Carra targets top-four spot

Successive defeats in their final two matches – against direct
rivals Tottenham and then Aston Villa on Sunday – put paid to any
hopes of fifth place and a Europa League slot. And while up until
the final kick at Villa Park everyone at Anfield would have
stressed European competition was important Carragher admits it
will be no great loss. “No disrespect to the Europa League but the
way that competition has gone it’s not a massive disappointment,”
he said. “The main thing for us next season is getting back into
the Champions League. “Not being in Europe will give us a better
chance of doing that. We want to get back in the top four and do
well in the cups. “Playing Thursdays and Sundays isn’t ideal so
there’s a flip side to not being involved.” A sixth-placed finish
would not usually be acceptable at Anfield but, because of their
woeful start to the season under Roy Hodgson when they lost nine of
20 Premier League matches, Carragher accepted on this occasion it
represented some success. When Kenny Dalglish took over in early
January the team were 12th in the table, four points above the
relegation zone having already spent time in the bottom three
during a miserable six months of Hodgson’s reign. The former
Liverpool player and manager turned things around remarkably well
to earn himself a three-year contract and give everyone at the club
renewed optimism for next season. “It’s disappointing we lost the
last two games and we would have liked to finish better,” added
Carragher. “But it’s gone well since the manager came in and we
have got plenty to be positive about. “When Kenny came in we would
have bitten someone’s hand off to finish sixth. “Sixth is an
achievement from where we were. We wouldn’t have accepted in at the
start of the season but we would in January. “But of course it’s
not been a great season for Liverpool as we didn’t win anything and
next season we’ll be looking to improve and finish higher.” While
the lack of European football may aid their domestic campaign it
was put to Dalglish that it would affect his ability to bring in
the kind of top-quality players required to reinforce the squad. It
was a sentiment the 60-year-old Scot did not agree with. “There are
a lot more players who don’t play in the Champions League than do
and I think Liverpool is a big enough attraction to players,” he
said. “We will be selective if in what we do and if they don’t want
come it is their loss. “It is always nice for everyone to be
involved in Europe and whether it is going to be helpful not to be
involved in it remains to be seen. “Whether it is good or bad I
wouldn’t know, I have never been in that position before. “It’s a
long time since this club has not been in Europe so it is new
ground for everyone. “We just need to get one with it and accept
that we aren’t. “The challenge is to turn up in July and get
ourselves going again .” Dalglish has had nothing but praise for
his players since taking over five months ago, putting paid to the
myth put forward by his predecessor that the squad needed huge
investment and major surgery to become a force again. There will be
a necessary amount of changes in the summer with a number of
high-earning fringe players – such as Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and
Christian Poulsen – the most likely casualties in any clear-out.
But in the main Dalglish is happy with the progress which has been
made by a squad which was at rock-bottom when he took over. “They
deserve a holiday. Some are more unfortunate than others in that
they have to play in the Copa America (Brazil’s Lucas Leiva,
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez) in July but we just need to get on with it
and push forward,” he added. “I hope they enjoy their break because
they deserve it. “I’ve been relatively happy but, at the same time,
it is not a football club that has built its history and tradition
on losing matches. “We don’t want that to become a habit but I am
really proud of the players by what they tried to achieve and how
they turned it around.”