Sometimes it feels as though for years now, fans have wildly swung between believing the club can't survive without Gerrard and suggesting they can get on just fine without him—even if it would be nice if they didn't have to. It's understandable. After all, the simple truth is Liverpool don't have anyone else capable of doing what Gerrard does when he's on form. Yet it's also true they haven't been able to rely on Gerrard being fit and on form all that often going on three years now, and that the time for the club to find a solution for life after Steven Gerrard passed long ago.
When he takes control of a match as he did against Everton, there are still few in football more able to effect the outcome, and so when he's gone one rightly begins to wonder how Liverpool would ever survive without him. Being without him all too often, though, forces a desperate search for slivers of hope and signs of progress—for the possibility that some other player is stepping up to fill his role, or that his loss might give others the room to collectively raise their game away from his shadow.
And at times it works out, because there are clearly more ways to win a football match than sitting back and letting a superstar attacker do what superstar attackers tend to do. Certainly in the second half of the 2010-11 season it seemed to be working out, with Gerrard absent and the club fully embracing a pass and move philosophy that wasn't reliant on a singular force of nature driving them forward from the middle of the park. This season, however, despite the management having the chance to shuffle Liverpool's midfield to either reaffirm the previous season's approach or attempt to find a long-term replacement for the increasingly injury-prone powerhouse, it has too often seemed a side incapable of operating without a driving central force.
This season, too many of the players seem in search of somebody who can provided that extra push their supporting play needs. There is Suarez at the front, of course, but his hard-working presence has only served to highlight Gerrard's absence every time he beats three defenders and, unsupported, manages a tired and unconvincing effort. The difference last season was that despite Gerrard's absence, the supporting cast both did more of the creative work and were more eager provide options in and around the box so that Suarez wouldn't always be counted on to beat both the defence and then the keeper.
This season, Suarez has largely been left isolated. It's a truth that became inescapable against Everton when the returning Gerrard provided a point in contrast to a season with far too many stretches of futility. Put simply, he did what so many others haven't done this season by sharing the load creatively and adding a late-driving presence in and around the opposition goal. Not only did Suarez look as effective as he has at any point this season, but Liverpool scored three goals because there wasn't only one player fully committed to putting pressure on the opposition defence at any and every moment when Liverpool had the ball.
Liverpool probably shouldn't need to rely on Steven Gerrard any more. The simple truth is they can't rely on him to play like he did against Everton any more—not at his age and with his poor injury record. The problem is that despite promising signs at the end of last season that the club may have found the blueprint for success in the twilight of Gerrard's career, this season has served to almost completely dash that hope. Whether the club should need him to drive them forward every weekend any more, then, is a largely meaningless question; that they do seems entirely obvious.
That's less than encouraging for the club moving forward, especially with a potentially draining Euros on the horizon for Gerrard and no sign that any of last summer's pricy acquisitions is at all capable of filling his role when he isn't available. Still, when he is fit and of form there are few players better at driving their side to victory. And while it's clearly problematic that the club now finds itself as reliant on him as at any point in the past decade, that doesn't make it any less thrilling when he puts on a show as he did on Tuesday night.
Video by Mostar via FootyLounge