Another match, another dazzling display off the bench for Steven Gerrard. Only this time it led to three points, with the captain once again changing the complexion of a match with his introduction. Like the appearance against Blackburn, the boost was both sentimental and practical, with a notable change in confidence and quality in the side. Given Gerrard's history and experience, it'd be unfair to Charlie Adam to compare the two directly, but with the two heading in opposite directions in each of the last two matches, it's unavoidable.
Gerrard provided an upgrade in every way imaginable---his delivery was stunning, his movement quick and timely, and his composure, particularly in the final third, was exactly what Liverpool needed. One of the most marked impacts he made was on Andy Carroll, who was provided at least four chances, two of which could have been converted, directly from Gerrard. There's been service for the much-maligned striker, but Gerrard's delivery was on another level, and is something that could only benefit him in the long term. The match included a number of other terrific performances, particularly from Craig Bellamy, Jose Enrique, and Martin Skrtel, but none that lifted Liverpool like Gerrard's.
It's clear that Gerrard will start once he's ready to put in a longer shift, and with Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson turning in confident performances, right now it looks like the most effective midfield for Liverpool doesn't involve the struggling Charlie Adam. If he's ready, Tuesday's visit to Manchester City would be the perfect time, kicking off a pivotal stretch in the club's season.
Happy New Year to everyone, and let's hope that there's plenty more of this to come.
Video by LFCMatchComps via YouTube