With Joe Allen rested for the first time this season, it was up to Steven Gerrard to carry the mantle of the irreplaceables--both had their fair share of struggles throughout the fall, and while Allen had a string of encouraging performances before finally being spelled (albeit only for seventy minutes), Liverpool's captain had consistently struggled to have the type of influence that we've become accustomed to for much of his career with the club.
We've seen him have difficulties with injury and form; all players struggle with each, and aside from the occasional dip in quality he's never truly struggled to the extent we've witnessed this season. Most have been content to attribute his lack of influence on the system and/or the manager; he's a player who needs freedom and the opportunity to express himself with the ball, it's believed, and a system that requires dominating possession and making effective, patient decisions with the ball just will not do.
But yesterday we caught an extended glimpse--most of the ninety-plus minutes he was on the pitch--of a Steven Gerrard that can do all of those things at once. He took a decent amount of chances in distribution but rarely faltered, and showed the patience and commitment to retaining possession that's been sorely lacking so often this season. His goalscoring ability finally featured as well, with a perfectly-timed run from deeper in the midfield allowing him to get on the end of Stewart Downing's wonderful through-ball and get Liverpool's crucial second.
Just as yesterday didn't right all the wrongs of Liverpool's season (or even Liverpool's week), it doesn't mean that Steven Gerrard's going to be 26 years-old again. He still needs to be sat, whether it's on Boxing Day against Stoke, in Liverpool's final match of 2012 at QPR, or at some point in January, playing him every minute of every Premier League match doesn't seem to be sustainable.
However much he does feature, though, it's at least nice to know that he's capable of having the type of influence we're used to. He doesn't need to be all-everything for Liverpool, but he's able to do important bits of it all at times, and when he's better able to select those times, he's still one of the best.