Liverpool fans are pretty used to promises that are never quite fulfilled. Take Rafael Benitez’s top four pledge in 2010 and the ongoing stadium saga to name just two. However, if their current skipper and surely one of their greatest players of all time says they will finish in the top four, it carries something different. But is this extra significance beneficial to a Liverpool squad trying to rebuild itself under yet another new manager?
Gerrard has only been with the Liverpool squad just over a week, yet the midfielder is already confident going into the new season stating: “I think we’ll definitely see a much bolder Liverpool team this season and more exciting too.” Confidence is all well and good, and something a team needs to play to its full potential, however it is when confidence spills over into bold promises that its impact can go the other way.
Nonetheless, has Gerrard actually promised a top four finish or simply stated his faith in the squad. This is what he said: “I think we will get in the top four. I am confident we will get it. If we can play like we did in a lot of games last season, be clinical and take our chances, I think we will be high up in the table.” It is those two small words ‘I think’ that many articles on this subject will inevitably neglect, although they are arguably the two that carry the most meaning.
That being the case, it can be assumed that Gerrard is not promising Liverpool fans a top four finish, nevertheless his comments without doubt give the impression that he is, and for that reason their impact must be scrutinised.
Gerrard is now entering his fifteenth season as part of Liverpool’s first team so it seems appropriate that the skipper is better positioned than anyone to comment on the failures of past regimes and to predict how Rodgers’ tenure will be different. And even the more reason for us to have confidence in what he says.
Yet only days before these comments, FSG stated that Liverpool’s new manager was under no pressure to achieve this goal, so has Gerrard not simply put the pressure back on? Pressure may be something Liverpool’s host of experienced faces such as Pepe Reina, Martin Skrtel, Luis Suarez and Gerrard himself will be able to deal with and possibly thrive on, however when looking at the impact such may have on the younger, newer players such as Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing the comments then become questionable.
The latter set of players all suffered a poor and frustrating first season with the club after big money moves last summer and will be sincerely hoping for better this upcoming campaign. All who already feel the pressure is on to impress not just a new manager, but a set of fans known to be patient and supportive before the groans heard from some Anfield quarters begin to get louder.
It can be said then that Gerrard’s comments may place too much expectation on a set of players lacking experience of playing for a club with much higher expectations to what they were previously used to, hence will we see the likes of Henderson and Downing shy away from responsibility even more so than we did last season – Downing rarely even ‘attempted’ to beat his man, whilst Henderson concentrated solely on doing the simple things.
If so, Liverpool’s reliance on the likes of Suarez and Gerrard to make things happen will only increase, nullifying them as a threat as oppositions put their emphasis on marking them out of the game, leaving the Anfield club predictable and toothless.
That is certainly one way to look at it, although on the other hand, it can be argued that the captain’s comments act as the kick up the backside that these players so very much needed. By expressing his belief in his team’s potential, Gerrard is not only professing his confidence in the ability of the likes of such players, but is also indirectly proclaiming the expectations of the club and in doing so is laying down the gauntlet for his peers to prove they’re worthy of the famous red shirt.
Still, it must not be overlooked that Gerrard is not in fact promising fourth, rather declaring his trust in the team’s abilities, which as a writer and fan, I have previously argued similarly. It is therefore how this Liverpool squad take their captain’s comments that is awaited anxiously and is only something which will become apparent when the real action begins on August 18th.
What is clear is that Liverpool need to be back in Europe’s top competition to attract the best players as well as hold on to their own assets, assets which will be again considering their future this summer. However, these comments may go some way to convincing such players to remain in L4 and strive to get the club back to where it once was, and if this reaction is collective, then it will be all smiles on the red half of Merseyside.