I really can’t wait to read the December installment of FourFourTwo Magazine. In this issue Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard finally states what we all know: the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid has undeniably damaged the Merseyside club. I would personally like to thank Stevie for a poignant piece of honesty. While fans and pundits pick over the decaying carcass of Liverpool Football Club, a team that has lost six of its last eight matches and is all but eliminated from the Champions League, Gerrard sites the initial catalyst for all the misery.
The captain states, “I was devastated, yeah. Devastated. But there was nothing I could do about it. Xabi said a long time ago that he wanted another chapter in his career and finally he got it and his teammates and the coaches couldn’t stand in his way. We just had to say thanks and move forward without him.”
Pressure has mounted on Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez over his side’s slumping form over the past month, with a sole victory over Manchester United keeping the club hanging from a thread. Yet to anyone who follows this team closely, Alonso’s departure signaled the beginning of an era of doubt an instability. As Gerrard wisely points out, Alonso is, “one of the best players in the world.” His diligent play over four successful seasons helped to propel Liverpool to Champions League glory, an FA cup triumph, and a stunning finish last season that saw the Anfield club nearly pip United to the Premier League title. Last year’s second place position is the closest Benitez will get to his most coveted prize, as Liverpool currently sit in sixth place in the Premier League table and are nine points adrift of first-place Chelsea.
Alonso’s deft passing ability, unrivaled vision, and sound work ethic made him the ultimate deep-lying playmaker for Benitez’s Liverpool. The Spaniard provided the perfect link between defense and attack, allowing Javier Mascherano to roam the final third and protect Liverpool’s back four. Similarly, Alonso enabled Gerrard to become the renowned attacking midfielder that we know him as today, slotting brilliantly weighted through balls to the Scouser’s feet in front of goal. Now it is Kaka and Christiano Ronaldo receiving this service, and Liverpool’s once metronomic rhythm has been disrupted.
Lucas will never be a Premier League-caliber midfielder, and Alberto Aquilani is not Alonso’s natural replacement. That is not to say that Aquilani will not become a fine player for Liverpool, but Alonso’s skill set was incredibly rare, and replacing him in midfield is near impossible. Meanwhile Mascherano is having to overcompensate for this loss, throwing the usually tenacious holding midfielder off of his game.
With both Gerrard and star striker Fernando Torres injured and awaiting surgery, the future will not provide any respite for the once proud Merseyside club. Liverpool is in free fall, and as Gerrard intelligently points out, this trend began before his side kicked off the season, “It was always going to be different when you lose one of the best players in the world – and people are finally realizing that’s what he [Alonso] is, on the back of his form for Real Madrid and the difference in us from last year.”