With the owners back in the picture, at least for the time being, it's hard to forget the expectations that were laid out ahead of their first full season with Liverpool. John Henry made no secret of his intent for getting the club back among the top teams in British football, and if Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League it would constitute a "major disappointment." As it were, the Liverpool managed a to disappoint in all but one competition, and for most, even the League Cup trophy came with its share of grumbles and discontent.
The expectation of top-four football hasn't been mandated in any sense by the owners, who've backed off this season and assured that, while a Champions League spot is always a goal, there's not any strongly-worded discussions about what it would or wouldn't mean for Liverpool if they're outside the European places yet again.
That hasn't prevented Brendan Rodgers from discussing it in his pre-West Brom presser, though, and his response seems to be part of the company line:
"The top four is certainly not something we'll shy away from. It's where a club of this status wants to be, but it's always easier said than done. The reality over the past three seasons or so hasn't been that. It's important that if you don't have the money, you have got to be different. That's the idea of trying to find a style. One of the ways in which we can hopefully gain an edge is in how we play and control and dominate games."
Champions League football could very well be a few years off; it could also be back at Anfield at season's end. But the vascillation between expectancy and relative complacency makes it difficult to gauge just how Brendan Rodgers or anyone in charge at Liverpool is approaching the coming season.
My guess--based mostly off my own feeling--is that Liverpool don't seem that far away, particularly with the personnel they have in the starting eleven. And if they improve the squad in the next 48 hours, as Rodgers is hopeful of doing, there's no reason to think they can't make a proper run at it. The way the past few seasons have gone, however, have made us all a little gun shy, especially when it comes to having hopes for the future. There's no optimism without the caveat of it being cautious, and there's no expectations that aren't fluid enough to be explained away as such. And for FSG and Brendan Rodgers, where Liverpool finishes the season needs to be a very fluid expectation.
Especially in August.