Gerrard has played every single minute of the Reds’ Barclays Premier League campaign so far, closely followed in the appearance list by Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson and Luis Suarez.
At his pre-Southampton news conference on Thursday, the manager explained how a personal plan was created for each player at the beginning of the campaign and has reaped rewards ever since.
“Some of our players, the likes of Steven Gerrard, have played the most amount of consecutive games they ever have,” Rodgers said. “His performance level, alongside a lot of the others, has been outstanding this year. It gives me great hope and hopefully it continues. We’ve looked at every player, not just Steven. When I came in here it was about getting a commitment. It wasn’t about motivation from the players, it was about commitment to the cause and what we’re trying to do. What we promised the players was that once they committed, there would be a plan in place for each individual in order for him to play at his maximum. Steven has benefited from that.
“We revamped our medical and sports science team — our head of performance, Glen Driscoll, is in tune with how I work on the field, which allows him to develop the plan along with our team off the field. It’s a case of not throwing a blanket around every player and seeing them as the same — they are very much a team but you have to look at the individual.
“For Steven, it’s about the right moments of recovery and rest. The biggest thing is him — he wants to learn, improve and be better. He has trust in how we work and that’s critical.”
Victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday saw Rodgers’ side climb to sixth in the Premier League standings — and the manager reflected on his team’s progress so far.
“It was great for the players last week because we actually weren’t at our best. We’ve played a lot better than that and drawn or lost the game,” the 40-year-old continued. “It showed the resilience we’ve got. Tottenham are an outstanding side; we played really well there and lost the game so we knew it was going to be difficult. To get the victory was very important.
“I’ve seen the group growing all the time; maybe for other people there was some convincing to do. But for me, working very closely with the group and seeing the development here – it’s something that makes me happy at the moment. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“At the beginning of the season, it was difficult for us because we were putting in a different way of working. A lot of the players were away over the summer so we never had the chance to work and before we knew it we were into the [UEFA] Europa League qualifiers.
“I had an inherent belief in the way that we work that success would come — over time that will grow and that is what’s happened. We won’t be getting carried away; we have to retain our focus and concentration. If we do that, we’ve got the quality to get results. I inherited some very good players here. This season was a transition in many ways but the players have coped really well and slowly we’ve made a few additions to that.
“We hope that we can do likewise in the summer. The squad is healthy and strong but we need to add more depth to that. If we can do that over the summer then as each window goes by, you start to see more of your type.
“Take nothing away from the players at the moment, they’ve been outstanding. What we’re seeing is the characteristics of what we want in the team, which is control and domination but also steel to our defensive unit and everyone working for the cause.”
The next challenge for the manager and his players is a trip to St Mary’s, where they will take on Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
There has been a change of manager for the Saints since the Reds recorded a 1-0 victory over the south coast side at Anfield earlier this season — but Rodgers expects a similar task against Mauricio Pochettino‘s men.
“You’ve got to go back to Nigel Adkins,” he said. “Nigel did a brilliant job and was relieved of his duties, but the job that he did there was incredible, to get two consecutive promotions. The brand of football they were playing was very much his brand. I saw that in League 1 and the Championship. Of the teams that have come up, that’s the team that have impressed me with their idea of football and how they’ve tried to play. It takes time when you’re a newly promoted team to find your feet in what is an incredibly difficult league. As the season went on, Nigel and the players really settled into it and looked like they were well on course to stay in the league.
“Unfortunately for him, he lost his job. The new manager is coming in with a similar idea and philosophy. There’s a slight tactical adaptation, a different way to press the ball. They were playing very well under Nigel Adkins, but obviously the new manager will come in and put his stamp on it. That will take a period of time.
“Their performances across the season have been good — they’ve played very well against the top teams. They’re a team that will push us and we’ll need to be at our best to get the result.”
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