Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina admits it is currently impossible for them to compete with Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea and stressed things have to improve if they are to hold onto their star names.
Early-season struggles have left the Reds in ninth place in the league, prompting speculation about the futures of star names Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Reina himself.
A change of ownership in October saw New England Sports Ventures take control, but with the transfer window not opening until January they have not yet had a chance to turn their ambitious words into new signings.
Reina has warned his team-mates and the new owners that significant moves forward have to be made.
“We have to finish this season in a better position than we are at the moment and make sure we build for the next years and try to be competitive,” said the Spain international.
“If not, it's going to be difficult for them to keep these kind of players. We have to be sure that we deliver better performances otherwise it's going to be really, really, really difficult (to finish in the top four).
“We are not probably as strong as Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham can be so that's why we have to make sure we build a better squad. At the moment, it's almost impossible to compete for nine months against Chelsea, for example, and that is what I want.
“The clubs all around England are building proper squads. We have to do the same and we have to be able to compete.”
Reina heads to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham tomorrow looking to break a club record.
If he keeps a clean sheet, it will be his 100th in 197 league games — breaking Ray Clemence's record which was achieved in 217 outings.
Liverpool are also trying to improve on their woeful away form, which has seen them win twice in the league since last December.
“We are not playing well enough, especially away from home, and we have to make sure we improve this aspect otherwise we will be struggling,” Reina said.
“It's so difficult to go anywhere and beat teams but if we want to be up there at the end of the season, we have to.”
Reina also defended manager Roy Hodgson, who has had to suffer some fans chanting the name of former boss Kenny Dalglish and criticism of his methods.
“Ideas in football are relatively important but what makes a system work are the players,” he continued.
“We are the ones who have to show a bit more on the pitch.”
“Rafa [Benitez] was really beloved in Liverpool but I think it's about time that the fans get behind Roy 100%. I don't think it is heavy criticism out there anyway.”
Ironically on the day when one of his key men has urged the need for improvement, Hodgson admitted he has changed his opinion on players he inherited from Benitez and is now keen to keep the squad intact.
“Basically I know what my best team is — the best team is more than 11 players,” said the Reds boss, who accepts his view may have been tainted by poor results.
“I could have a best team and say one week it is with X and another week it is Y but it still would be my best team because the players are interchangeable.
“I have a very clear picture now of what we should and need to be doing and the squad is stronger and getting stronger.
“It was probably stronger than
I realised at certain stages in the early part of the season when we were losing games.
“Hopefully that will mean we won't need to do too much in the January transfer window because it might be nice if we can keep all of these players fit and well and add the odd player or two who can help us. I have a lot of faith in the players who are playing at the moment because in the last two or three weeks we have put in some good performances.”
Hodgson is hopeful of having Joe Cole available for the clash with Tottenham, where a victory by two goals would take them above Harry Redknapp's side.
The England international has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury.