Glen Johnson believes Liverpool are enjoying a better season than last term, despite the club winning the Carling Cup in 2011-12, with the right-back hailing the progress of the side in Brendan Rodgers' first campaign.
Liverpool drew 0-0 with West Ham United on Sunday to leave the club in seventh place on 49 points, nine behind Tottenham Hotspur who are in the final Champions League position. Johnson said: "It is clearly a better season than last season. Brendan is looking to improve the squad and we have got a better squad than we did have. He will look to improve again in the summer. If we can nick the goals we need, we will be right in amongst it [next season]."
Of Rodgers, who replaced Kenny Dalglish last summer, Johnson said: "Brendan was brought in to rebuild the squad and put Liverpool back into the places that it should be [as a club]. He wants to put us back in the top four but he wasn't asked to do that in his first season. This season has been a step closer to that. Of course everyone – players, staff, fans – would love us to be back in the top four but, if we improve on last season, then it is a step in the right direction."
Under Dalglish Liverpool finished eighth with 52 points, so Rodgers requires only four from the last six matches to better this performance. Johnson has no doubt that the team has improved. "Eight times out of 10 we have dominated games," he said. "Sometimes, like against West Ham, we haven't come away with the points that we deserve. It is difficult. We have battered teams but, if we don't get that early goal, it has given them encouragement."
Asked why he believes this season is better than the last despite the Carling Cup win, Johnson said: "It's a few things. You look at the squad, the feeling that there is around the place, the football that we are playing and, like I said, eight times out of 10 we have been battering teams. That wasn't the case last season. We won a trophy last season and of course that was fantastic. Everyone wants to win – that's what we are in the game for. But in terms of getting Liverpool back where they belong, we want to be back in the top four."
Johnson admitted it will be difficult to replace Jamie Carragher when the centre-back retires in the summer after a 15-season career at the club. "He has been a fantastic player for many years. We have got some fantastic centre-backs at the club but I'm sure that when Carra moves on, Brendan will look to strengthen in that area," said Johnson. "We have already got Martin Skrtel, Danny [Agger] and Seba [Coates]. They are very, very good centre-backs. Any team will miss Carra."