There can be only one boss at Liverpool — and it's not you, Gerrard
It may seem strange to say it but having superstar players can bring its own problems. Because of their talent and drive, people sometimes tend to focus on them to the exclusion of the rest of the team. It's a point that I'm sure will be made today when Liverpool meet Arsenal.
hereas Arsene Wenger has shown there is life after Thierry Henry, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is under more pressure than at any time since his first season. And that pressure is intensified every time he makes a decision about his very famous captain, Steven Gerrard.
My view is that Gerrard is a great player; one of my favourites, in fact. But no individual is bigger than the club and this is the time for Stevie to ask 'What can I do for Liverpool?', not 'What can they do for me?'.
That means accepting any role in the team that Benitez feels is right. And showing positive body language whether he plays 90 minutes or not. We've seen how big players can detract from what a manager is trying to do.
Dimitar Berbatov undermined Martin Jol at Spurs with his behaviour at Newcastle on Monday, Henry's apparent disenchantment was highlighted by Arsenal-watchers last season and Gerrard has always made his opinions clear about where he wants to play.
Last Saturday, Benitez took him off and the move worked because Liverpool beat Everton. And yet the manager was still criticised because he had dared to take off the talisman.
I know how he feels. I once left Alan Shearer out of a UEFA Cup match. We went through comfortably, so it was the right decision because Shearer had rest before our next game.
But Alan's exclusion became the story, rather than us winning the tie. It can be frustrating for a manager because the ethic should always be: 'The team comes first'. And in that respect, there was no one better than Shearer.
Gerrard is probably regarded with Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool's greatest ever player and while he has earned that respect because of his fabulous displays, it comes with a responsibility. Players like Henry, Shearer and Gerrard nearly always have strong personalities. It's probably what made them great in the first place.
Superstars have control over certain things; they use their voice to make suggestions about the team and others will look to them in the dressing room.
In the worst-case scenario, they can overstep the mark and start thinking they are the boss — when they are a long way from it. When they become managers, they will realise the problems that come with a powerful player.
I am not saying Gerrard is deliberately undermining Benitez, but his apparent willingness to give an opinion is not exactly helping. Stevie should be aware of the influence he has, and now is the time to use that influence to back the manager in a trying time.
The best managers realise quickly when there is possible conflict with a big-name player and they act decisively to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.
Sir Alex Ferguson has done it often, most notably with David Beckham and Roy Keane, while Wenger dealt with the Henry situation for the good of the club.
Henry was a sensational player for Arsenal and enhanced the Premier League. But Wenger was not afraid of him. I don't know if Arsene thought Henry saw himself as the most important person at Arsenal but the fact is, he was prepared to sell him.
On the evidence so far, with Henry removed, Arsenal look a better collective unit.I am not sure if that's relief because Henry dominated situations, but it has worked.
I hope Liverpool fans realise that and back Rafa when he deals with Gerrard. I am sure the Liverpool captain is a long way from leaving Anfield, but it is important the manager is in charge and is backed by the board and the fans.
Rafa was brave in taking Gerrard off at Everton because he would have been severely criticised had Liverpool not won.
But they did win, and I am not sure why Gerrard had to go and see his manager to ask why he had been subbed. Would Dirk Kuyt, Javier Mascherano or any other player do that?
Gerrard has got his wish to play in the middle this season. He was quite outspoken about that last season, although Benitez was quick to point out that the decision was made because Liverpool lacked flank players — not because he didn't think Gerrard was good enough in the middle.
I think Rafa appreciates what Stevie has done for the club and the talents he brings to the team. But he is not bigger than the club — and, if they want to emulate Manchester United and Arsenal, and win the Premier League, all Liverpool fans should remember that.
utusanLFC : Gerrard is a natural leader. Torres was reported saying he won't be play-acting on the pitch because Stevie G doesn't like that. What does that show? And when Stevie G plays with his heart, what's wrong with that? Or you rather having a player with no heart at all? errr...