After labeling his first half of the season as “mixed,” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has promised that his peak performance level is about to return.
In a wide-ranging chat with the official Liverpool FC magazine, the skipper also discussed the pressure involved with playing for the Reds and how the young players breaking through have invigorated senior stars.
“I’ve had mixed experiences this season,” he reflected. “I’ve passed some unbelievable landmarks for club and country, getting to the 600 games mark and winning my 100th cap for England.
“But with the slow start we made and being where we have in the league it’s been a bit mixed for me.
“There’s my form as well. I’ve played well in some games but I’ve been disappointed with myself in others, and I’m not happy with my goal tally at the moment.
“People’s opinions, perceptions and the way they judge you changes when you get a goal.
“I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be, so if I can add goals to those performances then maybe people will start saying the old Steven Gerrard is back.
“I don’t think the manager’s asked me to do anything different in terms of the way he wants to me to perform but because of certain injuries, situations that have happened to the team and formations that we’ve played, I’ve naturally played a little bit deeper.
“I’ve maybe gone into protection mode rather than playing the old Steven Gerrard way with the shackles off and going for the jugular.
“When you’re one of the experienced players in the team, the team’s more important than yourself, and maybe I’ve sacrificed myself in certain games and tried to protect by playing deeper and be a controller with Joe [Allen], but now that Lucas is back, he gives me the licence to get forward a lot more so hopefully I can add some goals to my performances.
“But I’ve got the buzz that the team’s improving and it’s going to get better. I’m confident that come the end of the season I will be satisfied with myself and the team because I do believe we can finish the season really strong.”
Gerrard has featured in every minute of the Barclays Premier League for Liverpool in 2012-13, helping the side climb to eighth in the standings following a mixed start.
The 32-year-old explained that a period of transition was only to be expected following the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, and backed the Reds to challenge near the top of the league before the campaign concludes.
“We didn’t get off to the start we wanted this season but that was no surprise to me because there’d been a lot of change,” Gerrard continued. ”We had a completely new coaching set-up and there were a few new players coming in as well as a few players going out.
“My experience of football is that when that amount of change takes place, it takes time for everything to settle, for people to get used to each other, for us to get used to the manager’s philosophy and how he wants us to play. So it was no surprise that we got off to a slow start but my feelings now are that we’re moving forward. It’s been a patient move forward so far but I think that from now until the end of the season we’ll make big strides and improve a lot.
“I’m pretty confident that you’ll see us sneak into those top positions but it’s all about consistency, winning games, turning draws into wins and avoiding silly defeats. That’s what we’ve got to try and eliminate from our game.”
As captain and one of the most experienced members of Rodgers’ squad, Gerrard has also taken on the responsibility of advisor to the young talents who have been promoted to the first team.
The midfielder revealed his pleasure at the progress they have made and urged the likes of Raheem Sterling and Suso to understand and thrive on the pressure of representing Liverpool.
“The new manager coming in was a fantastic opportunity for every player in the squad, especially the young lads,” the Reds’ No. 8 enthused. ”They’ve been unbelievable really if you consider the ages of some of them – the Sterlings, Susos, Wisdoms — they’ve played games at an even younger age than the likes of myself, Jamie [Carragher] and Michael Owen. It’s a tough league and the games that they’re being asked to play are hard, so I’ve got to tip my hat to them. And the experience they’ve had this season will definitely benefit their careers going forward.
“Seeing them coming through has also been great for us older, experienced lads. Putting an arm around them, giving them advice — I’ve enjoyed that side of it as well. I’ve always tried to be there for them, to be approachable and help them. I’ve been there myself and I understand how difficult it is.
“The pressures of playing for Liverpool are enormous anyway, no matter what age you are because it’s a pressure club. It’s a massive club with great expectations. The fans are passionate, they live and breathe football and want to win every game. To be a player and have to perform and live with that is tough, but we’re also very lucky and appreciate the position we’re in.
“It’s one of those situations where it’s worth going through it and living with the pressures and the sacrifices because the rewards and the buzzes you get playing for this club are fantastic.”