Who are you and what have you done with Steven Gerrard?

Did Abramovitch have Gerrard kidnapped? Photo by Wonker

After enduring the entire 90 minutes of Liverpool v Portsmouth on Saturday, I have just been too depressed to write about either Liverpool or soccer. Some distance from that wretched display has allowed me to think a little more clearly about what ails the Reds this season. They have many problems, but I have focused on two main culprits for their poor play: Benitez’s favored 4-2-3-1 system falls apart without a midfield player to orchestrate the attack; and Steven Gerrard has been complete crap (or absolute pants for our British readers) for the last three months.

I’ll have more on the missing playmaker in another post, but today it’s about Gerrard and whether he was kidnapped by the Russian mafia in Florence in late September and replaced by an imposter.

Let’s get this straight; Steven Gerrard is a fantastic player. Liverpool fans are accustomed to him grabbing games by the scruff of the neck and rescuing the Reds seemingly by shear will. Most everyone remembers the FA Cup Final against West Ham, and of course, Istanbul. But few avid supporters forget the injury time goal against Olympiakos in the last group stage game, without which there would have been no fifth European Cup. And its not just these signature games, Gerrard scored from a free kick in injury time won all three points in the crucial league opener last year against Villa just moments after a Jamie Carragher own goal had leveled the match.

Scoring vital goals and leading Liverpool on and off the pitch is what has endeared Gerrard to Liverpool fans and has genuinely earned his place among the club’s all time greats. But what has happened to that player this season?

Liverpool got off to a bit of a bumpy start, losing two of the first three matches, but had righted themselves through September winning five games in a row in all competitions. Gerrard was playing well and contributing goals and leadership, scoring three in the first seven league games, with the winner against Bolton, and the run culminated in the 6-1 thrashing of Hull at Anfield on September 26. But then everything changed in Florence against the Viola in the Champions League, with Liverpool putting in a shocking performance and falling 2-0.

We can now look back at the match against Hull as the high water mark for the season. Since that victory, Gerrard has not scored from open play, only netting a penalty against Birmingham. The draw secured by that penalty are the only points in the last ten games that Gerrard has earned, and I would say its debatable how much credit he should get for converting a spot kick that was awarded for David N’Gog’s infamous dive.

The Fiorentina loss started a disastrous run of 15 games in all competitions in which Liverpool have won only three, lost eight, and drawn four. In the Premier League during that span, they’re just 2-5-3, or nine points from 10 matches. That’s the relegation zone. Now Gerrard missed four full games and the majority of a fifth with a groin injury suffered on England duty, but the team are only 2-5-3 with him and have only won a single game in the Premier League with Gerrard in the lineup since September.

But goals are only part of Gerrard’s value to Liverpool. As the team has crumbled to catastrophic defeats against Arsenal and Portsmouth, Gerrard has been nowhere – no personal heroics, no leadership, none of the force of will that the team had relied upon during tough times in the past. Gerrard has been a passenger as Liverpool’s season that promised so much at the outset has collapsed. That is what has surprised so many Liverpool fans that just don’t recognize this person wearing the captain’s armband.

Liverpool’s next league game after their Italian misadventure was against Chelsea. I wonder if Abramovitch got his KGB buddies to snatch Gerrard from the streets of Florence – its hard to come up with any other explanation for his miserable form these last few months.

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2 Responses

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