Brendan Rodgers believes Steven Gerrard has taken on extra responsibility this season in helping to protect and nurture some of the youngsters currently finding their feet in the Liverpool first team.
An influx of youthful talent has seen the likes of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso thrive in the senior side in all competitions since August.
And the manager explained how Gerrard has taken it upon himself as captain to help the youngsters make the step up from Academy level.
“He will have played in teams here in the past where he’s got players around him with more experience,” said Rodgers. “He’s obviously got to take on more of a mantle now because it’s a much younger group.
“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 manager was also keen to emphasize that his skipper has not been asked to take on a more defensive role this season and that Gerrard remains the driving force in the Reds’ three-man midfield.
“I don’t think there’s been a clear change in his game, in terms of what I’ve asked him to do,” said Rodgers. “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.
“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.”