Steven Gerrard has been Liverpool’s best player for at least the last ten years. At his best he’s one of the best midfielders in the world. He can be inspirational (think back to how he turned the tide in the 2005 Champions League final), he can be creative, and he works extremely hard for the team and can score goals. He is local, so fans identify with him, a born and bred fan, and Liverpool through-and-through. Gerrard himself seems to be at a crossroads, to stay or to go? Personally I think he will go, to Real Madrid rather than an English club, and there are increasing rumours that if Jose Mourinho takes over Real, as seems likely, Real will move for Gerrard and the player is willing to go.
He’s come close to leaving in the past, in 2004 when Benitez took over the reins, Chelsea came in for him and he nearly went again the next season, when a misunderstanding about how much the club wanted him led him to almost move to Chelsea again, only an eleventh hour intervention kept him at the club.
Now if this actually happens, the reaction of many Liverpool fans will be one of fury. However, I think it is time that Liverpool sells Gerrard and I’ll try and explain why.
Lets talk money, if some of the rumours are to be believed, the figures quoted are about Î40m, not an insignificant amount of money by any means. Steven Gerrard turns 30 soon, and is still in his prime but probably only has three or four years left at the top. This summer is probably the last opportunity for Liverpool to sell Gerrard for a top market price that befits a marquee player as there aren’t many clubs willing to pay huge transfer fees for a player in his thirties. Liverpool probably won’t have much to spend this summer, and with upgrades required, the money generated from selling Gerrard will help build a new team. For the figures quoted, that money could bring in two elite players that will remain on top of their game for longer than Gerrard will remain on top of his. Also, if it is Real Madrid, surely we could get a top player in exchange. Gaining a Higuain or Van der Vaart would soften the blow of losing Gerrard.
The common opinion about Liverpool is that they are a two-man team, totally reliant on Torres and Gerrard. But is that really the case? Do Liverpool really suffer that badly without Gerrard?
This season Steven Gerrard played in 50 games for Liverpool. In those games Liverpool scored 77 goals, giving an average of 1.54 goals scored per game. In those games Liverpool conceded 49 goals, giving an average of 0.98 goals conceded per game. Liverpool’s record with Gerrard this season is W25 D9 L16, a win percentage of 50%
This season Steven Gerrard has missed 6 games for Liverpool. In those games Liverpool scored 7, meaning an average of 1.17. Liverpool conceded 5 in those games, meaning their average is 0.83. Their record without Gerrard is W2 D2 L2, a win percentage of 33%
Of course the games without Gerrard this season is far too small a sample size to make any real judgements about how the team performs without him, so lets go back a few years to get a more accurate picture)
Since the 2000/01 season, Steven Gerrard has missed a total of 85 games for Liverpool. Liverpool’s record without him is W50 D14 L21. In those games Liverpool have scored 141 goals (average of 1.66) and have conceded 73 (average 0.86). . (I’ve took some of those stats from http://www.liverpool-kop.com/2009/04/revealed-ultimate-proof-that-liverpool.html)
So Liverpool’s record without Gerrard is actually quite good. It’s only fair to compare the games he’s missed to the games he’s played. Here are the season-by-season stats for Liverpool when Steven Gerrard has played since 2000/01, the season where he really started to thrive in the first team..
2000/01 P 49 W28 D13 L8 F98 A49
2001/02 P 44 W25 D11 L8 F78 A40
2002/03 P 50 W28 D11 L11 F86 A50
2003/04 P 45 W19 D15 L11 F73 A49
2004/05 P 43 W19 D8 L16 F56 A43
2005/06 P 50 W32 D12 L6 F91 A38
2006/07 P 50 W28 D8 L14 F79 A45
2007/08 P 51 W28 D14 L9 F100 A45
2008/09 P 44 W30 D11 L3 F82 A26
The total games played are 476. The overall record in that time is W262 D112 L102. In those games Liverpool has scored 820 goals (an average of 1.72) and conceded 434 (an average of 0.91). With Gerrard, Liverpool’s win percentage is 55% and they did not lose 79% of their games.
Without Gerrard, Liverpool’s win percentage is 59% and they did not lose 75% of their games.
So, to be honest the team really doesn’t seem to suffer that much, in terms of results anyway, when Gerrard is absent. They score nearly as many goals as when he’s in the team and actually concede less. The win and loss percentages are comparable too.
Also, from watching the team, I think they play a different style of football without Gerrard. When Gerrard is in the team some players seem to favour a school playground-like tactic of give the ball to Gerrard and hope he can do something with it. Without Gerrard, the definitely seems to be more of a team ethic, with more players taking more responsibility for themselves.
Consider Gerrard’s body language this season. He looks entirely fed up with both team-mates whose failings around him have led to him having a fixed scowl on his face most of the season as yet another pass goes astray. He also looks fed up with Benitez, his look of bemusement when Fernando Torres was subbed at Birmingham this season spoke volumes. It looks obvious that Gerrard is not enjoying playing under the restrictive, negative, oppressive style that Benitez demands. He‘s sulked his way through some games this season and looks totally disenfranchised.
Also, it looks that he’s had enough of Benitez’s methods. Benitez is a man who prefers the stick to the carrot and Gerrard has publicly been called out, even when the ineptitude of players around him is apparent. Gerrard has been criticised publicly on several occasions by Benitez and on others has been damned with faint praise. With it sadly looking at the minute like we are going to be stuck with Benitez next season, the chances of him going seem to be high, especially if he gets the chance to play for Mourinho, one of the best managers in the game.
Then we have to consider the player himself. Whatever Gerrard decides this summer, whether or not he goes, he will be remembered as one of the all-time greats for Liverpool. His place in history is secure. He has won every competition with Liverpool, except the league. Gerrard has stated that he wants the league title with Liverpool but that looks to be a long way off. I think Gerrard will want a league title before his careers over and may have to exchange his dream of winning it for Liverpool for just winning a league, any league.
My gut feeling is Gerrard will go this summer. I think it is a good time for him and for Liverpool to move on. I for one won’t bear him any ill will if he does decide to leave.
What do you think?