Brendan Rodgers targets Liverpool title challenge next season - is it realistic?

Brendan Rogers Press Conference Smiling - 16/02/2014

Brendan Rodgers was bullish at this press conference ahead of this weekend's FA Cup clash against Bolton Wanderers, and despite the Reds sitting in eighth in the Premier League, he believes the foundations for a serious title challenge are in place.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has said he expects the side to be challenging for the league title next season.

The Reds' poor start to this campaign meant that any notion of mounting a challenge to lift the Premier League this season was unlikely but there has been something of a recovery during the midway point of the season which leaves the side five points off the Champions League places. 

Rodgers told reporters at his pre-match press conference: ""The reality for us was 'could we finish in the top four?'. With so many changes we weren't going to challenge for the league. We were looking to win a trophy and then come next summer we will be ready to challenge for the title again.

“I believe the squad has Premier League-winning capabilities.

“The players can grow together, and if we can get success in a cup competition this year that will give us even greater stimulus to stick together and perform.

“There's no doubt along the way you have to bring in quality that's ready-made to help that growth.”

Rodgers said that the new signings the club brought in should be fully integrated within the squad. No fewer than nine players arrived at Anfield during the summer, which was always likely to have an effect on the team in terms of balance.

But as the season has gone on, more and more of the new players are starting to find their feet. Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana seemed to show the impressive sides of their game from the off but the likes of Lazar Markovic and Emre Can are just starting to show signs of their true ability.

There are still question marks over a couple, however. Mario Balotelli has struggled to find his feet, while Dejan Lovren has been error strewn since his arrival from Southampton, and the impact of Rickie Lambert was expected to be limited somewhat, but some may have thought he would have made more of a contribution.

There are of course, going to be departures. Steven Gerrard leaving for the MLS is going to leave a big void in the side, and one things that such a character needs to be replaced in order for any serious challenge to be mounted, while the injuries suffered by Daniel Sturridge this season raises questions about whether the Reds need to bring in another forward.

Rodgers said near the start of the season, it was going to be their last big window for a while in terms of players coming in and out. He obviously feels the side needs to be tweaked with in order to take the steps necessary.

The Liverpool boss has taken the side from seventh to second in his first two seasons in charge and he thinks that another dramatic climb up the table could be in order. 

Certainly, the signs were there during the 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night that Liverpool are capable of going toe-to-toe with the best sides in the country, and where it for an impressive display from Thibaut Courtois, they would have won the game. 

A lot does depend on whether the side can remain tight at the back and not let silly errors creep into their game. Their home form from this season has to improve and be more like last term. The difference between last season and going forward is that Rodgers is likely to have more options available to him, and can do more to influence the game from the bench.

If the second half of the season proves to be as productive as it has done during the past couple of seasons for Liverpool, and they manage to secure Champions League qualification, it is a good base for the side to build from going forward. That way they can provide the ready made quality that Rodgers alluded to, but it will require a little bit of a shift from the existing transfer policy undertaken by the club.

The bullish comments from the Liverpool boss at least show that the confidence from the 18 months prior to this season, is returning. That in itself will be a key factor to any realistic challenge.

The other factors? Just how strong will Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, maybe even Tottenham be? Will Southampton surprise us all again this season and maybe have a tilt themselves.

That is something Liverpool can't control. What they can do, is exceed the 80 point mark and get in and around 90 points. They can beat anyone in the league, if they find the consistency, then they're capable of being a force next season. But there's plenty of time for things to change, yet.

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