Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, has spoken for the first time about Steven Gerrard's poor form this season and said that the captain's sense of responsibility to the young players in the re-shaped team may be on his mind.
Gerrard has scored two goals in 20 games but has also become far more anonymous in the Liverpool midfield, with his performance at Swansea on Sunday one of the poorest in recent years by his standards.
It is hard to avoid the impression that the 32-year-old is taking time to adjust to the manager's new system, which militates against him playing the immediate long pass which has become one of his trademarks. In Rodgers' three-man midfield, Gerrard is neither the link-up man with Luis Suarez nor the defensive shield and has rarely looked so lost as he did at the Liberty Stadium.
Rodgers, whose side go to Tottenham Hotspur tonight, said: "Obviously as the skipper of this club and going through this period he'll maybe feel [the need to rein himself in because of the younger players]. He is so focused on improving this club so it's maybe something subconsciously that is within his mind."
The manager also insisted that there had been no change in the offensive role Gerrard was being asked to play. Rodgers said: "Playing in the 4-3-3 you've got one pivot and two advanced players and it's really those two [including Gerrard] we want to get in the box and scoring goals and that gives us five attacking players all the time with your front three.
"It's his instinct. The great thing is he wants to penetrate. Our game isn't about possession. It's about tempo and the speed of the game, and the way he plays and passes and the tempo of his game is superb. I just want him to be the player he is.
"He's 32 years of age. Steven's one that will fit into the team's balance when we haven't got the ball. But there's been nothing different asked really, because it is the responsibility of the midfield player to get forward and get a goal."
Rodgers, who agreed that the uncertainty created by the change of manager at Chelsea might help in his own club's attempts to secure Daniel Sturridge's signature, was coy when it was put to him that he might have become Spurs manager in the summer: "It's irrelevant and no [it's not interesting]."
Lucas Leiva will be back in the squad against Southampton on Saturday after recovering from injury.
Odds Tottenham 7-5 Draw 12-5 Liverpool 15-8
Kick-off 7.45pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.45pm)
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire)