Liverpool: What does life after Steven Gerrard hold?
On the 2nd January 2015 Liverpool fans across the country and the globe sunk. Liverpool cult hero, Steven Gerrard, announced he would be leaving the club in the coming summer. The boyhood Liverpool fan who had, at times, carried the weight of the city on his back was heading to The States. Following in the footsteps of former England teammate and global superstar David Beckham, Gerrard signed a deal with LA Galaxy. To say Gerrard’s exit left a hole in Brendan Rodger’s Liverpool side, would be somewhat of an understatement. However has the gap presented Brendan Rodgers with a chance to reinvent his side?
Firstly the move left Liverpool without a captain. The man to step up and succeed Gerrard was Jordan Henderson. During his vice captaincy season of 2014/15 Henderson saw the armband more than he would’ve thought as Gerrard had a stop start season through injury along with, what seemed to be, a phasing out strategy by Rodgers all of which resulted in depleted minutes on the pitch for Gerrard. Could this be the reason we saw Henderson come to life? In doing so he doubled his assist total on the previous season and added a few more goals to his game. Henderson has seemed to become the player Liverpool were expecting. He was a shining light, in what was a very average season for the reds, which was identified by manager Brendan Rodgers a few times in the media. Hailing him as a “Real leader” following an impressive strike in a 2-0 triumph against Burnley, where Henderson captained the red half of Merseyside. Having won over many critics in the past seasons Henderson also broke into, and has effectively cemented his England place after being put on stand-by for Euro 2012. In no uncertain terms it has been a meteoric rise for Henderson from being offered in a trade for Clint Dempsey to now captaining the 5 time European champions. So with Gerrard now gone, does this allow Henderson to become another Liverpool great and continue to make massive strides of improvement whilst gaining more and more responsibility? All the evidence seems to suggest the more responsibility Henderson has been given, the better player he has gone on to become, but can that continue into a Gerrard-less 2015/2016 campaign for Liverpool? Time will tell.
Not only did Gerrard’s departure leave a hole in terms of leadership, but a replacement was needed to play alongside Liverpool’s new captain. James Milner was brought in as one of many Liverpool summer signings, on a free. In a market where English players truly come at a premium, he was already a steal, but is he an upgrade? The singing now means that Liverpool have two work horses for central midfielders, both of which are England internationals. This bodes well with the high intensity pressing game that Rodgers demands from his players. It is also worth considering whether at this moment in time, is Milner a better footballer than Steven Gerrard. The man is a footballing legend, and will go down in history for just that, but he is no longer the world class, at times world beating midfielder he once undoubtedly was. However in the summer of 2015 is James Milner a better player to have in your team? Along with Milner’s knowledge of a winning season, everything suggests the signing will heavily aid Liverpool in what could potentially be a successful season for the reds.
Gerrard’s kop exit also gives Emre Can the chance of proving himself in his preferred position. The Turkish born German came to Liverpool last summer but found himself being deployed in the right of a back 3 rather than in the centre of midfield. Without Gerrard who was always around the starting XI and if not, was Rodgers’ go-to-man. However now Can could see himself in his preferred role more often than not. Also on the back of an U21 tournament which saw him widely praised by media and managers, it will come to no surprise if we see him in the heart of the Liverpool midfielder more often than not. Can who was recently praised by senior manager Joachim Low as he was quoted as saying “He’s a very interesting player. Technically strong, versatile, shows good body language.” Followed by “He has a good, all-round game.” All fingers point in the same direction when it comes to Can, a great talent, with a big future. Which most definitely helps towards the long-term replacement of Gerrard.
Gerrard is a legend, not only in Liverpool, not only in England, but across the world. The qualities he possesses as a footballer are incredible, but his instinctive quality to lead will be what Liverpool miss most. Gerrard was a beacon of hope for Liverpool fans, and a role model for those learning the game. His loyalty to Liverpool is unrivaled. In a modern game whereby loyalty is a dying cause, Gerrard is and always will be a legend, a label that is too frequently used in today’s game and as such, Steven Gerrard can never and will never be replaced by Liverpool Football Club. He is truly one of a kind.
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