THERE has been a lot of conjecture over what went wrong. I think it was more a question of what didn’t go right. Similar, but a subtle difference.
Liverpool’s first league defeat in over four months does not mean the wheels automatically come off. But no-one does knee-jerk reactions quite like Liverpool fans — even after 13 matches unbeaten in he league — and the last 24 hours have brought an avalanche of blame, with some players being the recipient of more of it than others.
Yesterday was disappointing, but does it really point to large-scale fundamental issues? I said before the game that the only way we could lose was if we failed to do the things we do well. That is basically how it worked out. We allowed our standards to slip; we were perhaps guilty of believing in our own hype and also of buying into Manchester United’s decline a little too readily. Maybe we aren’t quite as good as we’d like to think we are and they aren’t quite as bad as we’d like them to be. There isn’t an unbridgeable chasm between us and them though. It is all within the small margins of error.
Steven Gerrard made himself the main talking point about this game. Despite being sent off in under one minute, I find it hard to slag him off all that much for it. Some of the ‘songs’ that flowed from the away section in the Lower Anfield on Sunday afternoon were unsurprising, yet still devoid of humanity. Some years they come to Anfield with a sensibility handbrake and some years they don’t. This year, that sensibility handbrake was an optional extra the travelling Manchester United fans decided to go without.
He might not admit to it, he might not even realise it, but Gerrard might well have been under the influence of those ‘songs’ when he lost all composure so soon after entering the game. From his vantage point on the bench during the first half he’d have heard every single one of them. For someone like Gerrard, who lost a family member at Hillsborough, it would be entirely understandable to a large extent to want to lash out.
The main side of the Gerrard issue for me is all to do with the massive shadow he casts over his team-mates. In his recent absence due to injury the rest of the squad stepped up a gear — giving a taster of how the future will be without him at the club. Gerrard’s return to fitness has seen us drop back a gear or so — maybe subconsciously the players have eased off due to their safety net returning. Now, with another enforced absence for Gerrard, the squad might well collectively raise their game again. Brendan Rodgers had tried to downplay Gerrard’s return, yet the wider squad still relaxed a little too much when he did. When he enters a game as a substitute he is given the captain’s armband. That shouldn’t be happening; he himself shouldn’t let that happen and he should be encouraging the man expected to succeed him, to run onwards with his armband.
Gerrard is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t in so many respects. I don’t buy into the burgeoning near anti-Gerrard stance some have taken. A good mate of mine has willed him to go with immediate effect. But in my book Gerrard should have left any public announcement on leaving the club until there was nothing left to play for. A “we’ll discuss it in the summer” front of shop message would have been a better bet than the situation we find ourselves in now. A state of suspended animation tends to kick in when players or managers declare they’re leaving at the end of the season. They normally become a soon-to-be obsolete spare part, but Gerrard is different, as he’s the aging talismanic figure that still casts a spell on those around him. He can’t do the whole ‘ghost on the wall’ thing — even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be allowed to.
His role should have been adjusted to one that saw him become an unofficial assistant manager. Jordan Henderson as the tentative child wobbling his way down the path on his bike without the stabilisers on, Gerrard the watchful and proud elder releasing his grip on the seat.
Nothing is lost yet. We paid a heavy price for a poor first half performance against Man Utd. Forty five minutes of poor football and one rush of blood to the head doesn’t have to derail what has been some impressive momentum — we were never going to remain unbeaten all the way to May 24. Five points is not an insurmountable distance with eight games to go. The teams above us will drop points. We just have to ensure we drop as small a number of points as possible between now and the final day away at Stoke City and see where it takes us.
The two-week break ahead allows Rodgers some time to reflect and maybe even reassess. Arsenal away will give us the perfect place to either start a new run or leave us with a mountain to climb. Even then, mountains can still be conquered and can you really say with all certainty that we have anyone to fear?
Take a deep breath; the final reckoning is still two months away. We can still walk away from this season with a Champions League spot.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda
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Sorry Steve, but for me top 4 is a distant dream. We are desperately short of midfield muscle and experience. We have been sussed , all teams do now is drop off the back 3 and pick up the men in the middle of the park and effectively cut off the supply lines.
United are not as bad as we thought but FFS Carrick, Herrera and Screech ran the show for a good portion of the game and I wouldn’t call any of them quality players. As somebody else said on one of the other threads it wasn’t rocket science to come up with the tactics LVG employed we made it easy for them because I believe our management thought we were too good for them- being at home etc.
You wouldn’t call Carrick a quality player?
Completely agree Seb. Carrick is quality and almost by himself makes an average Utd side look decent. He’s exactly what we need next season with Gerrard going and he’s the one Manc I’d like to see in our team.
No, never rated him TBH and I would want better than him to replace Stevie.
He’s one of those players who even divides Utd fans. I was gutted that he was back. I think he makes their whole team tick. Brilliant player.
Top 4 never looked likely, always had too many points to make up on too many teams.
Arsenal up next, who have been the form team in the League both since we played them and in 2015.
We have made up 5 points on Man U in the last 14 games, but an additional 6 in the remaining 8 looks a pipe dream.
People are forgetting as well, 4th doesn’t secure a CL spot – only a play off, for which we may well be unseeded, and potentially up against a team with the stature of Valencia, Napoli etc. Given our record in Rodgers in Europe – squeaked thru a EL Group before losing to Zenit, then embarrassment in CL before EL exit to Beskitas – I wouldn’t make us anywhere above 50/50 to win a play off. Everyone talked about how good Beskitas were against us, how they could win the competition – then Bruges knocked them out FFS…!
Nah I’m with you Steve. Nothing is impossible until the maths says so. Everyone, fans and players, needs to stop dripping about yesterday, roll their sleeves up and give it their best, everything, for 8 more games. The damage was done to our season between August and December – at palace, West ham, home to villa, to Hull. Not yesterday. That was all forgotten about during ‘the run’. And yet we are still in with a chance. Let’s fucking go for it, people.
How about a poll about Sakho being the next captain? Him or Lucas are our experienced leaders next season. Henderson is a good lad but not a natural leader and still too prone to going missing for long period in vital matches.
In with you on Lucas. His quiet influence over Coutino was if massive importance.
While I agree with a lot of the article – the race not being run yet and the knee-jerk negativity towards players who’ve by and large been excellent for months – I can’t subscribe to this view about Gerrard.
Now perspective is important, and he didn’t go and kill anyone, but his actions can’t just be excused as some sort of natural reaction to deplorable chanting by utd fans. He’s had more than 15 years of senior games against utd to develop a thick skin to that and he’s never reacted in such a stupid unprovoked way before. I find the rush to explain away what he did tiresome and if almost anyone else in the squad did it, they’d be slaughtered and rightly so. Instead, he’s clapped off the field for blowing our chances of coming back into a crucial game we were finally showing signs of life in… His song getting sung when he’s completely lost his head after being brought on for his composure and experience. He can of course be forgiven when he’s given so much over the years, but I don’t feel sorry for him getting flack one bit. He f***ed up in a big way and doesn’t have an excuse.
And then there’s the writer’s confusion over the anti-gerrard stance in the fan base. But in the both the previous and following paragraphs, he himself explains precisely a couple of the reasons for that feeling at the moment. Steven Gerrard made his announcement that he was leaving at the start of January, thereby creating this sideshow for half a season when there’s still obviously a lot to play for. Yes, the announcement should’ve been delayed as the writer points out. There shouldn’t have been a word until there was nothing to play for, but whose fault is that? – Steven Gerrard decided to make that announcement when he did, which of course is his prerogative, but he’ll have known very well the 5 month media scrum that would come with it and in my opinion it’s a selfish move.
Add to that the aforementioned reluctance to manage his exit as captain and ensure a smooth transition with his successor; his public airing of dirty laundry when it came to his contract renewal; and then his throwing of Mario Balotelli under a bus on ITV during the Besiktas game, and I think he’s genuinely been very undignified and very uncaptain-like in his last few months. I don’t agree he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t – he’s just not been going about things the right way and Sunday was a crushing low point.
We’ll all remember Steven Gerrard as the barnstormer who pulled us out of so many difficult situations, and it’s hard to see it coming to anything but a fairytale ending, but that doesn’t mean that a man, a legend, can just be excused and avoid a slagging when they’ve blatantly been in the wrong.
Fuck me, Si, what’s it like to be perfect? I’m curious.
“doesn’t have an excuse.”
I can think of one. He’s a human being. And as such, susceptible to external stimulate in his environment that provoke a reaction in one set of circumstances that you wouldn’t see in another.
I haven’t seen or heard any comment from even the biggest fans of Gerrard that seek to deny that he fucked up on Sunday. We all know it and he knows it. Looking for reasons why he might have reacted in that way doesn’t diminish his responsibility; it’s just the sort of analysis that is performed on any major incident that happens in a game. As per Rodgers, he was probably massively frustrated sitting on the bench watching as abject a first-half display as we’ve put in all season. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the correct ones even if that doesn’t provide you with the pound of flesh you’re looking for. What do you want, exactly? Self-flagellation in in front of the town hall?
“he’s never reacted in such a stupid unprovoked way before.”
Really? 6 red in the EPL, two-thirds of those coming against Utd and Everton. I’m afraid it comes with the territory, Si. You know that tackle Gerrard put in on Mata 10 seconds before the red card? You know, the one that probably had every LFC fan in the ground and watching at home on their feet? That one. The kind that SG has made all his career and has helped to shift momentum in games all by itself? Well, the idiotic reaction to Herrera’s lunge is that flipside. When you play with that level of emotion and feel burden of responsibility on you to take games by the scruff of the neck the way Gerrard has almost all his career, you will sometimes – very occasionally – overstep the mark and find yourself paying the price. You’ll probably never see Joe Allen get a red for the reason Gerrard did on Sunday, but then you’ll never see Joe Allen make that tackle on Mata, either.
As or the announcement about his departure, do you not think this will have been discussed with the club? What was the alternative? Endless media speculation as Gerrard sits out games for the first time in his career? Rodgers constantly asked about Gerrard’s future at the club? Is Gerrard prepared to play a squad role, etc., etc.? The announcement got rid of all that bollocks in one fell swoop. It became a non-issue. And with a different result on Sunday I dare say it would be a non-issue with you, too.
Lastly, you say other players would have been slaughtered for actions like Gerrard’s on Sunday. Did you forget Henderson getting needlessly sent off at home to City last year? At least Gerrard can point to the score at the time and claim frustration. We were virtually home and dry when Henderson got himself sent off and many have pointed to Hendo’s absence in the run-in as being pivotal in our agonizing failure to win the league. I don’t recall Hendo being eviscerated and it’s right that he shouldn’t have been, even though he doesn’t have a tenth of the credit in the bank that Gerrard has.
Reading the shite that’s been written about Gerrard this season by some of our fans, I almost think he’d have been better off biting a couple of players, getting himself embroiled in a race row and buggering off after a couple of years of using LFC as a stepping stone before joining the club he really wanted to play for. It seems you get cut more slack for that sort of behavior than you do for making the odd mistake whilst spilling your guts for 16 years at your boyhood club.
Love your outlook Ste but I can’t feel the same. Fuckin gutted.
Steven Gerrard? Maybe the greatest player we ever had? Well it’s either him or Kenny Dalglish.
Kenny sacked in quite unceremonious circumstances and Steven as good as gone in the same way without the opportunity to make a more dignified exit.
You can argue all you like about who said what but the simple truth is that Steven announced his retirement from International Football and received the tributes he deserved.I can only guess that he made the club aware of his intentions and reasons.But I would also guess that one of his reasons was probably to devote the final stages of his career to LFC.
What happened next turned into a circus with no official comment from the club but a series of quotes from Gerrard and Rodgers heaping tons of praise on each other?
Whichever way you look at this sorry saga over the past six months it’s been handled poorly.Somebody somewhere is being disingenuous.
But this isn’t the first time the Club has been involved in a disastrous episode of frenzied media speculation.Why don’t they engage a media consultant?
Anyway,I’m not blaming Gerrard or Rodgers but if I had to nail my colours to the mast I would refer to 17 years of unblemished dedication and achievement.
He deserves better than this.And that includes the pathetic nit-picking from some so called fans.
What Brian said.
What would it be like right now if there’d been no clarification on Gerrard’s future months ago? Can you imagine the media frenzy? There’d be non-stop speculation on the contract situation, manufactured stories about discontent in the ranks, Gerrard falling out with Rodgers, Gerrard feeling he was being forced out of the club, etc., etc.. If we were sitting on top of the league with 8 games to go, do you think anyone would be moaning about the fact Gerrard’s departure was announced a few months back? No-one would give a shite.
I’ve no real problem with anything posted here. Steven Gerrard’s given supporters far more good memories than bad. On a personal note, I’ve never rated him as highly as say, Graeme Souness, precisely because his career is dotted with examples of him losing it in high pressure situations. I’d rather a cool, calculating winner myself. But it’s odd with Gerrard because there’s no-one you’d back more to win you a game with a pen or a shot in any situation. He’s always been cool in front of goal. Maybe the cricketing analogy works best: there are batsman you’d bank on to save you a match and those that will win you a match. I’d back Gerrard to win us a match.
All that said, the good far outweighs the bad, he’s got plenty of credit in the bank.
“On a personal note, I’ve never rated him as highly as say, Graeme Souness, precisely because his career is dotted with examples of him losing it in high pressure situations.”
For us, Souness was much as you say, but when he was at Rangers, for example, he was pure filth. he’s still responsible for the worst tackle I ever saw on the young Hibs guy who was never properly fit again after Souness did him.
I’d also say that Souness, as good as he was, never felt the burden of responsibility in quite the same way Gerrard has throughout his LFC career. Souness played alongside Rush, Dalglish and Hansen, 3 players who make most people’s LFC all-time top 10. With Souness that makes 4 of the best who ever kicked a ball for us in the same side. Gerrard has never come close to playing in a side like that consequently feels the weight of responsibility to much a greater degree. I think that has contributed to him boiling over at times.
And then you have to look at their respective eras. I very much doubt if Gerrard would have picked up 7(?) reds if he’d played in Souness’s time (off the top of my head the tackle at Old Trafford when Webb sent him off would have been yellow at most in ’84). And Souness in the EPL era would have been sent off in the tunnel most weeks.
How many opponents’ jaws has Stevie broken? :-)
Agreed. His career at Rangers was like Stevie’s 48 seconds dragged out over two or three years. Shows what happens when the legs go. If you’re referring to the tackle I’m thinking about its made even worse by his collapsing in heap pointing at his knee in mitigation.
I’ve no problem with your arguments Brownie, all valid. I’d still rather have Souness leading my team though: as a player he was a born winner. It’s hard to compare eras, but, take a look at United during the same period. They had their own Steven Gerard and no-one with any sense thought he was better than Souness. Most of the pundits did, mind.