Are Liverpool missing the driving force of Steven Gerrard?

Following on from what the Liverpool captain described as: “the hardest six months of my career,” Steven Gerrard must have thought the injury torment that kept him out of football for so long was in the past, but an infection on his right ankle has prolonged his agony.

He will surely have mixed emotions when discussing the progress of his club; at times they look to be nearing a return to the top four while frustrating home draws against the likes of Sunderland, Norwich and Swansea suggest they often lack the invention and desire to unlock stubborn travelling defences. It is this leadership and drive that Gerrard possesses in abundance and over the years has been the impetus for many a match-saving performance – his side’s Istanbul comeback against Milan in the Champions League final encapsulated his sheer determination.

Since their 4-0 drubbing against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Liverpool have gone eight competitive games unbeaten, although, three of these represent home draws against two promoted sides and Manchester United. A stalemate against the latter is forgivable, but being a side touted as a top four challenger comes with the expectation of beating, with all due respect, inferior opponents. Kenny Dalglish didn’t hide his disappointment at his team’s performance against the Swans and although progress has been made since his arrival, points continually dropped at home are becoming their Achilles heel.

Gerrard played against Norwich as his side fashioned 15 chances and it was only the heroics of the Canaries’ goalkeeper John Ruddy that stifled the Reds, but in the former’s absence, underwhelming performances against Sunderland and Swansea epitomised just what their captain brings. As injury continues to hamper the 31-year-old, some are starting to question just how much longevity there is left in his career. Similar questions have been asked of Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, but emerging as the club’s top scorer of late, he has fought his corner. Likewise then, Gerrard will be eager to inject some consistency back into his season but maybe more importantly, his club could surely use his influence and dogged enthusiasm that wins games.

The Liverpool squad is being built for the future and the manager continues to revert to that blueprint in post-match analysis, however, it could be said some of these new younger players are taking time to adapt. Jordan Henderson – although being played out of his natural position – is struggling to make a genuine impact whilst Andy Carroll, who is still just 22, has only shown glimpses of his potential. Ideally, Dalglish would like to blend this youthful ideology with experience, but with age comes a tendency to struggle with the physical demands of a top flight career, as Gerrard is unfortunately discovering.

Regaining full-fitness is imperative for Gerrard as next summer maybe represents his swansong at a major international tournament. However, and with more immediacy the leadership qualities of the Reds’ talisman are literally priceless, and it may just be what his team is currently missing.

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