Gerrard's future rests in the hands of Hodgson

Posted by guest on September 10, 2012, 12:42:07 AM

Maybe the Kop was astute enough when it demanded “Hodgson for England” over 18 months ago after all. Roy Hodgson hasn't done much to enamour himself to Liverpool Football Club, but consider the absence of Steven Gerrard during the second half of England's 5-0 win over Moldova a bridge built. It might not make up for slating the Scandinavian fan base, purchasing Paul Konchesky and general incompetence during his ill-fated six-month stay at Anfield, but resting the ailing, aching body of Liverpool's captain won't provide much opposition on Merseyside.

Gerrard needs to be looked after. He has made just 52 appearances over the past two seasons, a meagre total compared to the 145 in the three seasons prior. It was, ironically, during Hodgson's time at Liverpool that Gerrard's injury problems began; a hamstring tear on international duty against France in November 2010 left Hodgson seething and Gerrard on the sidelines for six weeks. Since then, Gerrard has suffered long-term injuries to his groin and ankle. The Colossus of Rhodes has started to crumble into the River Mersey.

That's not to write off the career of Steven Gerrard; it is one that still possesses effervescence and influence. But no longer can he play three games a week. His success has been founded upon his high intensity style; his highlight reel littered with moments dependent on energy and pure athleticism. At the age of 32, with injuries mounting up, either his style or schedule must change.

At the turn of the year with Euro 2012 approaching, there had been suggestions Gerrard would no longer make himself available for selection to England. A nice thought for those Liverpool fans distinctly disinterested in the fortunes of the national side, as well as those who have watched Gerrard be overused and underappreciated for England over the past decade. The final slap to the face came in February this year, when England no longer had a captain or manager. Interim appointment Stuart Pearce chose Scott Parker.

Pearce had chosen a player who did not even wear the armband for club side Tottenham ahead of a player who was not only captain of Liverpool, but the heartbeat; the player who had dragged the club from on-field stupor on several occasions. But Pearce and Parker were simply an experiment. In came Roy Hodgson. In came Steven Gerrard as captain. For the first time in his England career, he was the main man. He revelled in it too, his England form finally reflecting what Liverpool had been spoilt with for years. Any thoughts of international retirement evaporating with every deliciously whipped in ball.

Gerrard was overplayed at Euro 2012, his face a permanent contortion of pain and weariness throughout extra-time against Italy. But worries over Hodgson overplaying him during the World Cup qualifying campaign will have been eased with his removal at half-time against Moldova on Friday. It helped that England were 3-0 up, so too that Gerrard had not enjoyed his best 45 minutes. Liverpool fans will hang on to any hope right now, however. They have to.

It has been a poor start to the season for Gerrard. He is not a player who regularly suffers slumps - but aside from a magnificent hat-trick against Everton in March, he has rarely influenced in the past year with his recognisable, seductive stamp on games conspicuous by its absence. The injury enforced stop-start nature of the past two years cannot help, nor can the inconsistency surrounding the football club itself. Both against West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal this season, his failure to keep the ball – and subsequently chase back – led to goals. After a tough 90 minutes at Anfield against Hearts, he looked visibly tired from the first minute against Arsenal three days later.

It is a conundrum that manager Brendan Rodgers must solve – and soon. It seems the first three months of Rodgers' tenure has involved working on football's most complex Sudoku. In Gerrard, he has one of the club's greatest ever players; a player who has experienced everything, possessing a wisdom that cannot be bought but can be taught. In Gerrard, he also has a player that cannot play every game, particularly if adhering to Rodgers' intense, pressing style; he has a player who is a superstar in a team where patience is required, where recycling the ball is a positive thing. With Rodgers, the system is the star. Try telling that to Gerrard. Clipping the wings of a griffin cannot be easy.

Starting with their trip to Sunderland's Stadium of Light, Liverpool face seven games in 22 days. After that comes two England games in quick succession, where he will be expected to marshal the midfield once more. Which games Gerrard plays, and how he plays them, is something for Rodgers to contemplate. Though he has been deployed mainly at the tip of the midfield three, the lack of striking options could see him play in the three ahead. Less running, more threat towards goal. Win-win. For Rodgers, getting the best out of Gerrard will mean getting the best out of Liverpool. But he needs him fully fit and fresh as much as possible. For that, he needs a helping hand from Hodgson. Given how Hodgson's time at Liverpool went, it's probably best the relationship ends there.


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