BRENDAN RODGERS insists Steven Gerrard has not been asked to curb his attacking instincts this season – and believes the Liverpool skipper is still offering as effective a presence as ever.
The Reds boss has, though, conceded that the club’s young, threadbare squad may have led to a subconscious decision from Gerrard to rein in his forward tendencies in recent weeks.
Gerrard has managed just one Premier League goal so far this season – a second, against Norwich, was later credited as an own goal – assuming a noticeably deeper, more steady role in the Reds’ midfield trio.
Rodgers, though, says the 32-year-old has not been specifically told to ignore his natural desire to get forward.
“I don’t think there’s been a clear change in his game, in terms of what I’ve asked him to do,” he said. “I just want him to be the player he is.
“He fits into the team and gives balance when we haven’t got the ball, but there has been nothing different asked of him. The responsibility of midfielders in a 4-3-3 is to get into the box and get a goal.
“Steven has been, over many years, the player that makes the difference. And, ok, he may not have had maybe the goals he would have wanted this season, but he’s certainly been effective.
“There has been nothing more or less asked in terms of defensive responsibilities. Of course we want the midfield players to score goals, we want them in the box, gambling. We have seen when Steven has done that from central areas that he has been fantastic.
“He’s obviously got to take on more of a mantle because it’s a much younger group. He will have played in teams here in the past where he’s got players around him with more experience.
“There’s a bit more responsibility on him in relation to looking out more for the team, because of the youthfulness in the group.
“As the skipper of the club, when we are going through this period, maybe he will feel the need (to curb his attacking) in himself. Maybe it is something subconsciously that is in his mind.
“But look at him at the end of the game against Swansea. The ball comes into the box at the death, and Daniel Agger goes up for the header. If he heads it down, you’ve got Steven Gerrard in the box to finish.
“The great thing is he wants to penetrate. Our game isn’t just about possession. It’s about keeping the ball, of course, but it’s about tempo and the speed of our game. And when he gets the ball and passes it, the tempo of his game is superb.
“Maybe that goes unnoticed now, but he is certainly pushing on and trying to be productive for us. He will get better and better too.”
Rodgers expects to have Andre Wisdom available for selection this evening. The defender missed Sunday’s game against Swansea with a knee injury.
Lucas Leiva, will not be considered, despite coming through an hour for the U21s last week.