Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard is confident the club can match his lofty ambitions after admitting his Anfield return had shown him the gap he has to close.
The 1-0 defeat by Liverpool, courtesy of a Mohamed Salah 67th-minute penalty, did not tell the full story as Gerrard’s side barely had a chance until the last 15 minutes.
He accepted he had to rein in his game plan to minimise the risk of them being one of the many teams who get hammered when they turn up at Anfield, but that only left him considering how he can turn his 12th-placed team into one which is challenging nearer the top of the table.
“Of course I want the players and people at the club to be as ambitious as myself,” said Gerrard, who suffered his second defeat in five matches since taking over from the sacked Dean Smith.
“I am not saying my ambitions are different to theirs, we have a lot of ambitious players at the club, a lot of ambitious coaches, the people above us: the board and the owners are ambitious.
“But what we won’t do is… we won’t settle for anything except trying to improve, trying to grow.
“It is obviously still really early days, but we have seen enough to believe that we can take this club forward, finish the season in a positive position and then obviously recruit and build and add to this.
“Take it forward. There is nothing wrong with being as ambitious as you can and I will never stop doing that.”
Gerrard accepts there are plenty of improvements to be made, particularly defensively where they have kept just one clean sheet in the last 10 matches.
However, he was encouraged by how they kept the Premier League’s top scorers at bay for over an hour.
“From a defensive point of view and how we defended our box and people really putting their bodies on the lines and maxing out for the team that was a real strong positive,” he added.
“I thought we contained Liverpool for a large part of this game and that is a real difficult task, but I believe we can still keep the ball better, I think we can stay on the ball for longer periods of time and hopefully as time goes by we can be more of a threat for more parts of the game.
“But you also have to appreciate and understand that Liverpool are arguably one of the strongest teams in Europe they have been together for a long time and they are really flying at the moment.
“We have to get the balance right of not being too harsh when City (to whom they lost 2-1 earlier this month) and Liverpool are just edging us out.
“Of course we don’t want to accept that and it still feels disappointing but the reality is we have to try and steal something from those games, while going toe to toe with the majority of the other teams around the league.”