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Many Liverpool supporters were shocked to see their captain Steven Gerrard announce that he would leave the club in July on the first day of 2015. Even though he has not won a single league title up till this day, he is undeniably one of two greatest players to put on the red shirt for Liverpool alongside Kenny Dalglish. Unlike Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard never had the chance to play in a team with 10 other world class players, in particular Alan Hansen, Ian Rush and Grame Souness. Steven Gerrard played with Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Xabi Alonso and a few more world class players in different stages of his Liverpool but they never came together at the same stage, which is arguably the reason why he has never won a league title. Nevertheless, he still managed to rest the entire burden on his shoulders, winning the Champions League and FA cup trophy arguably single-handedly in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Steven Gerrard is homegrown scouser. Just like many of the other Liverpool legends like Sammy Lee and Phil Thompson, he joined his hometown club when he was a child. He went through the ranks of Liverpool and became the captain of the club in 2003. Unlike other Liverpool players such as Michael Owen and Steve McManaman, he rejected transfer offers from other big teams to stay at his club. This time, however, he is going to leave.
It is undeniably one of the biggest mistakes for Liverpool to let him go. Steven Gerrard has so far scored nine goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season. In addition, he scored thirteen goals for Liverpool last season. His display against Wimbledon in the FA cup this year clearly showed that he could still win games for Liverpool or, in other words, Liverpool still need Steven Gerrard to save them. His performances this year, especially towards the start of the season, received a lot of criticism from the fans. However, it is very important to look at the formation of Liverpool this season in order to offer a fair judgment. Last year, Liverpool usually started with a 4-4-2 formation with four defenders at the back and Jordan Henderson in the middle. This formation allowed Gerrard to focus on play build up and gave him space to dispatch long passes. However, this year Liverpool usually start with a 3-5-2 formation with only three defenders in the back and Lucas being the only defensive midfielder, while Jordan Henderson usually plays on the right side of the pitch. This put a great deal of pressure on Steven Gerrard as he is not only less protected, but also has to take on a lot more defensive work. It is not fair to judge Gerrard’s performance by looking at his mistakes. Indeed, he was put in a wrong position which is one of three major reasons for Liverpool’s decline this season (the others being Daniel Sturridge’s injury and some signing mistakes).
It is unrealistic to ask Steven Gerrard to keep on playing the role he had ten years ago instead of finding a suitable position for him and therefore allowing him to use his strength and experience to help the team. His ability was once again shown in the game versus Stoke at home earlier this season when he was sent to the pitch in the later part of the second half of the game. He organized a majority of Liverpool’s attack and at the end Glen Johnson scored a winner.
Steven Gerrard is not only an experienced midfielder but also a natural born leader. He is the only home grown player in the starting XI left in the Liverpool squad; he in many people’s opinions represents Liverpool’s spirit. Back in the 2005 Champions League final, he set an example for his teammates by scoring the first goal in the dramatic comeback and won the first European Cup for Liverpool in 21 years. Steven Gerrard is arguably the only experienced player in the team after Jamie Carragher’s retirement. It is very difficult to imagine who is going to take on the responsibility to lead the team after Gerrard’s departure. A team without an experienced leader would hardly be successful especially in a difficult time.
Steven Gerrard departure would bring a new image to the team; it is difficult to judge the impact of it at this moment. For Premier League fans around the world, one of the best and most complete players is leaving the arena. Concurrently, for Liverpool supporters, it is undeniably sad news to see that the greatest player in the club’s history will not end his career as a one-club-man at his hometown, especially after he said that he would have signed the contract had Liverpool offered him in summer. Liverpool supporters have gone through ups and downs with Steven Gerrard; from the highs of witnessing the moments he saved the team and lifted trophies, to the lows of the departures of Owen, Alonso, Torres, Carragher and Suarez. But now, the greatest captain is walking to his curtain call at the end of the season. One day, he may return as a manager; return to the place he knows so well and win trophies for the club just as he did when he was a player.