The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.
The following post was written by EDIZD Staff members Ahmad and Moe
I don’t know how much stock I put into the “alpha dog” theory, but there’s definitely something to it with regards to Liverpool Football Club this season. The transition from Steven Gerrard was never going to be pretty, but I hate to think it was going to be this.
Steven Gerrard treated this season, his last with his childhood club, as his personal farewell tour. He seemingly and on many occasions appeared not to give a crap about the future of Liverpool (something he showed signs of even last year), choosing to eschew his responsibilities as a captain and further his status as a legend. The problem was, this iteration of Steven Gerrard isn’t exactly very good, so the virtuoso performances of seasons past were sorely lacking.
And you can tell Brendan Rodgers knew this as well. The thing is, Brendan was – to this point – too reluctant to do anything about it. Steven Gerrard is nowhere near good enough to fit into Liverpool’s best eleven, yet there he is, whenever he was fit enough to play, starting.
Earlier this year, Steven Gerrard was pissed off about his lack of playing time, which was complete and utter bullshit. At the time of his complaint, Stevie missed one league game and an odd cup game, playing the rest.
What did Rodgers do in response? Actually, nothing. Stevie still played as much as he wanted to until an injury derailed him for a month, which incidentally is when Liverpool was hitting its stride.
During the month he missed, it should be noted, Stevie wasn’t a stranger to controversy. He critiqued his teammate Mario Balotelli’s decision to take a penalty in a Europa League game, a penalty that Balo converted to put Liverpool up one in a game they ultimately won. The headlines the next day went from Liverpool winning to Gerrard critiquing Balotelli. The funny part about this? He actually sided with Balo. Well sort of. In typical Brendan fashion, he couldn’t do it without having a little dig at the Italian.
We have to say the following before this piece goes any further: Steven Gerrard once upon a time was good. He was really, really good. He was a footballing tornado onto himself which for the most part yielded him success. The problem is that his prime was back in the day when the iPhone was still a clunky rectangular hellhole of a device, when Lil Wayne thought he could cut it in the rock genre, hell when Liverpool were a destination for consistently grand Champions League nights.
The slippage for Gerrard had started for a while now dating back to parts of the last two seasons. But to the credit/luck of tactical genius Mr Rodgers, he created perhaps the most breath taking attacking side the EPL has seen since the 07-08 Man United squad. It hid the defensive failings of Gerrard because the pressing of the front line worked tremendously to Liverpool’s advantage, creating early leads that teams couldn’t come back from. It also highlighted the one thing Gerrard could still do, which was the long ball passes that veered towards the Hollywood spectrum:
This season has been the withdrawal, like what drug addicts feel after quitting cold turkey. He has been a complete and utter liability, an anchor hovering around his boyhood club. What had happen to Frank Lampard happened to Gerrard, only highlighted more so because of the amount that Liverpool and Brendan still relied on him. He’s been the big rock in your backyard and Liverpool have tried and tried to mow around him. His ball watching has been criminal, the Hollywood passes that worked out so well last year have looked horribly misplaced. His play has more resembled a pub league player than an actual EPL player, let alone one of Gerrard’s stature.
By now you’ve heard a lot about the FA Cup final being on Steven Gerrard’s birthday. How it would be so nice if he would walk away from Liverpool with a trophy. In a way there’s a bit of sadness that one might feel about Gerrard. He’s trapped in the legacy that he’s helped build, someone who can’t just slide gracefully into the final stage of his career because he still feels that he owes something to the club that made him a household name. It’s almost as if this whole season has been him trying to pay back his club for slipping up when the stakes were at its highest last season (pun definitely intended).
Of course he’s brought a lot of this onto himself. Not feeling sorry for him is probably the default setting. From criticizing Balo to the selfish 38 seconds it took for him to get sent off versus Manchester United, to the rover that still is alive in his footballing soul. Everything that he still does is through wanting to still be the heartbeat of Liverpool FC, even at the age of 34 and after over 15 years of miles on the odometer. Even if it is at the expense of his club.
Brendan will play Gerrard versus Aston Villa in the semifinals and it wouldn’t be shocking if he started the game. As much as Brendan has been an easy target (Hello #BrendanWeek), Gerrard not playing a significant part in the remaining stages of Liverpool’s cup run would be cold and calculated. And though it’s easily a decision that could be backed up by mountains of evidence, Liverpool wouldn’t want to do that to an icon of the club.
When the dust settles on this season, the Gerrard/Rodgers relationship will be an interesting look back when examining this era of Liverpool FC. There’s a clear respect between the two, even if some of it borders on complete insanity. Rodgers tried to save what was left of Gerrard’s career by turning him into the English Pirlo, which burned out in the blaze of glory and highlighted how hard the Pirlo role really is. At every press conference, it felt as if the ghost of Steven Gerrard was around and hovered over everything that Brendan said.
But the flip side of that is that in respecting and deferring to Steven Gerrard so much, Rodgers cost the team that he was managing. Who knows what would have happened had Gerrard kept his cool against United? Liverpool might still make it to the Champions League, and Raheem Sterling might still think about returning to Liverpool.
Who knows what would have happened had Rodgers reined in Stevie G in his last season, decreasing his impact on the team gradually while building what should have been a decent squad?
And who knows what would have happened had Gerrard himself became the captain Liverpool fans forever thought he was, leading by example and knowing how to control himself on the pitch, and keep his emotions in check?
Both Gerrard and Rodgers have overcomplicated things for Liverpool going into the post Stevie era, and what should have been the dawn of a new era feels like anything but.
Steven Gerrard at this point is like the guy who empties his and his girlfriend’s checking account to buy himself a new car under the guise of doing it for the both of them. He’s the dude who’s always bringing up old shit, knowing that the fanbase is wired the same way he is. Who cares if Steven Gerrard cost Liverpool a Premier League title and a Champions League spot? He won them the FA Cup and the Champions League way back when, and that’s all that matters. Perversely, neither he nor the fans are willing to let go. And the club is paying for it.
In more ways than one for the red side from Merseyside, this feels like an end. It was supposed to be a new beginning, a new relationship between the club and its fans.
Thanks to Steven Gerrard, hero, legend, and overpossessive lover, it just feels like a sinking ‘ship.