Steven Gerrard will be out for Liverpool's next clutch of important fixtures after it was confirmed that the club captain succumbed to a hamstring injury in the victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. The Liverpool legend is in his final season at the club and made a goalscoring contribution from the penalty spot before being taken off with just over twenty minutes to go in his third start in as many games. He lasted the distance against Bolton Wanderers and Everton.
Liverpool's next three games are in different competitions, and the man who drew level with Robbie Fowler on 183 goals in all competitions will miss games against Crystal Palace in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Besiktas in the Europa League, and Southampton in the pursuit of a top four place in the Premier League. That leaves just one match left in February, the second leg of the Europa League Round of 32 tie with Besiktas, and Steven Gerrard's participation in that match could be in doubt. March begins with a mammoth fixture at Anfield against reigning league champions Manchester City, and that could be a possible return date for Gerrard.
The problem for Liverpool is that with Lucas Leiva already out for around a month, Gerrard offered some depth in the position where some level of rotation is expected with the club guaranteed to play twice a week from now until the game against Burnley in March's first midweek game. Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen are Liverpool's only senior midfielders left in the squad, with the possibility of Emre Can being added to their number. Gerrard's presence offered another option in central midfield, even if an attacking midfield role would be more appropriate for his current skill-set and level of physicality.
Jordan Henderson will captain the side in Gerrard's absence, and his fitness will be relied upon. Joe Allen is still finding form and flow after yet another injury disrupts his Liverpool career, and his intelligent use of the ball will be helpful if he gets up to speed. Emre Can's inclusion in midfield is almost certain, and his partnership with Henderson could give Liverpool fans a glimpse of a future beyond Gerrard and Lucas. However, Can's replacement in defence combined with the thin options in midfield could be a source of weakness over the next few games. Brendan Rodgers should be able to rotate Henderson, Can, and Allen intelligently enough to avoid overburdening any of the three and possesses options in defence in the form of £20 million Dejan Lovren, the experienced Kolo Touré returning from a victorious international outing, and Glen Johnson.
There will be a chance for a player to come in and contribute to a team that's in sterling form with games littering the weeks ahead. Brendan Rodgers could give an insight into which competition, if any, he believes is more important. At this stage, it appears that he's not prioritising any domestic competition over the other, but will the arrival of the Europa League next week alter the manager's priorities? The fact that it's another opportunity to attain Champions League qualification could suggest that Rodgers will continue to go for every competition possible. This might be admirable but also dangerous. The manager who chases many competitions, catches none unless squad depth, canny management, and fortune combine in different measures to bestow multiple glories.
Get well soon Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, Liverpool will need you for what's to come. Perhaps Liverpool can remain in contention in all competitions before they return, a feat that would be worthy of praise and merit for all concerned.