The skipper has completed every minute of the Reds’ Barclays Premier League campaign, registering eight goals and nine assists from the 30 appearances and 2,700 minutes he has clocked.
Such impressive numbers have encouraged the 32-year-old that he can repeat those performances into his mid-30s, according to Glen Driscoll, the club’s head of performance.
“We had confidence that, if managed correctly, Steven would be able to achieve everything he has achieved this year,” Driscoll explained to Liverpoolfc.com. ”Four or five years ago, people were saying it was very unlikely that Steven — with his injury history — would ever achieve this, let alone reach the milestones he has hit this year in terms of playing time at the age of 32.
“It’s a credit to Steven himself; his professionalism is second to none. Steven has confidence now that he can play at the highest level into his mid-30s – that’s fantastic news for Liverpool.”
Brendan Rodgers recently discussed the individual player training plans that were introduced at the outset of the season and that have produced roughly 90 percent availability with regards to injuries.
So what changes did the boss and his team implement when they arrived at Anfield last summer to generate these results?
“At the start of the season there was quite an overhaul with the medical science departments,” Driscoll added. ”When Brendan came in, he made it clear that he wanted to set up outstanding medical science departments as well as recruitment and analysis departments. We wanted to maintain the good work that had previously been occurring at Liverpool. From a medical science perspective, we’ve had some great outcomes this year.
“Each individual player has individualized recovery sessions. In sessions leading into games, we also modify training so they are fresh and well prepared. That’s pretty unique.
“We determine that based on the individual player and lots of variables go into that. Each individual player has a different injury history so a lot of the individual care, screening, therapy and conditioning that we bring in depends on that player and the injuries he has had in the past — we prioritize and focus on those areas.
“The positives that we’ve had throughout the season have probably helped the trust in the players. Now the players do trust the methodology and the staff, and know that we’re going in the right direction.
“There are advantages in having a new manager as well — the players are often keen to comply. From an extrinsic point of view — the training going on outside — he is extremely hands-on. He controls the load and periodization of training; he takes a lead role in all of this work.
“We have around 90 percent availability rate this year with injuries, which is really good. We’ve hit all the targets that we wanted to from a medical science perspective.
“Naturally, if you’ve got most of your players available, it’s clearly going to improve the probability of winning games.”
The manager’s tactics play a key part in the benefits the Reds squad is enjoying too, says Driscoll — with Rodgers’ pressing philosophy in harmony with the work being carried out at Melwood.
“All the key data we get from our match analyst tells us that we’re hitting very high intensities and we’re hitting higher moments in games than we’ve hit previously,” continued Driscoll. ”Maybe the reason why we’re hitting high intensities and running more is often due to other variables — such as the demands the manager puts on the players. Tactically, he’s asking the players to press higher.
“And, of course, it depends on the capacity of the players he has selected. Different players in different positions clearly have different capacities — full-backs are very different to center-halves, almost like a different sport physically.
“We’ve looked very fit and we’re pleased that we’ve made them fit for purpose.”