Steven Gerrard’s final season with his boyhood club did not go nearly as well as anyone would have hoped. Is there one thing that you think most affected how things went down, or was it a culmination of many smaller things?
It’s weird, really, and I think the way this all played out is messy, but the parties involved look to have accepted things in the end. I mean, Rodgers told Stevie he needed rest, Stevie felt otherwise, and from that point on this was always how things were ending. Regardless of whether or not Rodgers came in soon enough with the minutes managing, it appears that this was always going to be the outcome as Stevie clearly feels he still had some run in his legs.
So, if that’s all as it should have been and the only question is when it was going to happen, the biggest factor undermining Stevie’s final season might actually be Daniel Sturridge’s injury, which is a shame. If he’d have been healthy, I get the feeling things would have gone a lot more positively for Stevie, both in the role Rodgers wanted to play him in and of course with respect to our final finish.
I just want to know one thing: how did the "we’re going to play you in a lesser role/minutes in this way" conversation go, exactly? Was Stevie just a total jerk about it, was Brenny too much of a pushover, were they actually in agreement about Gerrard’s abilities at this stage in his career, was the Scouse Mafia breaking fingers - what? Because that’s really what it all comes down to. If this was what the two guys agreed on as the best way for Gerrard to end it, then no one can really have any complaints, right? Somehow, though, it feels like we’re going to be reading some Rodgers Blames Gerrard for Liverpool Demise headlines in the future. Just feels like that interview is going to happen at some point. Don’t give that interview, Brendan! Don’t do it!
I really wish that they had waited to tell us about his transfer. Would it have made a difference to any of us, really, if we found out in March instead of January? The fact that Gerrard got injured soon after the bombshell made it even worse. Every game was about Stevie, and the man himself didn’t even play most of them. The team and the fans tried so hard to make his last games meaningful and fairy tale and all that, and instead it just piled misery on misery.
Have no idea what went on behind the scenes, but I have to say that it seems like the right decision for everyone involved that he’s left. It’s terrible, but it was time, and I’d rather see him leave than sitting angrily on the sidelines. The team couldn’t afford for him to play every 90 minutes, and when it became clear that that’s what he wanted, letting him go was the only choice to make. I wish this season could have gone better for him, but this whole farewell tour seemed doomed from the start.
Yeah, everyone else pretty much hit on the lowlights. I still don’t know how the narrative emerged that Liverpool could and should have done more to keep him around when it was clear--Gerrard himself said he wasn’t ready to be a bit-part player--that he needed his minutes managed. He wasn’t into that, Liverpool wouldn’t guarantee a starting role, and that’s pretty much that. For all the things we talk about Rodgers needing to address, this was the one he finally did midseason, even if over the final weeks he relapsed and gave in to sentiment. Post-red card it was all about sentiment, which really went about as poorly as it possibly could have. Suppose we'll always have highlight videos of his career on YouTube, at least.
Gerrard himself has to take his brunt of the blame. The last month or so of the season, he was hands down our best player, but where was he for the other eight months? I wish things had turned out differently, but they didn’t, and it's hard to find anything new to say on the matter. I think it’s a dumb, short-sighted move not to end his career a Red, but if that’s what he wants then it’s not my place to question it, I guess.
Ugh, just a nightmare. Steven’s lack of cognizance about his declining abilities and Rodgers’ unwillingness to put him on the bench or even just use him in a way that matched his strengths, together with the team’s poor showing throughout the season, meant that a fairytale final campaign was never going to happen. It would’ve just been nice if it didn’t not happen so hard.
Combine Rodgers’ stubbornness with Gerrard’s desire to play all the minutes ever and it was probably always going to end badly. At least short of Suarez sticking around and Sturridge staying fit and making Gerrard at DM in every minute of every match ever a viable approach. Within that framework of probably was never going to end well, though, I don’t think anyone could honestly say they saw it going as badly as it did. Four months of misery to start. Limping out of the Champions League. A massive liability in the League Cup. The failure of his birthday narrative and any last hope for the top four slipping away before he was mockingly allowed a last consolation moment—followed by a 6-1 embarrassment.
The reasons for it going bad perhaps weren’t all that complex or surprising—his legs had gone and he didn’t have the tactical discipline for the position he was asked to play, but his manager refused to see that and he didn’t want to take on a lesser role. The way absolutely everything went about as badly as it possibly could have even within that context, though, was surprising. And depressing. And looking back, it’s hard not to wish Gerrard had gone out on the tragedy of missing the league title because of that moment the season before rather than sticking around for one more year and seeing it all end as farce.
Everything that could possibly go wrong with Stevie’s final season pretty much did, with the great man essentially limping to the finish line on the back of a truly terrible season when it came to everything to do with the captain. I don’t think many of Rodgers’ on-pitch choices did anyone any favours when it came to Stevie’s performances, but I’m still of the opinion that Gerrard’s own self-assessment on what he could offer was both flawed and stubborn, and exacerbated the problem. It didn’t have to end this way, and not just because many think that, in retrospect, it might have been better for Stevie to retire at the end of last season. I’m on the same page as Stevie that something had to change so that he could contribute more to the club, but we clearly had very different ideas of how that should play out: I still think he could have done well in the Frank Lampard super sub role, whereas he thought leaving all together and taking his game to Los Angeles was the solution.
Rodgers never took a lead role in shaping Gerrard as a squad player. Understandably so with the manager’s relative youth and inexperience, but that's where the problem started. Over the three years of Rodgers’ tenure, Gerrard played and played without much thought to rotation or substitutions to preserve the departing captain and legend. From the miscontrol and slip at a crucial stage of Liverpool’s unlikely title charge last season to captaining England’s predictably disastrous World Cup group exit last summer, Steven Gerrard hasn’t had a great final 12 or so months. This season has been even worse with an insipid return to the Champions League with a home defeat in Gerrard’s Anfield farewell with a crushing defeat at Stoke City to sign off. However, Gerrard wanted to be a starter when he no longer was one. And he was a bigger name than Rodgers, making it difficult to limit his minutes. The theory that a manager should be able to spot a player’s decline and manage accordingly is one I subscribe to, and Rodgers either couldn't or wouldn't do that.
Part 1 (Monday): Transfer Business
Part 2 (Tuesday): Underperformers and Overachievers
Part 3 (Wednesday): Brendan Rodgers in His Third Season
Part 5 (Friday): Positioning the Club for Success in 2015/16