With the football season now entering its business end, football fans, and those of Liverpool Football Club in particular, are having to live with the reality that these are the last few weeks that they will get to see their talismanic captain Steven Gerrard in the red of Anfield. Having agreed to join MLS side LA Galaxy, many feel that Gerrard’s departure will leave a hole in LFC’s midfield for seasons to come, and all eyes will be on Brendan Rodgers to see how he assembles his midfield going forward. While hefty financial efforts were dedicated towards acquiring the services of the likes of Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, and Emre Can during the off season, many have argued that neither of them is fully capable of leading the side in that ‘Stevie G role’. Can largely for the fact that he has been utilised in a more defensive role under Rodgers’ revised system, while Lallana has yet to see enough game time to show full value for his transfer. Markovic has only been used on a handful of occasion, so neither of these lads, if observation serves us at all, have earned enough of Rodgers’ trust to take on a central role at the club. The long term may prove to the contrary, but for the purposes of the immediate aftermath of Gerrard’s departure, Brendan Rodgers might have to dig deep into the transfer bucket, because looking at his current crop of players, one might find it hard to see how the manager could promote from within.
While Lucas Leiva is more likely to move to another club than he is to fill the Gerrard gap, and Joe Allen has yet to fully establish himself as a Liverpool player, the shortlist for the role of successor appears to be a truly short list. In a stunning turn of events, recent performances have suggested that Jordan Henderson could well emerge as a potential leader for Liverpool, much to the surprise of many within the football fraternity. Having had a somewhat shaky start to his time at Anfield, the former Sunderland man has shown in recent months that he too has the ability to add passing, shooting and even scoring to his overall midfield game. His displays of late have been so impressive that Brendan Rodgers has entrusted him with the captain’s armband in Gerrard’s ‘absence’. But for all his solid displays and his welcome potential to further evolve into a real leader, Henderson may fall a little bit short when called upon to produce that something special; that long range late winner or that ‘how did he do that?’ through ball or 40 yard diagonal that has been the difference between a draw and a win for the Reds under Gerrard’s captaincy. It still seems a foreign concept to some within the Reds supporters’ club, Jordan Henderson, captain of Liverpool Football Club, but it has come as a reward for how hard he has worked to develop his game, and can only be to the potential benefit of both the Reds and the England national team. It remains to be seen if Henderson’s role as commander in chief will survive the transfer window, but for now, it is he that seemingly has the best potential to be the solid, mature head in the dressing room, and indeed the middle of the park.
In the case of Coutinho, we have seen a nervous youngster who arrived in 2011 from Inter Milan develop into a mature number 10 with the ability to produce some breath-taking goals and glimpses of a passing genius. The young Brazilian’s trickery and genetic flair has been used to good effect in recent times, and has seen him establish himself as an impactful part of Liverpool’s attack. The down side of Coutinho’s game, however, has been consistency, a trait that has formed part of Stevie’s DNA for many of his playing years. Phillipe has the potential to turn games around, and to produce brilliance even during big games, as Manchester City can now confirm. But if he is to take on a more significant role at LFC, the number of games where he is an on-watching pedestrian will have to drop significantly. So then, with Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge representing the best of Liverpool’s attacking prowess, it may be that the midfield string puller role may be left to a combination of Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho, at least until the likes of Adam Lallana and Emre Can have been fully inducted into the Liverpool system. Alternatively, Brendan Rodgers could go searching for a ready-made replacement come the transfer period, but having seen the likes of Nuri Sahin and Alberto Acquilani come and go without much applause, Liverpool fans will be hoping that more thought will be put into central midfield recruitment this time around. The likes of Damien Delph of Aston Villa, who recently signed a contract extension, and Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan have popped up as corridor whispers in some circles, but only time and Liverpool’s transfer budget will tell who will eventually lead the Reds in midfield battle in the coming years.
The reason it may take an entire set of players to replace Steven Gerrard, the reason he even needs to be replaced at all, can be summed up in a quote by former manager Rafa Benitez:
“Liverpool FC is not just losing a great athlete, or a great footballer. The club is losing its red heartbeat…” The long standing captain has for many years been the epitome of passion and an advocate of everything the club stands for, and very few can deny his departure as a loss for the club. His passion and love for the club, coupled with his ability to lead by example, will surely make his boots a large pair to fill. The ‘miracle of Istanbul’ will always go down as one of the greatest case studies for leadership and captaincy, and with that thought in mind, we conclude with the last part of Benitez’ quote: “… Steve, remember, You Will Never Walk Alone.”
Name: Steven George Gerrard
Date of Birth: 30 May 1980 (35)
Place of Birth: Whiston, Merseyside, England
Total Appearances: 704
Total Goals: 183