In some ways, Steven Gerrard's late-season shoulder surgery continued a worrying trend from the past few seasons--the Liverpool captain has made a habit of extended spells on the training table, coping with a range of injuries, surgeries, and strangely-placed infections throughout his early thirties. Thankfully this one, a preventative surgery meant to address an injury that had been nagging at him for months, didn't see an extended layoff during the season, with Gerrard missing only the final two matches of a season in which he'd previously played nearly every Premier League minute.
How beneficial his presence was early in the season is up for debate, but it seemed clear that he made strides alongside Lucas in central midfield during the run-in, managing to maintain possession more effectively and improve his workrate more consistently without the ball. What's also clear ahead of the coming season is that Gerrard will once again be called upon by Brendan Rodgers as a regular in the starting eleven, and with the bulk of his rehabilitation behind him, the skipper sounds ready to go.
"It's going well and feeling strong. I'm six weeks down the line with the rehabilitation from surgery. I'm not too far away, maybe a couple of weeks away from contact and being back in full training if everything goes well. I'm looking forward to it. It's probably the longest break I've had at this time of year - being out of the game for six weeks is enough, I'm itching to get back."
With an improved fitness record and form that was verging on his best of the season prior to surgery, it's going to be interesting to watch how Rodgers uses Gerrard as the season gets up and running; conventional wisdom has him as the middle man in a midfield three, not tasked solely with defensive or attacking duties but asked to do a bit of both while providing smart distribution and ticking play along. As many have noted, it also seems the position for which Joe Allen is best suited, but as long as the captain's upright, the young Welshman will be second choice.
A fit and firing Steven Gerrard, even at 33 years old, has few equals, so it's encouraging to read upbeat and positive quotes about his recovery. Without Jamie Carragher (and potentially Pepe Reina), Gerrard's alone as the wisened veteran, and Liverpool will need his leadership--on the pitch and off--as much as they have at any point over the past few seasons.