The ebb and flow of the race for fourth is starting to become quite striking; just as one side seems to be getting away they somehow manage to fall back into the chasing pack.

After the derby day despatch of Everton you could have been forgiven for thinking that the West Brom game would have been pretty routine for Liverpool, and indeed this was the fear of the likes of Spurs and United. But the Premier League is never that straight forward, and Pepe Mel’s Baggies fought admirably for their point, even if a calamitous moment from Kolo Toure gifted them the goal.

There is definitely a gulf starting to open up in the league, and one that may soon force Liverpool fans to accept the harsh reality of their current situation. The optimists would have still harboured hopes of a title tilt, but this is bordering on delusion when you look at the teams above them.

This is part of the reason I thought that Rodgers was vindicated in not spending this January. Liverpool already have the arsenal to capture the coveted fourth spot and a route into the Champions League once more. A couple of spontaneous purchases last month wasn’t going to provide the impetus for a title charge, sadly the gap is even wider than that already.

A simple comparison of benches is enough to highlight the problem for Liverpool; the likes of Luis Alberto and Jordan Ibe just don’t match up with the likes of Schurrle and Jovetic. A January spend is more often than not a short term solution, and if Liverpool have dreams of bridging the gap the prudent plan is to get to work over the summer. Liverpool fans are kidding themselves if they think that they are even close to challenging; the deficiencies in their squad are clear for all to see and given how long they have spent outside of the top four it would make sense not to rush their climb back to the top of English football.

Liverpool do undoubtedly have smatterings of quality in their ranks; Suarez and Gerrard would fit into any side in world football. The problem though is that as it stands they are carrying too many, or being forced to because of injury and lack of form. The top 3 don’t suffer these problems, with a squad large enough to carry on the challenge regardless of injury.

It isn’t a simple situation, and the gap is becoming larger year on year. Signing Konoplyanka wouldn’t have been the simple solution that many envisioned it being, naturally adding quality to your ranks helps but it wouldn’t have made the difference this term.

The frustration for Liverpool fans is that they feel close to something special, on their day they can now beat anyone and the inability to find consistency is irritating.

Dreams of a title tilt should be saved for further down the line, it is very much one step at a time and a return to the Champions League should be the short-term goal. This given the current state of play is an achievement well within their grasp.

Liverpool have a long history of being at the top of our game, and this is perhaps why frustration with perceived lack of ambition so often bubbles to the surface. Patience is going to be crucial, and given the success of the Rodgers regime to date it is something largely justified.

Last weekend proved just how far Liverpool are away from a title challenge, but also highlighted just how much of a fight they still have on for a fourth-placed finish. Thoughts towards the league title are for the years to come; right now it has to be a case of Champions League at all costs for the Merseysiders.

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