Steven Gerrard needs to be moved into a new role

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We are only five games in to the new campaign but Liverpool look a shadow of the side that came oh so close to lifting the Premier League last season.

Much of this can be pinned on the loss of Luis Suarez, who scored 31 goals in 33 league appearances, after he joined Barcelona over the summer. The absence of Daniel Sturridge, who scored 21 league goals last season, to a thigh injury picked up on England duty is also hurting the Anfield side.

However, possibly the most worrying sign since this campaign started has been the last two performances of captain and leader Steven Gerrard.

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What a difference a summer makes

Having looked back to their old selves in the 3-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, before the international break, it has been a frustrating period for Liverpool.

Two consecutive Premier League defeats to Aston Villa and West Ham have raised early questions for a side that had realistic title aspirations. In both games, the target of opposition managers has been non other than Mr. Liverpool himself.

Against Aston Villa, manager Paul Lambert, who is becoming some kind of Anfield expert, tasked Gabriel Agbonlahor with the job of hassling Gerrard and not giving him time to pick out a pass.

It worked, as Villa left Anfield with a well fought 1-0 victory.

On Saturday, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce gave Stewart Downing the same task. Make life as difficult for the former England captain as possible and stop him from dictating the flow of play.

Downing did his job fantastically, putting in a man of the match performance as West Ham won 3-1.

Having been deployed in a deeper role last season by Rodgers, Gerrard had his best campaign in a Liverpool shirt for many years as he sat deep, starting attacks and producing defence splitting balls for the likes of Sturridge, Suarez and Raheem Sterling to work their magic.

However, it appears that opposition managers are beginning to capitalise on Gerrard's lack of pace and if you can knick the ball off him in midfield he does not have the legs to recover, offering attackers a clear run at a Liverpool defence that is suffering its own confidence crisis.

Maybe it is time for Gerrard to play a more attacking role behind the strikers and let someone like Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson or Emre Can fill his defensive duties.

He still has a lot to offer

Stating that Gerrard has lost a yard of pace is not meant to be an insult on a player that has been a mainstay of the Premier League for over a decade.

It is an inevitability in every players career that as their age advances their speed decreases. Ryan Giggs had to deal with this as he transformed himself from a winger to a more central position.

As a captain and a leader Gerrard has been unrivalled at Anfield and has a fantastic knack of popping up with vital goals when his side need him most. This was proved as he put in a commanding performance during their 3-0 win at White Hart Lane and tucked away the extra-time penalty to take all three points against Ludogorets.

One thing you do not lose with age is your ability to pick out a pass or find the back of the net and pushing him forward would allow Gerrard to have a greater influence on attacking movement this season.

Gerrard has to be managed well

As much as Rodgers talks about handling Sterling and trying to avoid burning out the 19-year-old, who has become indispensable to Liverpool over the past year, the same has to be said about Gerrard.

With his advancing years, the 34-year-old stepped down from England duty following a disastrous World Cup and with Liverpool back in the Champions League he is able to turn his full focus on to his club performances.

Rodgers has already admitted his side are suffering from the extra fixtures European competition brings, but this is something the top clubs have to deal with and a reason as to why the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have squads full of top class talent.

With Gerrard having played every minute of the season so far he looks a shadow of the player that was brimming with confidence as Liverpool took the league by surprise to finish second.

Alternatively if Rodgers can not fit him in to a role behind the strikers, with the likes of Sterling, Philipe Coutinho and Adam Lallana all capable of filling the position, maybe it is time for the Liverpool boss to pick and choose which games his captain plays in.

There are not many 34-year-old's in the world of football that can play a full 90 minutes twice a week and Gerrard, despite his love of the game and his commitment to the Liverpool cause, is no different.

Trust in Rodgers, it is still early days

Despite having four less points than this time last year, this is a Liverpool team in transition. Having lost their best striker the club are trying to integrate new signings such as Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana in to their style of play.

Rodgers worked wonders at Liverpool last season and is still the man to lead the club despite their minor blip at the beginning of the campaign. He has a clear plan for the future of the club and is a manager who is always capable of thinking on his feet.

He must see that Gerrard has struggled in their last two league games and will be working on a solution to fix the sides problems ahead of the Merseyside derby next weekend.

This a game that could see the return of Sturridge and that in itself could be a turning point for Liverpool and Gerrard's season. He offers the end product and is a willing runner of the channels, something that has been missing from Liverpool's game as of late.

The game against Everton is not the scenario to be without your captain but we may see a move by Rodgers towards the rotation of Gerrard as the season continues to unravel. 

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