Rafael Benitez confirmed that his reputation as a perfectionist is not misplaced when he demanded last night that Liverpool - with 11 goals without reply in their last three League games and unbeaten at Anfield in the Premiership since last October - show more ruthlessness in their pursuit of Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Liverpool manager has seen his side rise to third in the table, albeit still 13 points adrift of the leaders, and dismantle Wigan, Fulham and Charlton recently as his summer signings have begun to justify their price tags and key players - such as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Xabi Alonso - return to their pre-World Cup form. Yet despite a developing rapport between the strikers Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, Benitez believes Liverpool are not clinical enough in front of goal, and has called on his players to rectify that fault against the bottom club Watford this afternoon.
"One of the things we can improve on is if we can score the first goal, we need to score the second one as soon as possible," the Spaniard said. "After the second one you can look for the third, but the most important thing is, if you score first and you have opportunities, you need to finish things there and then.
"I'm not disappointed with 11 goals in three games, I'm happy with how hard the team are working and with how many chances we are creating, but I will be happier if we can improve how we finish games off."
Liverpool have not lost in the League at Anfield since October 2005 and will post their longest unbeaten run at home since 1991 - a total of 25 Premiership matches - if they avoid an upset against Watford. A notable feature in their recent improvement has been the contribution of Benitez's summer signings, Bellamy and Jermaine Pennant in particular, while the Liverpool manager has also refined Gerrard's game since the captain's return to central midfield.
"Gerrard has a lot of power and one of his strengths is to get into the box but sometimes he would lose his position and leave a gap," he explained. "We have been trying to improve when he gets into the box, to decide the right moment, and he is doing that now. He is improving."
Benitez added: "Now you are seeing more from Bellamy, Pennant, Mark Gonzalez too. All of them they are listening to us and showing the things we knew they could do."