Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard continues to deliver in the big moments but manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side are no longer reliant on the midfielder - or anyone else – for inspiration.
The 33-year-old’s superb free-kick broke the deadlock in the 2-1 victory against a resolute Sunderland side in midweek to put him within one goal of club icon Kenny Dalglish’s tally of 172.
To get close to such a number is testament to the England skipper’s quality and longevity and after nine goals in his last 13 matches, including four in his last four, he is enjoying his best Premier League goalscoring season since 2008-09 (when he scored 16 goals) with 11 playing in a midfield holding role.
“It is incredible really,” said Rodgers of Gerrard moving close to equalling Dalglish.
“Moving him back into that controlling position has not stopped his goal threat and he can dictate the game from behind. For most of his career he has played as an attacking player and been one of the world-class players so to get to those numbers and to maybe equal someone of Kenny’s quality and status just shows you the true quality the guy has.
“He has a few more years left to go yet to hopefully score more goals.”
While Gerrard’s influence to Liverpool cannot be underestimated he has a number of players around him now which means he is not the sole source of inspiration and game-changer.
Prior to Wednesday’s match Sunderland manager Gus Poyet suggested Liverpool would be a mid-table team – instead of second – without the 28 League goals of fellow Uruguayan Luis Suarez.
“That is probably quite disrespectful to the other players,” added the Reds boss.
“In my time here we’ve had Luis out and won games, we’ve had Steven, (Philippe) Coutinho, (Daniel) Sturridge out and won games.
“When Luis was playing the team finished eighth and seventh (in the previous two seasons) so it is not just about one player, it is about creating a collective spirit and quality to our game and that is what we have done.”
However, Gerrard remains their biggest presence on the pitch and the sight of him berating his defenders after they conceded a soft goal at a corner against the Black Cats, or audibly shouting at Raheem Sterling to “get it in the corner” as they tried to see out the game, highlighted that.
“He is a guy who steps up in the big moments in games; when we need something special in the game the other night he stepped up and scored so there is no doubt people look to him – but it shouldn’t just be Steven’s responsibility,” said Rodgers.
“You saw him the other night giving orders to the team, which is important because it is too late if you are in the changing room and have conceded a goal. He is very short, sharp and concise with his information but his qualities are continual every day and it is not just at this point in time, his leadership is first class.
“I think his status as one of the leading players in the world over the last number of years means he has that respect and I think you have seen from his performances he still has that big quality in his game.”
Liverpool’s title chances will be tested again this weekend when Tottenham visit Anfield and while Rodgers has continually defended his squad’s ability to cope with the pressure he has now had to assess his own suitability due to his relative inexperience.
“In terms of management this will have been my fifth season but I’ve been stood on the touchline for 20-odd years and this year I have been able to put into practise what I have been working on for many years,” said the 41-year-old.
“Although there is still a lot for me to learn, it is not as if I am new to it. Other squads have much greater depth and maybe better individuals than us but we are showing we are developing and we are looking to put something in place not just for one season.
“We are looking for sustainable success and that might be different for other clubs. If there is any pressure it is on other teams.”