LIVERPOOL, May 19- Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers braced supporters for a close-season rebuilding process after long-serving captain Steven Gerrard played his final home game for the club.
Gerrard, 34, declared himself “devastated” following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace at a sold-out Anfield and must now prepare for his last ever Liverpool appearance at Stoke City next weekend.
Gerrard’s departure echoes that of his fellow stalwart Jamie Carragher, who bowed out in 2013, and with Luis Suarez still to be satisfactorily replaced following his move to Barcelona last year, Rodgers knows there is a pressing need to bolster his squad.
Asked if it would be possible to replace Gerrard — who joins the Los Angeles Galaxy in July — with one player, Rodgers told his post-match press conference: “I dont think there is that.
“He is a player and a person who is irreplaceable for the club. What he’s given over his time here and the standards he’s set are second to none.
“We’ll go forward at the end of the season and we’ll have to plot a way to improve in the summer. That’s our challenge.”
Having pushed Manchester City all the way in last season’s title race, Liverpool have slipped back in 2014-15 and are yet to secure even the consolation of a Europa League place after missing out on a Champions League berth.
But asked if he felt optimistic about the future, Rodgers replied: “We have to (be).
“In my time here, we’ve lost a couple of players with 700-odd games for the club in Jamie Carragher (737) and Steven Gerrard (709).
“Those two guys have been monumental players for the club, so losing both of those is a big blow. Throw in a world-class player like Luis Suarez, and of course it’s difficult.
“This year has been very difficult for us in many aspects. But the players have given everything they possibly can and hopefully in the summer we can add that quality that the group clearly needs and take the opportunity next year.”
– Pardew targets top eight –
There is a feeling that Gerrard could return to Anfield on loan — following the examples of David Beckham and Thierry Henry during their stints in Major League Soccer — but he told the BBC that he would only consider returning in an “emergency situation”.
Rodgers’s side took a 26th-minute lead when Adam Lallana seized on a misplaced pass from former Liverpool player Martin Kelly before beating Wayne Hennessey.
But Palace equalised through Jason Puncheon’s free-kick just before half-time and second-half goals from substitutes Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray secured a first league win at Anfield since November 1991.
Rodgers complained with justification that Zaha had been offside when he tapped in Yannick Bolasie’s low cross on the hour and that the foul on Zaha by Lucas Leiva that led to Murray’s stoppage-time penalty had occurred outside the box.
But he also conceded that his side had been “punished” for committing “poor defensive errors”.
Former Palace midfielder Alan Pardew has rejuvenated the club since returning as manager in January and he hopes that performances such as Saturday’s win will help the club make transformative signings.
“For the chairman (Steve Parish) and the board, it must be quite exciting,” said Pardew, whose side had lost their four previous games.
“We’re in a good position financially. Put two or three quality players into that group and we could attack the top eight, top 10.
“I want to be knocking on (Parish’s) door. He’s been receptive to my opinions. It’s still difficult to get quality players through the door, and I think today’s performance will have helped us.
“Players abroad can see we’ve produced performances against top teams. Now we need that little bit of extra quality. Hopefully we’ve shown players in Europe that they can come here and have a great future.”