Steven Gerrard will reportedly be out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury caused by his first forward burst since 2009. I'm only half kidding about his forward abilities -- his bursts have certainly become a rarer sight as his legs have tired with age. However, the captain remains an integral part of the starting eleven for the time being, and his absence during our toughest stretch of the season is untimely to say the least.
I guess the positive angle of this injury is that sooner or later Rodgers had to consider the post-Gerrard era anyways, and perhaps this will be a chance for new faces to carve their names into the future of the club. Rodgers gets to see what he has, and whether he needs to look to the transfer window for a central midfielder of the future.
Joe Allen, who has already been seeing more time lately, will benefit most from the absence of Gerrard. However, there is a lot of doubt surrounding Allen's ability to be impactful against big time opposition. His reputation around the Liverpool faithful is that he is easily overrun, with the disaster against United last season serving as evidence of that. Allen is 5'6'', which makes him a poor fit for playing a deep role.
A solution for Allen's frailty is to place Lucas and Henderson slightly behind him as cover, allowing him to venture forward a bit more than he's used to. Allen has played well in two straight games, and seems to be regaining his confidence, so it's not absurd to think he can make things happen when he isn't burdened by the responsibility of protecting the back line.
Another option is to use Luis Alberto as the forward element of the midfield, again with the protection of Lucas and Henderson. While I like Allen's newfound confidence, this move would be the most forward looking for Rodgers to make. In this lineup, Henderson becomes the key piece of the midfield, an opportunity I think he'll take advantage of, while Alberto gets a chance to prove his ability as a playmaker of the future. It's impossible to know if Alberto is for real until he's given a chance to start, and his play off the bench warrants at least a look from Rodgers.
What the Gerrard injury once again exposes is the need for another true defensive midfielder. We've been needing another defensive midfielder at Anfield to challenge Lucas and provide depth for years, and hopefully this injury serves as a wake up call for the manager to make a purchase in the January window. It doesn't have to be a big name or price tag, just a solid machinelike guy who can be stashed on the bench until needed.
Gerrard's free kick taking ability and leadership cannot be replaced in the coming weeks by Allen, Alberto, or anyone. But Gerrard isn't quite what he used to be, so the shoes are not as hard to fill as they once were. If Rodgers plays his cards right while waiting for the return of his captain, Liverpool will have at least a passable midfield for now with an opportunity to see what the future holds.