Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard accepts the squad have under-performed in the Premier League this season and knows only a consistent winning run can avoid them “finishing where they don’t want to be”.
Despite the obvious lift their 3-0 victory over Everton — courtesy of a Gerrard hat-trick — will give the Reds, they remain 10 points adrift of Champions League qualification.
That was highlighted as the minimum requirement by principal owner John Henry at the start of the season but with a first trophy in six years back at Anfield, there may yet be some leeway.
In truth, there may have to be as it seems at this late stage, with just 10 matches remaining, overhauling the Gunners, Chelsea and Newcastle to nick fourth spot appears unlikely.
More realistic is adding a second trophy in the form of the FA Cup, with a quarter-final tie at home to Stoke coming up on Sunday, but Gerrard will not settle for abandoning their league ambitions.
“We need to find a level of consistency,” said the England midfielder, who marked his 400th league match for the club in style.
“With the players we’ve got we should be higher in the league — it’s as simple as that.
“We have been very inconsistent in the league. Against Arsenal we were fantastic and should have had the game wrapped up at half-time but ended up going home frustrated (losing 2-1). Then we never turned up at Sunderland last Saturday (losing 1-0).
“We put in a very good performance against Everton. That says it all. It’s been the story of our season.
“The bigger picture is that the squad is a lot stronger and we are moving forward. But we need to go on a winning streak otherwise we’ll find ourselves in a position in the league that we don’t want.”
Gerrard’s treble was the first in an Anfield derby in almost 70 years while the last player to score a hat-trick in an encounter between the two neighbours was Ian Rush who grabbed four at Goodison Park in 1982.
However, 31-year-old Gerrard was quick to brush aside his name being mentioned alongside the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
“It feels good and it’s nice to get a hat-trick but I’m not really interested in personal achievements,” he added.
“What’s important to me is that we move up the league and we get to Wembley on Sunday in the FA Cup.”
Gerrard took each of his goals expertly, finding himself in the right place at the right time with two perfectly-timed runs allowing him to complete the feat in front of an adoring Kop in the second half.
His first was a delicate lobbed effort over the heads of goalkeeper Tim Howard and a number of Everton defenders, after the visitors had failed to clear their lines.
The second owed plenty to Luis Suarez, who chased Jordan Henderson’s pass into the inside right channel and skipped past Sylvain Distin to put the ball on a plate for his captain. In added time Gerrard started and finished the move as he advanced and laid off to Suarez in the penalty area only to receive the ball back from the Uruguay international.
Afterwards, the Reds captain was keen to praise to his team-mates, particularly Suarez.
“It’s a nice feeling to get a hat-trick but it doesn’t really matter who scored. I must give credit to the whole team,” he said.
“We defended really well, Jay Spearing was fantastic and Luis Suarez was very unselfish with the goals and showed why he’s world class.
“Luis is very aware of what’s around him. He is very unselfish and sacrifices himself for the team and that’s a sign of a top player so credit to him.”
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