Analysis: Steven Gerrard returns in deeper role to fire Liverpool hopes of a Premier League title

Captain was instrumental in 5-3 victory over Stoke City

The headlines, inevitably, where claimed by the restored partnership at the point of the Liverpool attack. Luis Suarez is a lethal predator in any company, as 22 goals in 16 games suggests, yet is even more effective when aligned with the twinkling toes of Daniel Sturridge.

While Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was thrilled to deploy the Kop SAS for the first time since November in the 5-3 win over Stoke on Sunday, he was equally grateful to have at the heart of the piece his captain, Steven Gerrard, making his first league start since the first week of last month.

Gerrard is no longer the marauding presence of yore. He is more measured and in this phase of his career a deeper thinker by virtue of his increasing deployment in front of the back four. As compelling as Liverpool can be going forward, they remain vulnerable, particularly away from home, to the exertions of irreverent teams full of aggressive intent.

Mark Hughes has reset the parameters at the Britannia. Stoke have acquired a liking for the ball to go with the muscle and bustle of old regimes. They edged possession and on another day, perhaps the visit of Manchester United on 1 February, might have claimed a greater reward for their invention. When the storm was at its height, it was Gerrard who set the example, throwing himself into contact; blocking, tackling, heading, even lumping the ball clear.

Over the length and breadth of a marvellous career and in the context of the club for which he has devoted every second of it, it seems plain wrong that he might end his days without the bauble that more than any other substantiates a CV, a championship medal. If club and player are to settle that score then Gerrard deployed deep appears as vital a part of Rodgers' grand design as the Suarez/Sturridge axis.


"He is someone that fits the profile of that role," said Rodgers. "He does it with England. In the period he was out we had real success playing with a controlling player with two guys pressing. I just feel with him in that position it is perfect for him.

"One, he has the personality to play it. You need someone who can get on the ball. He gives us great variety with his passing. There were a couple of times [at Stoke] where he opened the game up for us with his vision and quality.

"I also thought he showed great leadership as well. He was sliding in, blocking the line of passes, he was dropping in, making headers. I have spoken to him a lot about the role at this stage of his career. It is all about the timing really, when to put him in there. We saw [against Stoke] here that he can play it really, really well."

At 33 age is the issue, not so much his date of birth but miles on the clock. Gerrard has run a lot of miles in the service of Liverpool, mostly in the talisman role. His hamstrings and groins need careful management.

Two things are in his and the club's favour as they continue the pursuit of a first title in 24 years; the development of Jordan Henderson to share the central burden and the absence of European competition this season.

Liverpool need Gerrard in the big games, like the Merseyside derby in a fortnight followed in the next home game by Arsenal. Without European games to stretch resources further, Liverpool might never have a better chance to return to the top of Sir Alex Ferguson's perch. It's still a stretch but not beyond a team that can take Stoke for five at the Britannia.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little