Kenny Dalglish has said that Liverpool must not bank on Steven Gerrard to lift the club closer to their cherished top-four finish in the Premier League or to improve a goals total which he admits is not acceptable.
The 31-year-old club captain is finally restored to the front rank after a miserable 2011 in which he featured in just 12 League fixtures. While his return offers some compensation for the possible eight-game absence of Luis Suarez, Dalglish has suggested that the future for Gerrard will involve managing more limited time on the pitch.
"Steven will help because he's got goals, he's got charisma and he's got presence," the Liverpool manager said of a player who is likely to be on the bench against Newcastle United at Anfield tonight. "He's got everything but we can't throw everything on to Steven. We can't say, 'Steven is coming back, he's going to be the one to do this or that.' If we are going to be a one-man band, we have no chance. If we are going to appreciate what we have and respect the people who play with you and for you, we have a better chance."
Dalglish approaches his first anniversary as Liverpool manager with the club's goal tally the obvious point of concern, their total of 21 in 18 Premier League games less than half that of the dominant Manchester clubs whom Liverpool also trail by 14 points. Gerrard's goals have been sorely needed, with the two-month lay-off caused by an ankle infection, just as he was recovering from a groin operation, limiting him to two League starts this season. Dalglish acknowledged that the midfielder "will help because he's got goals" but indicated he wanted others to score more because – with the exception of four-goal Maxi Rodriguez, the club's second-highest scorer after Suarez – every Liverpool player has scored fewer this season than he had at the equivalent stage in the last campaign.
"I don't think at the goalscoring end we have been prolific at any time [in the past year]," Dalglish said. "But we will get there. We have said enough about it. There's nothing original I can come up with anyway. There is no magic formula."
Liverpool, who Dalglish said have yet to put in a bid for the prolific Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly, appear unlikely to be able to move for Suarez's Uruguayan compatriot Gaston Ramirez. The midfielder will not be leaving Bologna next month, his agent said yesterday. Napoli last week won the race to sign Eduardo Vargas, the 22-year-old Chilean forward whom Liverpool and Chelsea were watching.
Liverpool have lost only one game in which Gerrard has featured since Dalglish's first match in charge: the FA Cup tie at Manchester United during which he was dismissed on 9 January. The manager said that Gerrard looked "even better now than when he last came back" from surgery in October, but seems likely to be cautious about using him in Liverpool's quest for the top-four position which is expected by the club's principal owner, John W Henry. "We're not going to be irresponsible and throw him in and take a chance with him," Dalglish said. "He was back to full fitness and then got a freak injury and that's why he's had to recuperate again but neither of them were related.
"Everyone wants to play but he's got the experience to know that it's difficult to last the 90 minutes. He's just got to manage the number of minutes he gets on the pitch and see how he goes."
Liverpool v Newcastle
Odds Home 4-7; Draw 3-1, Away 11-2.
Kick-off Tonight, 7.45pm (Sky Sports 1, 7-10pm). Highlights Sky Sports 1, 12am.
Team news Luis Suarez is suspended, so Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy may start up front for Liverpool. Steven Gerrard is likely to start on the bench. Demba Ba (knee) has recovered for Newcastle, while Davide Santon is also fit and Dan Gosling returns from suspension.