Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes that the club must invest wisely this summer in order to create a squad that is capable of challenging for a place in the top four next season.

The Reds have been worryingly inconsistent this season and have therefore failed to mount a serious challenge for a place in the Champions League positions. They remain in seventh place after their 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday but are some seven points behind Chelsea in fourth place.

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard believes inconsistency has cost Liverpool dear this season. [Reuters]

After a string of three wins in the Premier League, there was a rude awakening for Brendan Rodgers when his side were completely outplayed by Southampton who ran out comfortable 3-1 winners last month.

It is this inconsistency that Gerrard feels has been Liverpool's major problem this season. However, he believes that by signing the right players in the summer they will have a better chance of pushing the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.

"'We're not far away. There will be some improvements to the squad in the summer and we believe we can then put in a better challenge for the top four next season," Gerrard said, as quoted in the Daily Mail.

"We know what our problem is and it's inconsistency. For the majority of the games (this season) we have played well enough to be higher up the league but when you look at performances like Southampton away, Aston Villa at home, West Brom away, Arsenal at home; there's a handful of games there that this team hasn't turned up.

"That's the reason why we are sitting where we are in the table. But there have been some fantastic performances, ones that are well worth a top-four finish."

Liverpool have often flattered to deceive this season and have struggled to pick up results when they have not played their best. A 3-2 win over Tottenham looked to have been a major turning point but the defeat to Southampton immediately followed.

With just seven games remaining it has become vitally important that Liverpool look to end the season on a high as they need to attract star players to the club over the summer.

"There is a little short season now of seven games and we just need to make sure that we play to our maximum because if we don't, like at Southampton, we know we will be punished," added Gerrard. "We need to use the Villa game as a level of performance from which to continue.

"If you say you haven't got what you deserve, then there's an element of feeling sorry for yourself there. But we know what our problem is - it is inconsistency. For the majority of the games we have played well enough to be higher up the league than we are.

"But there's a handful of games there where this team haven't turned up. That's the reason why we are sitting seventh in the table."