When you think of box-to-box midfielders that have starred in the Premier League over the last decade, Steven Gerrard is generally one of the first names to spring to mind.
The Liverpool legend has made a career out of lung-busting runs forward, all-action displays and a boundless energy that countless opposition sides have failed to shackle.
However, with the veteran midfielder’s physical attributes perhaps not what they once were given that he is a couple of months off turning 34, a new role at Anfield has been engineered.
Gerrard is still is the lifeblood of the Liverpool midfield, but has been asked by Brendan Rodgers to play as more of a holding midfielder than in his usual swashbuckling capacity.
The virtues of the Reds captain’s new function in the side seem to be very apparent, with the Liverpool team more rounded as a result.
Gerrard playing in a deeper position nullifies the loss of Lucas Leiva, who is set to miss the guts of the rest of the season due to injury. The England international is arguably the only player at Rodgers’ disposal with the attributes needed to fill in for the Brazilian, which have been on show in the club’s recent excellent string of results.
Despite not having the seemingly endless energy levels that characterised him in his youth, Gerrard still maintains his strength, explosive nature over short distances and commitment in the tackle.
This assertive presence in front of the Liverpool back four has been reassuring, while his commanding style and authority are made the most of in a deeper position.
One thing that has not waned as Gerrard has aged is his range of passing and ability on the ball. This means that when Liverpool wins the ball back in their own half, the 33-year-old is in the perfect position to start counter-attacks with his top-drawer distribution.
Gerrard’s delivery from the dead ball is also still of the highest order and was there for all to see in Liverpool’s mauling of Arsenal on Saturday.
Another key benefit of having Gerrard in a holding role is the licence for Jordan Henderson to be the man to get forward from the centre of the park.
The former Sunderland midfielder has overcome early scrutiny on Merseyside to become an integral player for Liverpool, with his dynamic recent showings not dissimilar to those of his central midfield partner five years ago.
Henderson has grown in confidence and there is a real argument to suggest that he will be the man to replace Gerrard in the Liverpool team in the long run. Having the stalwart alongside him has obviously played its part in Henderson’s progression, and together they pose as an ideal boiler room pairing.
With Gerrard’s new role at club level, it bodes well for England this summer. If the Liverpool man is to fulfill a similar position for Roy Hodgson’s charges, it will allow for a more offensive-minded central midfield partner – Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley or maybe even Henderson if he continues his recent form.
Gerrard’s more conservative role at Anfield will play its part in prolonging his career, which will be something that he will be mightily keen to do as Liverpool look as close to posing a title challenge now as they have done in the recent memory.