Brendan Rodgers said Liverpool need a marquee signing to lift the club from the doldrums next season as their campaign limps into the final stages.
Liverpool’s defeat at Hull City ensured Manchester United retained a seven-point lead in the race for Champions League places with just four games left. However, there was nothing to suggest Rodgers’ side will threaten the top four in the closing weeks of the season as they delivered a flat performance at the KC Stadium. They are still not assured of Europa League qualification.
Last night's defeat has piled more pressure on Rodgers with increasing speculation that Jurgen Klopp could be in the Anfield dugout next season.
The outgoing Borussia Dortmund manager is the bookie's favourite to take over if Rodgers leaves Liverpool with Rafa Benitez and Frank de Boer also on the shortlist.
“We have to look to improve the squad again which every big club will do,” said Rodgers.
“For fans and players it’s great to get those marquee players – and there are maybe one or two we need. The owners will support that. If they’re available and affordable within the model then we will look to get them.
“Every season you have to look to try and improve and this is another. We can’t hide away from fact we’ve lost over 50 goals from last season, and any team is going to struggle to maintain the levels with that. Even with Suarez and Sturridge we weren’t tipped to be in top four last season.
“Now the challenge is even greater for us with Luis gone and Daniel injured. The players have given their best to meet that challenge and standard but we’re not at that.
“That is the challenge for me for next year – building a team that can get us through the rough waters.”
Rodgers again pointed to the lack of goal threat. Mario Balotelli again failed to impress and Rickie Lambert was restricted to another 25-minute cameo.
“We didn’t look like scoring,” said Rodgers.
“We had enough of the ball but never really threatened. Where it counts we could not get the breakthrough.
“It’s about having that reference at the top end of the field that gives others the confidence to create opportunities. The players worked hard but our struggles were what they have been for a big part of the season, creativity and scoring goals.
“Mario is doing his best – he came off with a foot injury – but it’s clear over the course of the season that’s the area [where] we are struggling.
“We can’t take away that we’re fighting for a great club and want momentum for next season. I can see players are fighting and working and a lot of them are still learning the game.”
While Liverpool look ahead to another summer of soul-searching, Hull’s win has given them a four-point cushion in their relegation fight, but manager Steve Bruce is taking nothing for granted.
“I still think we need a couple of results because I don’t think 34 points is enough, so it is back to work in the morning,” he said.
“I thought we deserved the win for way we set ourselves up and way we caused a threat all night. You have to defend well versus Liverpool. Now we have given ourselves a right chance with back-to-back victories, which is crucial at this stage.”
Michael Dawson’s winning goal was not without controversy as Liverpool’s defenders played for an offside flag. Three players were deemed not to be interfering with play, enabling Dawson – who was onside – to head the winner.
“I was talking to the referee and officials about the grey area of offside,” said Bruce.
“I sound like a dinosaur, but back in the day you could catch players offside that way – just like George Graham’s Arsenal side used to. If you look at it tonight Balotelli is playing Dawson onside so the referee and linesman have it right. It’s difficult for officials but the way the law stands at the moment they got it spot on.”
Liverpool’s away stand was over half empty as supporters opted to boycott the game in response to a charge of £50 for away tickets.
Those who chose to stay away convened outside Anfield in protest.