Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has suggested that Steven Gerrard will play out the final years of his club career in a deeper position.
Rodgers was speaking after his team moved up to fourth in the Premier League, five points behind leaders Manchester City, on the strength of a pulsating 5-3 win at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
Gerrard, 33, has returned to the Liverpool side after a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring problem and has occupied a position in front of the Reds defence.
It is a role he has played regularly for England and occasionally performed for Liverpool in the past.
But Rodgers believes that sitting deep will help get the best out of Gerrard as he enters his final seasons.
The England captain made his first start after his injury in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Oldham and has been discussing the new position with Rodgers in recent weeks.
Rodgers, who has previously suggested that Gerrard could end up playing centre-back, said: “I just feel that he’s someone that fits the profile of that role.
“He does it a bit more with England and in the period out we had real success playing with a controlling player and two guys pressing and playing in a central corridor.
“That position is perfect for him. He has the personality to play it.
When you play in that controlling role you need to get on the ball and he gives us great variety in his passing.
“At this stage of his career, I’ve spoken a lot to him about it and it was just about the timing of when to play him in the role and he played it really well. It’s something that I’ll look at.”
Liverpool pulled into a two-goal lead with a Ryan Shawcross own-goal and a Luis Suarez effort before Stoke’s Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam put the hosts level at half-time.
Gerrard converted a penalty just after the break before Suarez added a fourth from a pass from Daniel Sturridge, who made his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury in November.
Jonathan Walters pulled another goal back for the home side but Suarez laid on a fifth for Sturridge to seal the win.
Rodgers is playing down his team’s title prospects but believes they have shown they can go the distance this season.
He added: “We entered into the game at Stoke with 18 games to go, nine at home and nine away and seven of the away games are against teams in the bottom half.
“They’re not gimmees and it’s a tough league but we’ve shown enough over the course of the season that we’ll be challenging. That’s all we’ve ever wanted to be.
“We’ve never stated that we’re going to win the league. To jump from where we’ve been we just needed to be in the conversation.
“We’ve shown we can score goals. We have done at Anfield and have done away from home and we’re getting better and improving all the time.”
Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes his team can take plenty from their performance despite slipping to what appears to be a comprehensive defeat.
The Potters’ next two league matches are against struggling Crystal Palace and Sunderland as they look to stay clear of the relegation zone.
Hughes said: “We showed real desire and determination.
“That augers well because we’ve got big games coming up but once again we’ve gone up against one of the better sides in the Premier League and made a real game of it but too many things went against us.
“This was one of our better performances here but 5-3 doesn’t indicate that.”