Brendan Rodgers has come to the defence of under-fire Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, insisting his skipper is picked on merit rather than sentiment.
Gerrard has been heavily criticised for his performances for the Reds this season, with supporters and pundits going as far to suggest the Liverpool talisman should be dropped from the starting line up.
However, Rodgers insists such criticism of the 34-year-old is unjust.
“I judge Steven on merit. I think the spotlight he has been under is incredible. Everything for us is based around being a team,” said Rodgers.
“If people are expecting Steven Gerrard to be the type of player he was 10 years ago that is sadly not the case.
“He has slowly been adapting to a position I felt he could benefit the team but a player who was scoring 15 goals a season and making 13 or 14 assists, he is not that type of player [any more].
“It is hugely unfair he is judged at that level. He is a wonderful player and I can quite safely say he is the best player I have worked with in terms of footballing mentality and the loyalty he has shown to this club is without question.
“I don’t deal so much in [being] sentimental. There is nothing sentimental in me picking Steven Gerrard.
“He is coming towards the latter part of his career but he still has a valuable contribution to make.
“He can play three games in a week but he won’t be able to play it to the level he would like or I would like and it is my job to manage that.”
Rodgers also insists he still has the backing of the club’s owners, despite a run of form that has seen the Reds suffer four consecutive defeats in all competitions.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone [at FSG] as of yet. I’ve had a few messages but they have always been supportive of me,” Rodgers added.
“My focus is on getting Liverpool to win games and I know that is what will make them most happy.
“I always believe losing can be the making of you as a player and a manager in terms of how you learn from it and move on from it.
“When you don’t have so much coaching time on the field it is mostly psychological what you want to achieve.
“You never dwell too much on the past – anyone can make mistakes – but for us it is about being in the present and focusing on the next game.
“If we dwell too much on the weekend there is no way we could go out and play.
“It is about getting confidence into players, talking with players, ensuring the environment at the training ground is still a happy place to be.
“My job as the leader of the team and the club is vital. We will always experience disappointment but no matter how you feel you are one of the pillars of the football club.
“The players are looking to you for that response and ability to motivate and that is very important in my role.”