A pair of frustrating draws against West Ham and Reading may have scuppered Liverpool's faint final hopes of qualifying for European football next season short of a UEFA fair play league miracle, but manager Brendan Rodgers is convinced his side are much improved today compared to where they were when he came onboard last summer.
He's also convinced that given his side's improved play in recent months—along with the addition of a new signing or two over the summer—it's a side more than capable of making up the nine point gap between where they are now and the top four where they need to be. Top four may have been more hope than goal in his first year in charge, but when he talked to Goals on Sunday following Saturday's poor Reading result, he made clear that next season a return to the Champions League will be the minimum target.
Rodgers also cracked open the window to the possibility Jamie Carragher might change his mind on retiring, perhaps preferring one more season in the top flight and a chance to help Liverpool back into the top four than sliding into a pundit's chair for Sky. While the manager wouldn't say if he was trying to change the defender's mind or not, his unfettered praise along with the suggestion he believes Carragher is fully capable of playing for another year sent a clear signal.
All told it sets up one more storyline for a Liverpool side heading into an uncertain summer—uncertain because few can agree on what kind of budget Rodgers will be working with; uncertain when it comes to questions about whether Rodgers is planning for another overhaul in midfield that could see the likes Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing sent packing; and uncertain most of all in defence where Martin Skrtel remains second choice to Carragher and now the possibility Carragher could play one more season has been introduced.
About all that seems clear is that, for Rodgers and Liverpool, it's top four or bust when the 2013-14 season kicks off in August.