There will be no opportunity for silverware this season for Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, or Steven Gerrard. Although defeat at Wembley sparked some speculation about the future of Brendan Rodgers, it is likely that he will be given another season to continue the progress he has made since taking over from Kenny Dalglish in June 2012. Liverpool will have more chances next season and beyond, Steven Gerrard will not.
Unfortunately for the club captain, he no longer merits a start in a side that possesses better options in central and attacking midfield positions. That's no great disgrace as Gerrard turns 35 next month, and players decline at different ages. Some players can still be key players for big clubs in their late thirties, whereas some superstars found that their talents belonged a step or two below the top level in their early thirties. It is hard for players to choose the right time to bow out, especially if they're one of the biggest names in the game, as their confidence and desire to excel along with talent propelled them to prominence years ago.
Of course, a manager can greatly help in making, or at least steering, those decisions for a player. Rodgers' handling of his captain and Steven Gerrard's desire to play as much as possible hasn't reflected well on either in a mixed season that looks to end without any reasonable objectives being met. However, Steven Gerrard has been one of Liverpool's all-time greats and is arguably the club's greatest ever player. Watching him struggle enormously in a semi-final against a midfield of a Premier League team just four points above relegation was saddening. His last game at Wembley should not have been the scene of succumbing to Tom Cleverley, Jack Grealish, and Ashley Westwood. Their energy, youth, movement, speed, stamina, and fire was too much for Gerrard who was repositioned at the base of Liverpool's midfield at the interval. It felt like Brendan Rodgers was not only sacrificing Steven Gerrard to whatever Gods ruled Wembley but Liverpool's hopes also. So it proved.
Kolo Touré is often a good source of soothing words in times of strife and confusion. He's already told Raheem Sterling that "he needs to stay here" earlier in the month and shared his views on the loss, Gerrard, and the absence of Lucas Leiva.
You feel bad. It is always difficult when you lose a semi-final like that. The defeat is the thing. Of course we wanted to do very well for the last game of Stevie for the club but at the end of the day, we wanted to do it for the fans because this club deserves to have a trophy. He (Gerrard) is fine. Of course he is sad, like all the dressing room, but he has been in this game for a long time and he knows how to deal with these situations. Lucas is a great player but we had players who could do the job. Collectively we were not very good. Villa really fought and gave everything to win the game.
Kolo is right that we all don't feel good about losing "a semi-final like that", but Liverpool still have six games left in the season where the club can at least end on a positive note. Liverpool have two away games to close out the month and need to win those to at least remain within four points and five points of Manchester City and Manchester United respectively. West Bromwich Albion and Hull City may not be so accommodating, but Liverpool must continue the fine away form shown in the Premier League this calendar year. Losing two home games in succession to Queen Park Rangers and Leicester City requires a reaction in the next home game, so Liverpool would be the perfect opponent for Tony Pulis to give his club's fans some encouragement after a solid away win at Crystal Palace. Hull have tough fixtures and are currently just outside the relegation zone on goal difference; Steve Bruce may need to find something from his side's game in hand if this weekend's results place result in an uncomfortable spot in the relegation places.
Maybe Everton will continue their improved home form against Manchester United, and Aston Villa take confidence from beating Liverpool into their trip to Manchester City. Whatever happens, the club must move on from defeat, and maybe there can be a throwback goal or two for Liverpool's departing captain.
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