Contract talks open with Steven Gerrard, but what about his role within the Liverpool team?

Steven Gerrard takes a question during a pregame press conference

Surely there is a way to use Steven Gerrard differently within the Liverpool team, and more effectively as a result.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is to be offered a new contract by the club as the Reds calm fears that their talismanic captain could leave Anfield at the end of the season on a free transfer.

The 34-year-old's current contract expires at the end of the season, and in an interview with the Daily Mail at the end of last month, Gerrard suggested he was prepared to look elsewhere as he looks to play beyond this season.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has suggested it would be a formality, whilst the club would 'see how he feels' during the opening months of the season, with Rodgers said to have approached Gerrard's representatives.

But whilst fans will be happy that Gerrard will remain a one club man, there is still a lot to be said for the role the Liverpool captain has in the side - in particular, at the age of 34 or 35, should he be a guaranteed starter?

It would appear that Rodgers still has him in his first XI, playing the deeper midfield role. When Gerrard initially reverted to a deeper lying position in order for the Reds to exploit his passing range to the maximum, it seemed a masterstroke.

But given the role and importance Gerrard played in Liverpool's stunning run in the second half of last season, opponents have got onto it. The Reds' defeat to Aston Villa earlier on in the season when Gabriel Agbonlahor marked him out of the game is a classic example of sides identifying the threat he possesses from a deeper role.

So, should Gerrard's role change again later on in his career, and if so, how?

One way could be a subtle change given that Liverpool operate a central midfield three a lot of the time. Take the weekend's game against Chelsea where the Reds lost 2-1. They have a versatile midfielder in Emre Can who is used to the defensive side of the game, therefore used to the deeper position and is comfortable on the ball there. 

Jordan Henderson likes to get beyond the line of the strikers and that tends to see both he and Liverpool at their best. So rather than having a fixed, more rigid midfield, rotating their roles throughout the game could prevent from one man being marked out of the game.

The second, and possibly most drastic, is whether he should be sacrificed from the starting XI and a more natural holding midfield player like Lucas Leiva should take his place. In the past two games where the Brazilian has started against Swansea City in the League Cup, and against Real Madrid in the Champions League defeat in the Bernabeu, the midfield has looked a more functional, cohesive unit.

Even in his autumn years, there is still an element to Gerrard's game where he tries to do everything and the midfield appears to look disjointed, and a frail back four looks inadequately protected. 

There are other aspects to Liverpool that need improving but there needs to be a serious conversation about Gerrard. One could say that given the Reds' problems in the final third at this early stage of the season, he should be used occasionally in the final third of the field - in a number 10 role that he operated in so well during Rafa Benitez's reign at Anfield which has had little experiment under Rodgers.

One only has to look at how Frank Lampard has been used and how he managed to prolong his career as a goalscoring midfielder to show that age doesn't necessarily mean a midfielder should drop deeper.

Either way, during these negotiations and beyond, there has to be a clear statement to show how Liverpool are going to use Gerrard, because there has to come a time when he can't play all game, every game.

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