Liverpool's season may be winding down with chances of European qualification of any kind almost entirely gone, but captain Steven Gerrard believes this isn't a Liverpool squad that's miles away from once again challenging for the top four.
"We're not far away," he insisted. "There will be some improvements in the summer to the squad and we believe we can then put in a better challenge for the top four next season. We know what our problem is and it's inconsistency.
"For the majority of the games we have played well enough to be higher up the league than we are, but when you look at performances like Southampton, 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."
With Tottenham and Manchester City establishing themselves as, at the very least, perennial top four aspirants, the road to Champions League qualification in England is far more difficult than in years past, even if Manchester United remain the only club capable of challenging for the title on a yearly basis.
Still, Gerrard isn't wrong when he points to Liverpool's stumbles, often coming after strong results, as being what have prevented the club from mounting a serious challenge on the top four this season. A few smart signings combined with a more consistent level of performance next season would at the very least place a top four finish within realistic reach.
And when it comes to making a few smart signings once the season ends and the transfer window opens up again, Liverpool could do a lot worse than to continue on from January successes Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho—with Gerrard surprisingly ranking the young Brazilian amongst the best attackers he's ever played with.
"If you have players like Coutinho and Suárez in your team then you win games," said Gerrard of Liverpool's two most dangerous attackers at present. "Ever since I was a player as a kid, you always find it easier to play alongside quality players. All the way through: Owen, Torres, Suárez, Coutinho. They are the easiest players to play with."