• Premier League

Gerrard: Old heads can secure top four

ESPN staff
August 2, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Steven Gerrard asks the senior Liverpool players to step up

Steven Gerrard has called on Liverpool's senior players to lead the club back to the Champions League following the exits of Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina.

Gerrard believes Liverpool need strong personalities after losing two of their most vocal presences in Carragher, who called time on his 16-year Anfield career in May, and Reina, who joined Napoli last week.

And asked if their departures meant there was more responsibility on his shoulders now, Gerrard said: "I suppose there is. I never ever shirk responsibility at this club. I was given the captaincy at the age of 21 or 22 so I know what pressure and responsibility is all about.

"I've managed to live with it for ten years, but I think it's also down to other players in the group.

"Now that Jamie's left and Pepe's gone, I think it's time for the likes of Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson and other experienced players to back me up and help me lead this team to big things.

"The talent's certainly there. Now we just have to deliver."

The path to big things begins, as far as Gerrard is concerned, with qualification for the Champions League - a competition Liverpool won in 2005, but have not played in since December 2009.

He said: "We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago, when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out, and we were challenging to win it."

The exit of Carragher has left Gerrard as Liverpool's longest-serving current first-team player, having made his debut in November 1998.

And the 33-year-old, who is also the longest-serving captain in the club's history, will see his achievements recognised on Saturday with his testimonial match against Olympiacos at Anfield.

It was against the current Greek champions that Gerrard scored a dramatic late Champions League goal at the Kop end in December 2004 to ensure Liverpool made it through the group stages on their way to winning the trophy.

And Gerrard wants to see the club scale those heights again - and make a significant improvement on last season, when they finished seventh in the Premier League, 28 points behind champions Manchester United.

He said: "Over the last six months of the season, the performances and the form were really positive, but for this club, to fall 28 points from the top isn't good enough.

"Everyone realises that, and the challenge for me and my team-mates is to close that gap.

"But it's tough with the standard of teams in the league. Manchester City have spent another £100 million. It looks like Manchester United are on the verge of spending big money again.

"Obviously Jose Mourinho's back at Chelsea as well, so the teams above us are all getting stronger. It's important we don't fall further behind, and it's important that we make big signings and try to stay in there."

Gerrard believes much will depend on whether Luis Suarez can be persuaded to stay. Suarez, Liverpool's 30-goal top scorer last season, has repeatedly stated his desire to leave Anfield over the past two months.

But his club have insisted they will not sell, and have rejected the only two bids to come in for him so far - both from Arsenal.

Gerrard said: "I don't know what's happened. I think the only person who knows what's happened is probably Luis himself.

"He's got a huge decision to make. As his team-mate, I've got to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make.

"I think everyone in this room and everyone at this club knows what I want Luis Suarez to do. Everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay.

"What we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe."

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