With Steven Gerrard announcing his intention to leave Liverpool at the end of the season and head for pastures new – namely Los Angeles – there have been many fans who have stated that we will never see his like again and that Gerrard can never be replaced. Whether he is the finest footballer ever to grace Anfield is an argument for another day but the fact is that he will need to be replaced in some shape or form if Liverpool are to compete in the Premier League markets.
Gerrard has not only been talismanic to Liverpool, he has also been the leader of a side that at times has desperately needed one. After last season’s performance, this campaign has been a slight disappointment but there is a real chance of Champions League football again and there is a sense of optimism around Anfield that hasn’t been felt for many a season.
The wheels are already in motion as to the transformation of the side and Brendan Rodgers has already brought through players for the future. He has also taken the bold move to not rely on Gerrard – and Jordan Henderson has been the one to take over the captain’s armband. But can he replace Gerrard? And does he even need to?
Although Gerrard plays fairly deep these days, in his goal scoring prime he was playing more like Coutinho with defensive and tactical midfielders such as Alonso and Mascherano behind him. Henderson is more suited to that defensive midfielder role and can provide more than Gerrard did back then. Henderson is also much more suited to the nature of the game today. There are countless examples of sides utilising holding midfielders with attacking players just in front who are not just the old stereotypical out and out striker. Modern players have a much more flexible relationship with traditional positions and Henderson and Gerrard are very different types of player.
CAPTAIN AND LEADER
Then there is the question of whether Henderson can replace Gerrard as captain and leader. Tactically this is very easy to answer. Henderson is very aware of the team as a whole and also seems able to coax his teammates into performing at the required levels – and gee them up when needed. Some clubs choose captains for their star quality, such as Messi at Barcelona, but a true skipper leads his team – sometimes by shouting and screaming – but more effectively by respect and individual performance. Henderson seems to be able to elicit that response from the rest of the team.
One other aspect to this whole debate that has been in the public eye recently is whether, what could be called, a ‘cult of captain’ is needed at all. Do we need the talisman? Or do we just need someone to roll their sleeves up, lead the side and get on with the matter in hand. It is questionable whether there is a need for Henderson to boost his ego by being something he is not.
There will be some who won’t ever want to hear a bad word said about Steven Gerrard – and he is undoubtedly a club legend – but expecting a replacement to be anything other than his own man and just someone who fights for the Liverpool cause, is unfair on whoever that may be – Henderson in this case. It is too much pressure on a young player who has already shown that he can do a very good job when he i