How Liverpool Will Cope Without Steven Gerrard for Tough Premier League Run
The news that Steven Gerrard could be out for up to six weeks after suffering a hamstring injury during the second half of Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday will come as a major blow to the Reds.
The argument that he should be rested more often is becoming tired now, with Brendan Rodgers having started him in all 15 of Liverpool’s league games this season.
Playing his captain less often to preserve him for the future isn’t something Rodgers is considering just yet.
The 33-year-old isn’t showing any signs of his legs giving way either. He actually improved as the season went on.
Gerrard has an impressive Squawka performance score of 653 and an average pass accuracy record of 87 percent, and he has created 39 chances. These numbers almost exactly mirror his statistics from 15 games into last season, when he had an average pass accuracy record of 85 percent and had created 41 chances, according to Squawka.
In recent games, he has used his experience to remain level-headed in difficult circumstances when games haven't gone Liverpool's way, driving the team on to get results.
Against Everton last month, he had a hand in all three Liverpool goals with much improved crossing to previous seasons for the England international.
Nevertheless, despite the gaping hole that his injury brings, Liverpool are equipped in personnel to cover his absence, both in midfield responsibilities and leadership.
Lucas Leiva will no doubt come in as Gerrard’s direct replacement when Liverpool travel to Tottenham this Sunday for the first of a tricky end-of-year run of fixtures.
The Brazilian has suffered a drop in form since returning from a long-term injury last season, which have left many to speculate whether his Liverpool days are numbered.
Recently, he lost his place in midfield to Joe Allen. Gerrard’s injury will give him the chance to prove to Rodgers that he is still worthy of a first-team place.
The timing of Gerrard’s injury is not just a blow for the England midfielder but also for Allen, who was beginning to form the foundations of a good partnership with Gerrard in recent games.
Allen’s work rate, fetching and distributing balls all over the pitch allowed Gerrard a deeper, more comfortable role.
Gerrard no longer carried the playmaking responsibilities that the loss of form of Leiva forced him to attend to. With Allen accompanying him in central midfield, Gerrard had been making shorter passes to allow Allen to take the ball forward.
Allen has become the catalyst between defence and attack that Liverpool have craved so much this season.
When Gerrard hobbled off early in the second half against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday, the captain’s armband was handed to Glen Johnson, in the absence of vice-captain Daniel Agger.
The 29-year-old Johnson has a wealth of wisdom to draw on—and not just from his time at Liverpool.
It will be interesting to see, however, whether losing his captain provokes Rodgers into starting Agger, when available, in place of Mamadou Sakho, who squeezed his way back into the team against the Hammers.
Sakho has leadership qualities and experience, having been a young captain of Paris-Saint Germain until last year.
Johnson appears to have already taken on the role of leader, telling Sky Sports on Monday: "Any team without Stevie is going to miss him, clearly...We have got a good squad and hopefully that [Gerrard's injury] is not as bad as it looks."
There was a time when an injury to Gerrard would have struck fear into Liverpool fans.
The over-reliance on the one-club man is becoming less so these days though, with Rodgers having built a more well-rounded squad.
The sizzling form of Suarez couldn’t have come at a better time, with the focus on Liverpool shifted to the Uruguayan forward. He is creative, and as he proved with his individual four-goal rout of Norwich last week, he can make goal chances for himself.
That will prove key if Liverpool are to do without the average of 2.6 chances that Gerrard creates per game, according to Squawka.
There is more fluidity to Rodgers’ team than several Liverpool sides before his. He has built, and continues to build, a deeper squad with more versatility.
Beyond the aforementioned players, Liverpool have central midfield options in Jordan Henderson and the rising youngster Luis Alberto.
Although not direct like-for-like replacements for Gerrard, Henderson and Alberto can each replicate some of the more attacking and forward-thinking philosophies from Gerrard’s game.
Now comes the test for Liverpool. They have Tottenham away and Cardiff at home, followed by two post-Christmas trips to Manchester City and Chelsea before the end of the year.
They must do that without their captain and without Daniel Sturridge.
Rodgers though, seems to have prepared for such emergencies.