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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent