Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers backs Steven Gerrard amid fears over form
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says he has no concerns about the form of captain Steven Gerrard after a series of ineffective displays prompted calls from fans and pundits that it is time to reconsider his role in the team.
London: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says he has no concerns about the form of captain Steven Gerrard after a series of ineffective displays prompted calls from fans and pundits that it is time to reconsider his role in the team.
At 34 years old, Gerrard is entering the period in most players` careers when talk turns to managing dwindling reserves of energy and protecting tired legs from the exertions of the modern game.
Yet there has been no reduction in Gerrard`s workload this season with the midfielder starting and finishing all of Liverpool`s matches in a patchy and inconsistent beginning to the campaign.
While questions are being asked about whether Gerrard, for so long a talismanic figure at the club, can still be an effective part of Rodgers`s side, the manager himself appears not to have any doubts.
"I have no concerns about him - he is a brilliant player for us," Rodgers said, before hinting that his legs could be spared for the bigger games as the season wears on.
"We want him to be involved in the big games because of his experience and we will always taper that recovery to allow him to be at the very best he can be."
The question fans are asking now, however, is whether Gerrard can still be effective in his deep-lying quarter-back role when teams come armed with spoiler tactics to restrict his creative influence.
Recent defeats against Aston Villa and West Ham United have suggested teams will now routinely employ a man-marker to prevent Gerrard having the time and space to launch the raking passes that proved so effective in Liverpool`s unexpected title challenge last season.
"I think the problem that Liverpool have got at the moment, particularly with Steven Gerrard dropping into that back three, teams have worked that out," former England and Manchester United defender Phil Neville said.
"Against Aston Villa last week (Gabriel) Agbonlahor just sat on Gerrard all game, they didn`t let Steven Gerrard dictate the pace of the game, and that`s what he did last season, particularly from Christmas onwards. On Saturday, Stewart Downing did it for West Ham."
If Gerrard is no longer providing an attacking threat then the spotlight is increasingly focussed on other areas of his game including his ability to shut the door at the other end.
Liverpool conceded 50 goals last season, more than any other team in the top five, while they have already shipped eight in their five league games of the new campaign.
Three of Liverpool`s starting four defenders against West Ham were new signings, suggesting they might need time to gel, but in front of them, Gerrard won just 25 percent of his duels, the lowest figure of anyone in the team.
The former England captain was quoted on Monday saying he would not let his career "fizzle out", but he now faces a battle to show he can remain a force in one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world.