Belfast Telegraph

Steven Gerrard wants his Liverpool team-mates to play 'like men'

By Sam Wallace

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has told Brendan Rodgers that he has to take criticism on the chin, insisting it goes with the territory of being manager at Anfield.

In a straight talking interview, the midfielder stated the only way for Rodgers to ease the pressure of late was to improve results. That process started with Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final win at Bournemouth. Prior to that Rodgers’ position was being questioned.

Asked if that was wrong, Gerrard said: “Yeah, I’d say so. But it comes with the territory. There was a stage when a couple of my performances were under par and I got a bit of stick. It’s normal. I’ve got to accept it being captain of the club and he’s got to accept it being the manager of Liverpool.

“If results don’t go well, questions are going to get asked, criticism is going to fly, you take it on the chin and try to improve things. That’s the only way.

Gerrard, speaking ahead of Liverpool's big Premier League match at home to Arsenal on Sunday, also talked about what the players need to do for the remainder of the season.

He issued a stern warning to his team-mates that they need to play "like men" and will only have themselves to blame if the club cannot raise itself out of the current slump in league form, which has seen them drop to 11th in the table.

The Liverpool number eight, who started in the midweek 3-1 Capital Cup success at Bournemouth, insisted that the next few weeks, starting against Arsenal, would be a test of the character of the team. Last season they beat Arsène Wenger's side 5-1 at Anfield in February with four goals in the first 20 minutes at a time when the Gunners were the Premier League leaders.

Gerrard said: "We won the game (last season) in the first 20 minutes, but when you have a strikeforce of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, they are capable of killing teams in 20 minutes.

"It's different this year, everyone knows that. I think they were 60 to 70 per cent of our goals, those two. You take them out of any team in the world and it's going to be tough, and it has been.

"I think this is where you find out what kind of players you've got in the dressing room.

"It's time to roll our sleeves up and fight for the club and try to put it right as soon as possible and that's what we're trying to do.

"It's been very hard," Gerrard admitted. "For me I've experienced it a few times during my career at Liverpool when it gets tough under certain managers and from the outside people are trying to 'kill' you (with criticism). It's normal.

"We're at a big club, we've got to take that responsibility. We can't have players hiding and feeling sorry for themselves, we need men out there and (against Bournemouth) I thought we all turned up. That's why the result came."

Gerrard added that he had not been slow to inform team-mates when he felt their performances had not reached the required level.

"I tell them individually, I tell them in the dressing room, but if you're sitting in that dressing room and you don't know that the performance levels haven't been good enough of late, you're at the wrong place."

Liverpool will face Chelsea over two legs in the Capital One Cup semi-final next month, a repeat of the final nearly 10 years ago in which Jose Mourinho won his first trophy in England and Gerrard scored an own goal. Gerrard conceded it would be "tough" to beat the league leaders and make it to the final.

"On current form they're the best team in the country, but it's exciting. They will be two great games, and two great atmospheres.

"It's nice to see the lads smiling. We'll certainly be looking forward to the games and if we can go through, it's a great chance to get another cup."

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