Liverpool have improved since Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish claims Glen Johnson

Push to return to top four must wait until next season

With Liverpool heading for their worst sequence of league finishes for 20 years, Glen Johnson insists Brendan Rodgers is right to claim there has been progress at Anfield.

Not since the chaos of Graeme Souness's reign has the club spent three seasons outside the top four and they have never really recovered from the years between 1991-1994 when Manchester United replaced them as the dominant force in England.

Following Sunday's goalless draw with West Ham not even Rodgers, who has proved an arch-optimist since succeeding Kenny Dalglish last June, would assert they were capable of closing the nine-point gap that separates Liverpool from Tottenham in the final Champions League position.

Rodgers' claim to have improved on Dalglish's record rests on the likelihood Liverpool will finish higher than the eighth place they managed last season and that they are playing a slicker brand of football.

Nevertheless, those who questioned owner John Henry jettisoning one of Anfield's most iconic figures – and there are many on the Kop – would point out that Liverpool under Dalglish qualified for the Europa League by winning the League Cup and reached an FA Cup final. Rodgers has not come remotely close to a trophy.

Johnson, who has played for Liverpool's last four managers, disagrees, although some would question the right-back's assertion that they had "battered eight out of the 10 clubs we have played". Sam Allardyce, managing a West Ham side that had not won at Anfield for half a century, argued they might have snatched victory there on Sunday – certainly they were denied an obvious penalty when Jose Enrique clattered James Tomkins.

"It is clearly a better season than the last," said Johnson. "Sometimes, like against West Ham, we haven't come away with the points we deserved. You look at the squad, the feeling around the place, the football we are playing and it has to be better. Eight times out of 10 we are battering teams. That wasn't the case last season.

"Yes, we won a trophy and that was fantastic. Everyone wants to win silverware. That is what we are in the game for but, in terms of getting Liverpool back to where they belong, we need to be in the top four."

Next season will be the fourth consecutive one in which Liverpool will not appear in the Champions League, which has cost the club around £21m a year, although they have significantly upped their commercial income and embarked on heavily-sponsored summer tours to compensate. By comparison, the Europa League is loose change. Reaching the semi-finals in 2010 brought in a mere £2.5m.

Johnson believes that Rodgers is the best equipped of Rafa Benitez's three successors to take Liverpool back into the European elite. "Brendan is looking to improve the squad and we have a better one than we did last season," he said. "He will look to improve again in the summer and, if we can nick the goals we need from these games, we will be right in among it next season.

"Brendan was brought in to rebuild the squad and put Liverpool back into the places it should be. He wants us to be back in the top four but he wasn't asked to do that in his first season. Yes, there has been improvement – eight times out of 10 we have dominated."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz