In the autumn, Liverpool looked legitimate title challengers. For a time, they might even have looked favourites to win the Premier League and break a title drought that has lasted more than 25 years now. Despite that, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says fans shouldn't be setting their sights on immediate league glory.
"I think Liverpool have got the sixth-best squad," he told FourFourTwo this week. "So to be in the top four would be a very good season. At the moment, I don't think they've got enough to challenge for the league. You saw the reasons why they fell away in the middle of the season when Sadio Mané was gone for the Africa Cup of Nations."
Finish in the top four, get back into the Champions League, and use their place in that competition to improve the squad. Do that for a couple of years and then, maybe, Liverpool would have the squad and the financial clout to challenge for the league as they did late on while Rafa Benitez and Geard Houllier were in charge.
Next season, though, that won't or shouldn't be the goal. Or at least Carragher doesn't think it will be. The goal will be to stay in the top four, to turn that top six calibre squad into a top four squad, and to the year after that once again finish top four and improve a little more. It's a long and reasonable road, albeit one that doesn't necessarily line up with fan hopes.
"It won't be a case of splashing the cash and going for the league next season," Carragher said. "It will have to be a gradual improvement similar to when I was playing under Houllier and Benitez, when we built to a title challenge. We never quite pulled it off, but we came very close on a couple of occasions.
"If Liverpool can get into the top four for three or four years on the bounce, that would be a major achievement. You cement your position and then maybe think, ‘OK, let's go for the title'. Klopp has signed a contract for five or six years and I'm sure each year he'd be looking for progression, so maybe after another good two or three years Liverpool should have a great chance."