Club Focus – Liverpool – Gerrard to fight for place?

In the past, the thought of a Liverpool team without Steven Gerrard would send shivers down the spines of several supporters of the Merseyside club. In fact, prior to the arrival of Fernando Torres in 2007, many neutrals suggested that the Reds were just a one-man team and over-reliant on their influential skipper. The addition of silky Spaniard Torres saw Liverpool slowly but surely being branded a two-man team and to some extent, rightly so. On the occasions that Gerrard and Torres failed to make the starting line-up, the Reds appeared to lose the confidence and spark needed to win games. Fortunately, recent results under Kenny Dalglish have shattered that myth.

When Torres quit the Anfield outfit to join champions Chelsea in January, many expected lacklustre Liverpool would once again depend on the motivational Gerrard to provide them with the inspiration needed to grind out results. However, the England international’s recent injury problems have seen him miss out quite often, yet the Reds are playing phenomenally well. Could it be that Liverpool are no longer a one or two-man team?

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That certainly seems to be the case at the moment. Gerrard has not played a single game since Liverpool beat Manchester United at the beginning of March, however Dalglish’s side have still managed to collect 16 points from a possible 21 since then. Considering that the midfield maestro has been Liverpool’s saviour for many years, his absence has not been as big a blow as it might have been for the Reds in the past.

The midfield trio of Jay Spearing, Lucas Leiva and Raul Meireles have stepped up to the plate. Former Porto man and current PFA Fans’ Player of the Year Meireles has really shone since Dalglish arrived and is almost the ideal replacement for Gerrard, having bagged five goals this season.

Meanwhile, the ever-consistent Lucas is finally realising his potential and is currently one of the favourites to win the Liverpool Player of the Year award. But the emergence of budding youngster Spearing has been spectacular in recent weeks. The local lad has not let Dalglish down when given his chance. The 22-year-old, who secured a new contract recently, has bundles of energy and is terrific at closing opposition players down. Spearing is quickly developing into a formidable defensive midfielder.

With those three players doing so well, it remains to be seen whether Gerrard would actually get back into the team at this rate. Common sense would suggest the skipper is likely to slot back into the middle of the park, but at which players’ expense? Lucas and Spearing are great defensive options; therefore replacing either for Gerrard could see Liverpool lose some of that solidity in front of the back four. Meireles has had a great debut season and is unlikely to miss out. Therefore, Dalglish will either be forced to accommodate all four into the side or he will have an important yet welcome call to make in the future. One thing is for sure, Liverpool are no longer over-reliant on the brilliance of individuals, but are instead becoming a great team unit.

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