I don’t believe Steven Gerrard actually thinks Liverpool were the much better team in the Merseyside derby against Everton on Sunday. But a captain has to do what he has to do; motivate his team and spread some media fibs to get his teammates going and spread a little confidence, which the team could use at the moment.
Liverpool weren’t the better team on the day. They started out playing really well, but fell back after taking a 2-0 lead instead of pressing on against a stunned Everton side, who retaliated quite quickly. Instead of keeping the pressure, Liverpool stopped pushing forward and just waited for the second goal. Everton had quite a lot of assistance from the refs in this one. First it was a throw in that should have gone Liverpool’s way that led to the equalizer, and then of course Luis Suarez scoring the winner only to see it disallowed by the linesman.
Gerrard later spoke about both Everton and the referee mistakes. Part of the game is media lying. Trashing your opponents, your biggest rivals. It’s especially true when you can’t deliver on the pitch as well as you did previously. Just take a page out of Alex Ferguson’s book: Every time Manchester United have a bad loss or get a nice little bonus from the referee, you’ll always hear him divert the subject to how the referee screwed his side or another matter. Defend your team at all costs. Jose Mourinho usually applies that tactic as well, although he did throw a changeup this season.
Gerrard has played his two best matches this season against the club’s biggest rivals. I guess he needs that kind of motivation to bring out the best in him, or the best that’s left at 32 and too many groin injuries. But Gerrard has been talking quite a lot lately; Liverpool have stopped losing, and he feels that there’s a need for a push off the pitch as well. Setting the bar high doesn’t always work, but he wants the fans to know that this team isn’t settling for a mid-table finish.
Is a top 4 place achievable? Probably not, and saying you’re a Champions League caliber team doesn’t necessarily make you one. But that is where Liverpool are aspiring to get to. They were pretty much a every-year team in the competition for about a decade, reaching the final twice and winning the trophy in 2005. Somewhere along the way, things turned in the wrong direction. Part of putting the pieces together again is showing confidence outside of the pitch, hoping it resonates with the players in hope of an improved continuation to this season.
And when your best player is constantly accused of diving, it’s good to divert the fire elsewhere: Everton’s physical play, and Phil Neville contradicting everything David Moyes tried to do before the match.