JAMIE CARRAGHER could become Brendan Rodgers’ big-game player – as a pair of potentially season-defining matches against Arsenal and Manchester City loom on the Reds horizon.
Against Norwich on Saturday Carragher made his first Premier League for almost two months, and helped the Reds to a clean sheet.
His previous Premier League start was the trip to Chelsea in November, when the Reds earned a richly deserved draw.
Since then Liverpool have fallen short in their clashes with top four sides Spurs and Manchester United, but the Reds boss admits that Carragher’s experience and organisational abilities have given him food for thought.
After the FA Cup trip to Oldham on Sunday Liverpool face testing trips to Arsenal and City, and Rodgers said: “We’ve got to kick on and we’ve got to improve. We’ve done terrific this year against the teams at Anfield who can make it difficult, but obviously we want to go into the big games where you need leadership, experience, organisation – just fine lines that can make the difference for you – and that’s what Jamie’s got.
“There’s no doubt that’s why I put him in.
“When he played at Chelsea he was outstanding. So it’s food for thought.”
Carragher pumped up the volume against the Canaries.
But Rodgers insists it wasn’t just Carragher’s voice which saw him back at the heart of the Reds rearguard against Norwich for his 494th league appearance.
“I just feel that it’s important you have players of dominance in your team and he’s a player of dominance and you saw that today how he marshalled the team,” explained the Reds boss.
“Jamie Carragher hasn’t put a foot wrong for me since I came.
“He has been absolutely brilliant. He hasn’t played as often as he’d have liked.
“He’s played in a lot of the cup games and I’d hoped to not put a curse on him, but I said to him that I couldn’t remember him making a mistake in any of the games since I’ve been here and I told him that before the game. I hoped today wouldn’t be the day.
“I thought about his leadership. We are a quiet team and he’s a great organiser, he manages the game very well, he’s got big experience, and he can play football.
“I just thought him coming in alongside Daniel Agger, who has been brilliant, would give us that extra bit of leadership. We saw that from him today, he was fantastic.”
Rodgers also believes that Carragher could continue his career at Liverpool beyond this season.
Carragher’s present deal expires in June, when he will be 35, but Rodgers is refusing to rule out Carragher continuing beyond this summer.
“He feels very much a part of things, but the thing that’s difficult is when you’ve been a senior player and you’ve been the number one player and you’re maybe not playing as much, it’s going to give you a question to answer, but we’ll take it week by week,” said Rodgers.
“If you look at Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher they’ve been arguably the best players over 10 years for Liverpool.
“He and I communicate a lot. We know what each other’s thinking and what I know at this stage he is 34, he’s 35 on January 28, but he’s still super fit and in great condition. He can still play on.
“You saw today he can cope. He was against a very difficult, physical opponent in Grant Holt but he coped very very well.”
Rodgers added: “He has been an absolute model professional, a real good guy who understands the game.
“And we’re a quiet team and you need players who can manage and organise the game inside the game and I thought we needed someone who could do that. And every game he’s played for me this season he’s been fantastic.
“You want to have decisions to make and his performance today and how he marshalled the defence was exceptional so it’s good to have that.
“You need everyone to be vocal, but if it’s not in your nature that can be difficult. It’s the responsibility of everyone, but you have different types.
“You have the big communicators like Carra but the small communication’s important as well.”