With the season winding down and focus beginning to shift to the offseason and the reopening of the transfer window, Brendan Rodgers was in a reflective mood as he spoke with the Liverpool Echo about what he's learned so far and where he hopes to take the club next. For Rodgers, continued improvement will be the key—but that may not mean a string of splashy new signings.
"This year has provided a great learning curve for me and I look back and see that it was learning that I needed," said the manager ahead of the final match of his first year in charge at Liverpool Football Club. "I knew the expectancy of the club but going into next season, I am a much better prepared manager for that.
"We want to make significant improvements next year in the points total because the reality is we are 30 points behind the leaders and 11 points behind the top four. But I’ve seen enough and if we improve our mentality in the summer—by signing players who have that consistent winning mentality—we can improve again, like we have done in the second half of the season."
The last time Liverpool finished a season feeling more positive about where things were headed than they had at the end of the previous one, the offseason saw a series of largely disruptive major changes as then-manager Kenny Dalglish sought to overhaul the squad. It led to the club having the worst league season in more than fifty years and the manager's sacking.
This time around, the focus must be on taking the promise of Rodgers' first year at the helm and building on it. This time around, Liverpool must take a step forward as they enter the manager's second season rather than replacing half the squad and running the risk of undermining the foundations laid this year. Luckily, Rodgers seems at least to intend careful addition rather than massive overhaul as he looks to the summer.
"That’s the job of the recruitment team and the club," he explained, "to identify [players with a winning mentality]. They might not always be the best players but what we need in the second year of this project is to find a great level of consistency. There is a process of getting into the top four and becoming champions and that is consistency.
"This club didn’t win two league games in a row for over a year. That came earlier on in the season and when you step back and look at that, it is nowhere near good enough if you are going to succeed. You build a mentality in your group and you get the types of players who can be on it every single game."
Rodgers has spent his first season constructing the foundation; now he will have to build on that, with a return to the top four being the minimum many will demand to consider his second year a successful one. The signs he can succeed are there, but the club cannot afford another year where the only real goal is to once again build for tomorrow. This time, Liverpool need to finally step into the future the club has spent the last few seasons trying to build towards.
"I’ve loved every minute of being here and the small steps of where we want to go," he concluded. "But now I want to make bigger steps."
Read More: Skrtel "Very Much" Part of Rodgers' Plans