Brendan Rodgers has described his debut season as Liverpool manager as a necessary learning curve that can produce a top-four challenge next term providing the team's consistency and mentality improves.
The Liverpool manager has delivered a seventh-placed finish in the Premier League, one place higher than Kenny Dalglish achieved last year albeit without winning the League Cup and having spent almost £50m on new players. The first half of the campaign suffered from the calamitous end to last summer's transfer window, when Liverpool's new recruitment team were on gardening leaving following their departures from Manchester City, and Rodgers insists lessons have been learned throughout his debut season.
"This year has provided a great learning curve for me and I look back and see that it was learning that I needed," he said. "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 then improve again, like we have done in the second half of the season. That's the job of the recruitment team and the club to identify those types of players. 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."
Liverpool are five points behind Everton in sixth ahead of their final game of the season at home to Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, when Jamie Carragher will make his final appearance for the club, but Rodgers insists "small steps" forward have been taken.
The Liverpool manager added: "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. I've loved every minute of being here and the small steps of where we want to go. But now I want to make bigger steps."