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Gerrard "Can't Play Every Minute of Every Game"

After remaining bullish on his captain for the last two-plus seasons, Brendan Rodgers looks set to finally manage the minutes of Steven Gerrard.

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A 1-0 win over Stoke City typically isn't a significant event, and it may yet prove to be anything but. For now, though, it stemmed a growing tide of impatience and pessimism, breaking up a streak of poor performances and results domestically and in Europe. With matches coming thick and fast before the turn of the year, Liverpool were in need of a spark to get themselves going, and Glen Johnson's 85th-minute winner will have hopefully provided just that.

The win might also prove important for the steps taken by Brendan Rodgers in assembling his team. Dejan Lovren was dropped for the second straight match after months of struggle, and Steven Gerrard found himself on the bench for the first time in the Premier League this season. The dropping of Lovren was a long time coming, but after spending so long persisting with Gerrard, at times when was to the detriment of the squad and the player, Rodgers appears ready to relent:

"He's a wonderful man and he's very much about the team. Of course every player wants to play every minute of every game but the reality is that at this level and how competitive the squad is we can't rely on Steven for every game. He's brilliant for me and will continue to be so. Steven is at the bit of his career when he is not going to be playing every game and every minute of every game. He played against Palace and was outstanding against Ludogorets.

"I need to look at each game and position the players in my team to get the right result. He came on and gave a great contribution with his experience. He's someone who is a team player and a great guy."

Talking about it and doing it are two very different things, and today may well have just been a case of the manager talking himself into a corner. Earlier he'd talked about how Gerrard can't possibly start three matches in a week, which was followed by two starts in four days for the captain, with 90-minute shifts the name of the game in each. Rodgers was surely cognizant of the reaction he'd face if he went back on those words with his team selection today, and while it was common sense for many, for Rodgers it seemed significant.

And maybe it will prove as much, with Lucas bringing better balance and cohesion to the side in a role that was similar in positioning but vastly different in execution. That doesn't need to limit Steven Gerrard's contribution, though, and in an ideal world the emergence of a more stable midfield setup gives Rodgers and Gerrard more freedom to find out how to best deploy one of Liverpool's greatest-ever players in the twilight of his career.

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