Steven Gerrard has delivered a withering assessment of Liverpool's indifferent league form, insisting that even winning the Champions League will not compensate for failing to finish above fourth and suggesting that a league title is now more important to him than more European glory.
"The only way we can fulfil [our] ambitions is in the Champions League," said Gerrard whose interview in the club's official magazine provides a sense of how unsettled he is. "I am not going to pretend that even winning that trophy will make up for the disappointment of the league."
Gerrard's team-mate Jamie Carragher concluded weeks ago that the title was out of reach and his insistence, after FA Cup defeat to Barnsley that Liverpool's did not represent "just a bad spell [but something] much longer than that", came as a surprise to his manager. But not even Carragher has suggested that third place is out of reach, as Gerrard does.
"You don't get any prizes in football for finishing in second place, never mind fourth," he said. "I don't think that the fans would accept fourth as an accomplishment and for me it's not nearly good enough. We need to improve dramatically and even if we do finish fourth, it doesn't mean we have had a good season."
That Gerrard should have chosen Liverpool's own in-house magazine to make his comments underlines how riven with troubles the club is, though he falls short of specifying whether the manager or his squad rotation are contributing factors. "I'm pretty gutted every time I look at the table and see the gap between us and Arsenal, and even the gap between us and second and third," he said. "We believed we had the players to challenge for the title, and we wanted that one more than any other trophy. I still believe we have the squad to be a hell of a lot more competitive than we are right now."
Rafael Benitez said three years ago that it would take three years for Liverpool to challenge seriously for the title and Gerrard, echoing what Carragher told The Independent two weeks ago, said that if the cub continues to take a long-term view he fears he will never lift the championship trophy.
"I'm getting tired of saying the same thing over and over again. "We can't keep talking about next season all the time. Sooner or later we have to make one season the season we make it happen on the pitch. We need to make people believe it. I'm 27 now, I don't want to be talking about 'next season' when I'm 32."
Gerrard also expresses dismay at the persistent take-over speculation at Anfield. "It's been a damaging situation for every single person involved with the club." He added: "If you asked most fans, they would rather see the title than the European Cup. We've not won it in a long, long time." It is 18 years, to be precise – and still counting.Reuse content