One of the more annoying storylines of last fall was the frequency of references to qualifying for the Champions League, even when most knew that there was little chance for Liverpool to do so. Rare were the occasions that a week would pass without mention of the gap between the club and the final qualifying spot, and while it was nice to know that the manager and players were intent on improving, it was clear that their hopes and ours weren't in line with reality.
That'll likely still be the case this season, though the squad at current looks improved even with its lack of depth, and is about a month and a half ahead of last year's pace when it comes to wins. From Brendan Rodgers' perspective it's part of a progression that lines up nicely with his expected tenure with the club, as he's managed to maintain the ambition of being among the league's elite while still acknowledging that it's not going to happen all of a sudden:
"We're not entering the league just to be fourth. Winning the league is about the best team not just the best players. That's our challenge. It's important for Liverpool to be up there; I think it's important for football for Liverpool to be there because this is one of the biggest clubs in the world. But it doesn't give you a divine right.
"We obviously had a hard start last season in terms of games, and the players coming back late to pre-season. That took us a wee bit of time to get going. But from the turn of the year, since January, we've been very strong. We're getting that consistency back. This year is a big year for us. I signed here for three years and the objective was, certainly in the third year, to be somewhere near challenging for the Champions League."
Similar in content to last season, but for me it's less grating--maybe because it's on the back of three consecutive wins--this time around. I'm under no illusion that Liverpool are or expect to be title front-runners, and as mentioned, a Champions League spot seems like the high end of what the club can achieve this season.
What seems different from Rodgers now is that there isn't the impression that talking about it over and over again will somehow make it happen. That's a product of strengthening the squad and the work that's done week-in, week-out, and it appears to be a lesson the manager learned after a difficult winter saw the gap widened between Liverpool and the teams at the top.
Part of growing into his role as manager has been learning to balance expectation with reality, and it looks like Brendan Rodgers is finally getting there. Now, with the transfer window almost shut, comes the work that's required to better align Liverpool's reality with what they hope to achieve.