On Steven Gerrard and Necrohippoflagellation

Michael Steele

If it's Wednesday then it must be time to beat the dead horse that is Steven Gerrard's less than wholly stellar start to the 2013-14 campaign. You know the drill by now.

Rehashing a tired argument. Beating a dead horse. Wednesday. All names for the same thing; the same argument; the same points few would seem to be in disagreement over. Though that the few who appear not to agree with them are the club's manager and captain unfortunately seem to preclude putting it to rest just yet. That does make it a touch hard to just let it all go and move on. And so to the issue of Steven Gerrard. Because what is there to do with a dead horse if not beat it? Besides, it's Wednesday.

If getting to the bad is something like an inevitability these days when it comes to discussing Steven Gerrard and his role in Liverpool's 2013-14 season so far, let's at least cast an eye to the good first. Because despite the negatives, there still are positives. By all accounts, Gerrard remains motivated. The desire to put in the effort required as Liverpool's captain and midfield talisman appears to be there as much as it ever was, even if the ability to match it with the physical application isn't always.

Even if Gerrard often tires, growing into a liability with depressing, week in, week out regularity as each match progresses, it's not as though the captain's play has been uniformly terrible. Gerrard still has good stretches; he still has good halves. Yet watching him run out of gas in the second half has become worryingly constant given Brendan Rodgers continues to show, whether out of hope or fear, no sign of being willing to even begin to consider managing the captain's minutes.

The drive is still there, and to an extent the ability is still there, but that ability is only ever there for at best 50 or 60 minutes once a week. That's where, more than anywhere else, the bad begins to come in when it comes to discussing Steven Gerrard these days. No matter how well he starts a match, it seems inevitable that he will finish it much, much worse, and Liverpool's poorer play in the second half of matches this season has generally mirrored Gerrard's own struggles.

As his passing becomes more erratic and tacking back goes from embraced practice to ignored theory, the entire side suffers from their having to carry a player who is no longer able to carry himself for the full 90 minutes—let alone to put the rest of the team on his back and carry everyone else to an unexpected, miraculous late victory. When he's forced to play more than once a week, be it through cup ties or international duty, it only exacerbates the situation.

Given Gerrard can still contribute a lot to a side at this stage in his career, even if only in 60 minute stretches once a week, the obvious answer would seem to be for Rodgers and the captain to come to an agreement that his minutes must be managed not just in training but on matchday. Every scrap of information there to see so far this season says Gerrard either needs to give his all for a half before coming off or to arrive to the game late and off the bench to carry the side for 30 minutes.

To look at the first two months of the season and draw the conclusion that Gerrard should be playing 90 minutes every time Liverpool play is lunacy. And as though Gerrard wasn't already looking tired enough having played every minute in the league and League Cup, the now focus shifts back over to England. Back to where Gerrard gets to play two more games within a matter of days as Roy Hodgson's Lions embark on their final matches of qualification with advancement not yet certain in UEFA's Group H.

Of course, last season, early difficulties Gerrard faced adjusting to the demands placed on him in Brendan Rodgers' system meant an exceptionally poor first few months for the captain and, inevitably, similar questions about his future to the ones now set on repeat—albeit with a slightly differing reason for their asking. Then, a strong second half for both Liverpool and the captain turned things around, but this time the problem appears more physical than mental.

While both Gerrard and his manager appear to be counting on a similar turn of fortunes this season, there are real reasons to wonder if theirs is anything like a plausible hope. Though if neither are willing to consider a moment's rest for the 33-year-old midfielder, then there's really nothing beyond that hope to fall back on. All those watching from the outside at least will be hoping in turn that their hopes aren't misplaced, but it's getting harder by the week.

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