Liverpool - Looking outwards with jealousy at the top five

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Liverpool were not so long ago regarded as part of the 'Big Four' - Manchester City changed all that. Can the Reds reignite their fortunes?

The 'Big Four' - Remember them? The unstoppable quartet of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool, which were accused of making the Premier League 'boring' and a procession.

In the years from 2003 to 2008, the clubs finishing in the top four was entirely predictable, just a question of who would win the league - although even that became simply a choice of two - Manchester United and Chelsea.

Yet the familiarity and comfort of knowing a top four finish was likely made Anfield a largely happy but also restless place - with fans frustrated at their inability to take the next step.

In 2008/09 they came closest, almost beating Manchester United to the title, but little did they know that they were simply soaring so close to the sun that they would be burnt.

Not burnt to dust, but singed enough to see their manager depart, as well as their key midfield axis of Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, while star striker Fernando Torres did not last much longer, replaced with £35 million battering ram Andy Carroll.

Early in that 2008 season a seismic event took place in English football; Manchester City were taken over by Middle Eastern billionaires. City took their time reaching the top four, beaten to it by a resurgent Tottenham, but not long after were Premier League champions, and still are for another month at least.

Liverpool have for the last couple of seasons made noises about cracking the top four, but in truth they have been kidding themselves.

Two or three wins together are as good as it gets, before they are brought back down to earth - see the recent loss to Southampton, and the FA Cup defeat to Oldham as particularly tough blows for their season's aspirations.

This season as only served to confirm the obvious - Liverpool are a notch below the current Premier League top five.

On the pitch they have proved they can mix it with each of them, taking points off all of the 'top sides' with a particularly impressive win over Spurs last month.

But when it comes to consistency, Liverpool are still some way short, and this is what they need to fix. The first half of the season was complicated by injury, a thin squad, and getting used to Brendan Rodgers and vice versa.

Fans though will not wait forever. Liverpool supporters do not like not being part of the 'top five' clubs, and are not amused at being bystanders as the race for the top four reaches an exciting climax over these final weeks of the season.

That is the ambition for the club next season. A top four finish is not the be all and end all, but Liverpool will expect to put up more a fight.

The time for using transition as an excuse is coming to an end. It's time the club pushed on and got more involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League - which is why fans will be keenly anticipating a more successful summer transfer window than the last, and why hanging onto star man Luis Suarez is an absolute must.

Liverpool fans will you tolerate another season of standing still?

image: © skau

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