Thursday, May 15, 2008

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool Board Must Spend

Steven Gerrard has become accustomed to declaring that Liverpool are better equipped than ever to end their long wait for the league title, only to bemoan another failed challenge, but that did not prevent the club's captain from delivering another rallying cry yesterday as he looked ahead to next season.

While there was a genuine gusto with which Gerrard, buoyed by the arrival of Fernando Torres from Atlético Madrid for £26.5 million, proclaimed last summer that Liverpool could win the Barclays Premier League, the midfield player appeared to strike a less assured note this time as the club prepare for a summer of uncertainty.

Gerrard made repeated pleas for the board to back Rafael Benítez in the transfer market or risk “falling away”, but the suspicion remains that unless Dubai International Capital wins control of the club or the manager can raise significant funds by offloading players such as Peter Crouch and Xabi Alonso, the possible signing of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa may be the highlight of any summer arrivals.

“Obviously I have to be careful that I don't send expectations through the roof again, but for me I am desperate for it [the title],” Gerrard said. “I believe we can make it happen. We need help and new players and the manager needs help from the board to make these signings happen.

“We say it every year, but it's massive [this summer]. Other teams are going to strengthen and become better sides, so it's important we do the same. It's important we don't fall away. We want to stay up there with the best. It's important Rafa gets the right backing above him as well.

“It's difficult to say how many world-class players [we are away from a title challenge]. If we can make the team a little bit stronger, have a few more options and match-winners and make the team a tiny bit better defensively, we can do it.”

Liverpool had the best record of the so-called “big four” teams during the run-in, taking 32 points from their final 13 league matches compared with the 31 amassed by Chelsea, 29 by Manchester United, the champions, and 23 by Arsenal over the same sequence of games, and Gerrard believes that the club must learn to stop dropping “stupid points” against teams they are expected to beat.

“The title slipped away because of silly results against teams we should be beating,” he said. “You don't have to take maximum points from the top three if you perform perfectly against the others, but we haven't done that.”

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