Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has held out the prospect of his reshaped squad challenging for the Premier League title in the season ahead, brushing away the suggestion of the club's owner, John W Henry, that a Champions League place is the more realistic target for next May.
As his club presented £45m of new acquisitions in Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and reserve goalkeeper Doni, Dalglish suggested that Fenway Sports Group – the proprietors who have proved so willing to spend £102.4m since they bought the club last January – are the best in the Premier League.
However, they disagree over one thing. The American said in midweek that it is "too early for us to start talking about winning the league... our main goal is to qualify for the Champions League". Dalglish, whose less than discursive mood reflects his desire to return Liverpool to being a club which keeps all its business within its own walls, had these responses: "Have you asked John Henry?" "Well done, John!" "Do you argue with your boss?" he concluded. Of Henry he said: "He is just a good lad... genuinely a good fella. If there is a better owner that is as supportive as John Henry, then they have done very well for themselves, because he's fantastically supportive."
The summer acquisitions had made a difference to fans on the streets of the city, Dalglish added: "It has given the supporters a bit of hope and put a smile back on their faces. In and around the city, you can see the feel-good factor is there for us. Now we have got to go on the pitch and win games."
It was almost exactly a year to the day that the then new manager Roy Hodgson sat down publicly with three recruits of his own – Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Danny Wilson – to discuss his own hopes for the season. Although Hodgson, for all his unpopularity in some quarters at Anfield, was far more willing to engage in press conversation, Dalglish's refusal to dismiss a title tilt offered a striking point of contrast with his predecessor.
Dalglish's primary requirements had seemed to be a left-back – an £8m move for Newcastle's Jose Enrique is imminent – and a left-winger: Downing. Steven Gerrard's omission until September, recovering from groin surgery and a subsequent infection, resolves the problem of Dalglish's preponderance of central midfielders. But it will be there soon enough. Adam, Henderson, Downing, Lucas, Raul Meireles, Dirk Kuyt, Cole and Maxi Rodriguez may be competing for three places.
After the roller-coaster ride of the past few years, Liverpool will settle for a difficulty like that.