Liverpool boss wary of throwing captain in at the deep end
Kenny Dalglish has warned that Liverpool must not bank on Steven Gerrard to lift the club closer to their cherished top-four finish or to resolve a goals output which he admits is not acceptable.
The 31-year-old club captain is finally restored to Dalglish's ranks after a miserable 2011, in which he featured in just 12 Premier League fixtures for Liverpool, and while his return offers some compensation for the possible eight-game absence of Luis Suarez, Dalglish has suggested that the future for Gerrard will involve managing more limited time on the pitch.
"Steven will help because he's got goals, he's got charisma and he's got presence," Dalglish said of a player who is likely to be on the bench for Newcastle United's arrival at Anfield tonight.
"He's got everything but we can't throw everything on to Steven. We can't say, 'Steven is coming back, he's going to be the one to do this or that.' If we are going to be a one-man band then we have no chance. If we are going to appreciate what we have and respect the people who play with you, then we have a better chance."
Dalglish approaches his first anniversary as Liverpool manager with the club's goal scoring the obvious point of concern -- their tally of 21 in 18 Premier League games is less than half that of the dominant Manchester clubs who Liverpool trail by 14 points.
Gerrard's goals have been sorely needed, with the two-month lay-off caused by an ankle infection, just as he was recovering from a groin operation, limiting him to two league starts this season.
Dalglish acknowledged that Gerrard "will help because he's got goals" but indicated he wanted others to score more because -- with the exception of four-goal Maxi Rodriguez, the club's second highest scorer after Suarez -- every Liverpool player has scored fewer this season than he had at the equivalent stage in the last campaign.
"I don't think at the goal-scoring end we have been prolific at any time (in the past year)," said Dalglish. "But we will get there."
Liverpool, who Dalglish said had yet to put in an immediate bid for the prolific Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly, appear unlikely to be able to move for Suarez's Uruguayan compatriot Gaston Ramirez, who will not be leaving Bologna in January, his agent said yesterday.
Napoli last week won the race to sign Eduardo Vargas, the 22-year-old Chilean forward whom Liverpool and Chelsea were both watching. Liverpool have not lost a game in which Gerrard has featured since Dalglish's first game in charge -- the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford during which he was dismissed on January 9.
The manager said that Gerrard looked "even better now than when he last came back," from surgery in October, but seems likely to be cautious about throwing him into Liverpool's quest for the top-four position, which is expected by the club's principal owner John W Henry.
"We're not going to be irresponsible and throw him in and take a chance with him," Dalglish said. "Everyone wants to play but he's got the experience to know that it's difficult to last the 90 minutes. He's just got to manage the number of minutes he gets on the pitch, see how he goes."
Liverpool will rehearse for life without Suarez tonight as the Uruguayan is serving a one-match ban for improper conduct related to a hand gesture he made to Fulham supporters.
By the time Liverpool next play, against Manchester City on Tuesday night, the club and FA are expected to have received the written adjudication on the separate suspension and fine handed to Suarez following the Patrice Evra race abuse case.
Liverpool will then decide whether to proceed with an appeal to reduce the ban, which would postpone his suspension but might lead to an even longer absence for their star striker in the new year.
Should Liverpool decide to accept the punishment, Suarez would not be eligible again for Kenny Dalglish until February 11. To add to the symmetry in what has been one of the most provocative cases in the FA's disciplinary history, that is when the Merseyside club travel to Old Trafford in the Premier League. (© Independent News Service)
Stevie G in numbers
0 Liverpool defeats with Gerrard in the team this season -- three wins and three draws
34 Gerrard is the club's top European scorer
84 Only Robbie Fowler (128) and Michael Owen (118) have scored more Premier League goals for Liverpool.
1.6 The club's goals per game average over the last 10 matches with Gerrard in the team -- up from 1.2 in 10 matches without him
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