthy of inclusion. Joe Cole to date has been a massive disappointment in a Liverpool Shirt and his display on the left against Braga pretty much summed up how his career in a red shirt is going. His sending off against Arsenal and subsequent injury niggles interspersed with some (what can best be described as awful) cameos certainly hasn’t helped, but maybe the omission of Steven Gerrard will help to change this.

Raul Meireles has performed wonderfully well of late in an advanced role, but given Stevies absence from midfield, Dalglish may be forced to pull the Portuguese star deeper to play in the central midfield role occupied so many times before internationally and at former club Porto. Raul playing deeper will naturally free space in the side for Joe Cole’s inclusion playing in his more naturally suited ‘in the hole’ role? This could of course prove to be a double edged sword for Joe, after all if he can’t do a job in his favoured position then you’ve got to imagine his days at Liverpool will be well and truly numbered, because a left winger he’s not.

Of course Joe Cole isn’t the only player who might benefit from any resultant changes to the team set up. Several of our fringe players including Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing, Dani Pacheco and David Ngog could find themselves seeing increased game time, dependant of course on how Kenny might want to set the side out. Though it must be said, it is highly doubtful that a midfield containing Poulsen and/or Spearing will ever set the world alight, or likely create enough of a spark to start a small camp fire for that matter.

One player unfortunate to be deprived of an opportunity to step in and show his worth, and given the alternative midfield options available it must be considered a huge disappointment, is Jonjo Shelvey.

In an ideal world we’d manage to have everyone in the squad fit and firing on all cylinders but it’s not often a club will have that luxury. One thing’s for certain, the loss of a player, any player whoever they are can easily be seen as a negative but let’s hope in this case it doesn’t prove to be. Back in an ideal world, I’m hoping that Steven Gerrard returns fit and rested and raring to go, and maybe in the meantime the peripheral members of the squad or those considered the nearly men might step up to the plate?

It won’t be clear for a while yet but I for one am keeping my fingers crossed that if circumstances can play out how we hope and with a sprinkling of luck Gerrard’s absence may prove beneficial all around.

Here’s hoping that the seasons end will let us view the captain’s layoff as providing not just one, but maybe two opportunities in disguise.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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