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Rodgers Hints Gerrard's Minutes May Need Managing

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It isn't an explicit statement of intent, but Brendan Rodgers' most recent ruminations on his captain suggest that, moving forward, the manager will attempt to keep him fresh for the big games.

Michael Regan

Against Aston Villa, Ludogorets, and West Ham, Steven Gerrard played 270 minutes of football. He was, at best, anonymous. At worst he was actively damaging to Liverpool's chances. It reflects a reality that every aging football player on the planet has at some time had to face up to, and so far at least there appears little willingness on either his or his manager's part to face up to the fact that at 34 years of age, he simply can't play every minute of every match.

"I have no concerns about him," said Brendan Rodgers when asked about his captain's struggles to perform for Liverpool recently and of the role age and playing time might have in that dipping form. "He is a brilliant player for us. We have managed his recovery really well in the last two season, even when Steven played international football. If you look at his numbers and games, it has been as good as ever, but he is at the age where we need to treat him individually."

Presumably Rodgers wasn't talking about his performance against West Ham when he referred to Gerrard's numbers. On Saturday, the captain completed 82% of his less than 50 pass attempts. He attempted no through balls and created no chances. He made no tackles and attempted no shots, on or off target. He was a passenger, pure and simple, who contributed nothing of note to either attack or defence and in doing so shoulders a large portion of the blame for the loss.

In the end, though, how—and how much—Gerrard plays is on Rodgers, and certainly one can make the case that his attacking contribution last season was worth the occasional lapse at the back and a few extra goals against. Those numbers do, from a certain angle, one that judges players in traditionally defensive positions by their attack contributions, suggest that even if Gerrard may not actually have been "as good as ever" he was still very good.

In Rodgers' acceptance that Gerrard will have to be treated individually, though, is perhaps a sign that Rodgers has seen enough over the past week to know that Gerrard's minutes will need to be more heavily managed this season. To not do so would only further hurt Liverpool. And it would only further hurt Gerrard, who can still bring a lot to the side in big games—assuming he's managed right and rested enough to do so.

"We want him to be involved in the big games because of his experience," Rodgers added, and the growing speculation is that Jordan Rossiter will start tonight to give Gerrard the chance to hopefully be involved in a positive way on the weekend against Everton. "We will always taper that recovery to allow him to be at the very best he can be."