It was clear before the 2014/15 season even began but, after three disappointing Liverpool performances in succession, the need to ponder life without Steven Gerrard has become even more pressing.
However, the bwin layers remain unconvinced that Brendan Rodgers has an exit strategy, setting the under/over betting bar for his skipper’s Premier League starts this term at 28.5.
Prices of 17/20 are available for those confident he’ll finish on either side of the barrier.
Last season the Merseyside monolith adapted to his new, aging-limbs-dictated position as a kind of pawnshop Pirlo at the base of the Reds midfield with consummate ease.
He finished 2013/14 joint top of the assist rankings; with average tackling and interceptions stats inside the division’s top 20 players
Yet, despite Liverpool’s success, the suspicion that he was not a natural in the position continued to linger until the World Cup in Brazil.
There, against an Italy side that included the real deal, those misgivings were ruthlessly confirmed as the game passed him by, particularly when the opposition were in possession.
Fast-forward to 2014/15 and Gerrard remains in his semi-retirement position at the base of the midfield, putting up stats that are, in some respects, a shadow of those he provided even last term.
In 2013/14 he averaged 2.9 tackles, 1.4 interceptions, 65.3 passes at an accuracy of 86 per cent, 7.6 accurate long balls and two key passes a game.
This season the 34-year-old’s distribution numbers are more or less identical, if not slightly improved, yet without the ball it seems he has begun to offer less with means of 1.6 and 0.6 dispossessions and cut-outs respectively.
In successive Premier League games he has been targeted by opposition managers, with Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce tasking Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stewart Downing with mithering the aging colossus.
The sight of the latter leaving a discombobulated Stevie G swinging like a drunkard, rather than with the speed and accuracy of a professional boxer, as he left him in the dust down the West Ham left was not an edifying one, leaving Rodgers with little choice.
How the Antrim tactician replaces one of the club’s great captains is a question for another article, but do so he must.