Steven Gerrard has always been a player who strives to be the very best. Some may argue that he could have been even better, had he taken the chance to leave his under-achieving boyhood club for the riches of Chelsea, and that may well be the case. However, with Frank Lampard set to be discarded by the Blues at the end of the season when he will turn 35, there appears to be much more to come from Gerrard's Premier League career.
Two years younger than Lampard, the Liverpool captain has recently stated his desire to return to the form of the earlier stages of his career. Yet given his age, he will surely have to adapt his game (in a similar fashion to Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes), and thus may never rediscover his goalscoring form of old. Here, we take a look at his WhoScored statistics to see how well the ever-present midfielder has done this season. One of only two midfielders or attackers - along with Mikel Arteta - to play every minute of football available to him in the Premier League this season, Gerrard has once again become a key component in Liverpool's machine.
His advancing years have seen him occupy a deeper position than he did when he was younger, playing in what many consider to be his best position - an advanced attacking midfield role - only twice this season. Those games have produced no goals or assists for the skipper, while when he has started in a defensive midfield role (nine times), he has been directly involved in eight goals, scoring two and assisting six more, whilst also scoring two and assisting two more when playing in an orthodox central midfield role.
So is Gerrard being harsh on himself by saying he has had a mixed season, in particular by stating that he has been disappointed by his goal return? Yes, there have been disappointments, in that his side are down in eighth in the table, but on a personal level is there really much room for improvement? Marouane Fellaini (eight), Santi Cazorla (seven) and Kevin Nolan (five) are the only attacking midfielders to score more than Gerrard, while compatriot Lampard (six) is the only player to play primarily in central or defensive midfield this season who has scored more goals than him. However, the Chelsea player does not have a single assist to his name, while Gerrard has more than any other player in the English top flight (eight), as can be seen via the WhoScored Premier League statistics page. It is only natural that Gerrard has had to adapt his game, but some things have remained the same.
He has always been ambitious in his play, a fact exhibited in his 55 shots this season.
His conversion rate of only 7.3% is arguably something to work on, in spite of the fact that his four goals is bettered by few in the league. He has also retained his ambitious passing, with only Yaya Toure (1162) and Cazorla (1107) having attempted more passes in the opposition half than Gerrard (996). Yet Gerrard has played more unsuccessful passes than any other player in the opposing half, with 273. Much of this is down to the Liverpool captain's relentless crossing, which has been the source of a few of his assists, but has also seen him make the third most unsuccessful crosses in the division (118). The ambitious nature of his play can also be seen from the unsurprising fact that the England international has played the second most accurate long balls (161), behind only Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (177).
Gerrard's ever-presence can go some way to explaining his position towards the top of all of these charts, but in a team where Brendan Rodgers has struggled to settle on a consistent starting XI - albeit often due to injuries, with no fewer than seven players having occupied the DMC, MC and AMC roles for Liverpool this season - Gerrard has become the one player he can rely upon. Gerrard is scoring fewer goals than he used to manage for both club and country, and he may well not be as effective a player as he used to be.
However, as players get older, they are forced into adapting their game to prolong their careers.
While the likes of Beckham, and possibly Lampard to follow, go abroad to play at a lower level, Gerrard has everything within himself to become the complete deep-lying central midfielder it seems Rodgers is attempting to mould him into. All the ingredients are there for another four of five years of playing at the top, and while that may mean fewer goals and thus a dissatisfied Gerrard, it would be fantastic to see him carry on for the foreseeable future. All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale.