I try and tread carefully when talking about Carra. Awfully so. There's no question the man is a club legend, and probably the first one I've gotten to appreciate the spectrum of his whole career. His performance in the 2nd leg against Chelsea in 2005...well, Thor or Zeus wouldn't be adequate adjectives. There have been several others as well. Carragher will always elicit a glow when we hear his name. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try and step back and take a objective look at what Carragher is and will be from here.
Positives: It's something about Chelsea, isn't it? Carragher returned from a dislocated shoulder to be part of the back three that stymied Chelsea at The Bridge in one of the best wins of the season. From there, Carra was an ever-present in an improving side, especially after Daniel Agger went off with the king's men and after the West Brom match no one ever wanted to see Kyrgiakos again. Most will tell you that the biggest influence Carragher has is that it was he who was shepherding first Martin Kelly, John Flanagan, and Jack Robinson through their first dips into the first team pool. It's pretty obvious to say that those kids wouldn't have succeeded without Carragher right behind them, positioning them, talking to them, and guiding them through what could have been a very ugly scenario. Partly thanks to Carragher, combined with their own talent, it couldn't have been farther from that.
Negatives: Even when Carragher was at the top of his powers, there's was always a desperation about it. A lot of tackles were last-ditch, a lot of blocks were at the very last possible moment with Carra flinging himself like a missile to get there in time. Barely. And deep down, you always knew that if he lost even a half step, those last-ditch tackles would be fouls, those flying leaps at blocks wouldn't get there in time, and pacier strikers were always going to be a problem. Under Hodgson at least, the disturbing trends from Benitez's last year continued. The way that Berbatov horsed him at Old Trafford for a hat-trick truly hurt. Carra couldn't organize a defense that was leaking goals for the first half of the year. On top of that, without Agger in the lineup, Carragher far too often cost Liverpool possession by simply hoofing for satellites instead of trying to play the ball. That's always been the problem with Carragher though, and I doubt that's going to change.
Outlook: Carragher is 33, which for a defender is only getting up there instead of past it. But you wonder now with Liverpool trying to get back to a passing and moving team, does Carragher fit in the first 11 (seeing as how he can't really do either)? Carra's heart, determination, and brains will always have a place on this team, and I'm in no way advocating that he be moved along. But at some point, it has to be admitted that he can't play more than 30 games any more. That he probably shouldn't be first choice. That's a cold and hard decision to make about a player who's meant so much to the club and fans. But right now, with no additions, I'd rather see Skrtel and Agger, or Agger and whatever signing is coming, than Carragher. That doesn't mean Jamie can't get his share of games, or be the first call when Agger invariably gets hurt. But it's been two years now of the cracks starting to show, and it's probably time to admit what that means.
Sidenote: So much for my Ashley Young dreams. It shouldn't be a surprise that Liverpool are going to struggle to convince top players to come over clubs that can offer European, and Champions League, football this season. It probably means Juan Mata won't be arriving either. That doesn't mean Stewart Downing is an answer though. Pace is something we need, and something he doesn't have.