Red-hot Gerrard promises his best is yet to come
LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard believes that he has recovered from a disappointing period this season to rediscover his best form.
In a frank appraisal of his performances at the start of Brendan Rodgers' reign, Gerrard acknowledged certain inconsistencies earlier in the campaign.
The old swagger has returned in recent weeks, but, not for the first time, Gerrard has offered a critical, public self-assessment.
It always seems to be Gerrard – by far the most dynamic Liverpool player of the past 14 years – who feels compelled to accept responsibility and take the brunt of most criticism when the side go through a difficult period.
"I've had mixed experiences this season," he said. "I've passed some unbelievable landmarks for club and country, getting to the 600 games mark and winning my 100th cap for England.
"But with the slow start we made and being where we have in the league, it's been a bit mixed for me. There's my form as well. I've played well in some games but I've been disappointed with myself in others, and I'm not happy with my goal tally at the moment."
He has scored five times for Liverpool this season and said: "People's opinions, perceptions and the way they judge you changes when you get a goal.
"I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be, so if I can add goals to those performances then maybe people will start saying the old Steven Gerrard is back."
Much of the focus has been on the change of formation under Rodgers and how it may have impacted on the captain, but Gerrard dismisses it as a factor.
"I don't think the manager's asked me to do anything different in terms of the way he wants me to perform but because of certain injuries, situations that have happened to the team and formations that we've played, I've naturally played a little bit deeper," he said.
"I've maybe gone into protection mode rather than playing the old Steven Gerrard way with the shackles off and going for the jugular.
"When you're one of the experienced players in the team, the team's more important than yourself and maybe I've sacrificed myself in certain games and tried to protect by playing deeper and being a controller with Joe Allen.
"Now that Lucas is back, he gives me the licence to get forward a lot more so hopefully I can add some goals to my performances.
"I've got the buzz that the team's improving and it's going to get better.
"I'm confident that come the end of the season, I will be satisfied with myself and the team because I do believe we can finish the season really strongly."
After being short of strikers for most of the season, Rodgers will head to Manchester United this weekend with a relative embarrassment of riches. Fabio Borini has returned to training after recovering from a fractured foot. The Italian has not played in the Premier League since October. With Daniel Sturridge preparing for his Premier League debut, Rodgers now has three strikers in his squad.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are ready to walk away from a deal for Blackpool's Thomas Ince.
Blackpool have told the Merseyside club they must increase their offer for the 20-year-old, but it is now more likely Brendan Rodgers will wait until the summer before renewing his interest in the player.
The offer, lodged several weeks ago, amounted to £6m. However, Liverpool are entitled to 35pc of any sale under the terms under which Ince was sold to the Championship club. That means Liverpool are prepared to pay only £4m up front.
The player himself would be entitled to 10pc of his transfer fee – equating to £600,000 – which means Blackpool would receive only £3.4m.
Blackpool paid just £500,000 for the youngster when he left Anfield in 2011 and Rodgers believes the 18 months he has spent in the Championship have developed his game more than would have been the case had he stayed at Liverpool.
He remains keen to bring the player back to Merseyside, and Ince wants to return, but the deal will not happen at Blackpool's prices. (© Daily Telegraph, London)