Not every Liverpool player came out of Sunday's often uninspired draw against Everton worthy of praise, but along with fellow local Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher could count himself amongst the few deserving of it as the centre half marked his final derby.
"Jamie Carragher was immense," was manager Brendan Rodgers take on his vice-captain's afternoon. "He has been a real colossal player for this club. He’s got two games left and he was outstanding. His influence is superb. On the training field every day he’s so professional."
After a few seasons in which Carragher has seemed to struggle with the pace of the game, his final season as a professional footballer has seen him return to something closer to the form of his best years for the club. It's been a boost for Liverpool's new manager, but now it leaves him with a problem.
If the current season was to be about setting the foundation for a brighter future for the club, for a return to the Champions League and building towards once again being able to challenge for the league, one can make the argument that Rodgers' efforts have largely succeeded in midfield and attack.
In defence, though, any foundations seem far from solid. Take a resurgent Carragher out of the equation and things get even shakier, leaving Daniel Agger alongside players Rodgers doesn't trust and promising youngsters with little to no senior experience at centre half. It's a situation the manager knows will need to be addressed quickly once the season ends.
"You see him now at 35," continued Rodgers, "he’s [still] at the top of his game. He’s absolutely outstanding. Having worked with him now for so long I can clearly see why he was one of Europe’s top defenders for so many years.
"We’ll have to search far and wide to find somebody to be at that level but it’s difficult."
Liverpool can hardly afford another season of laying foundations—another Year Zero where history and the expectations that go along with it are reset and the club lays out the building blocks for what it hopes will be a better tomorrow with relatively little expectation for immediate results.
After a few seasons treading water in mid-table and deferring expectations, next season is when that long-awaited future is meant to finally arrive. Finding a replacement for Carragher may be difficult, but Rodgers will have to do it fast—and get it right—because next season, seventh-place finishes and talk of tomorrow won't be enough.
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