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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas