Phil Thompson insists Liverpool’s season cannot be deemed a failure until their final standing in the Premier League is determined.
After losing to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, Liverpool will end the season without silverware, while they face an uphill task in qualifying for the Champions League.
The Reds are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand, although they only have six games left to overtake Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Thompson admits that’s unlikely, but has refused to write off Liverpool’s season just yet.
“Our biggest aim this season was to ensure we got Champions League football again,” the former Liverpool defender told Sky Sports. “It’s still possible, so it’s hard to say the season has been a failure until you get to the very last game and you see how you finish.
“City, for all the problems that they’ve had, you know they’ve got players who are capable, so it’s difficult to see them losing their games.
“We definitely need to play better football between now and the end of the season, and that can give everyone a bit of a confidence boost ahead of next year at least.
“But, again, you can only judge it when you see where they finish, so you can’t label it a failure just yet.”
Thompson believes Liverpool are paying the price for a lacklustre start to the season, during which manager Brendan Rodgers struggled to juggle Champions League football with the Premier League.
He said: “Teams got picked with the Champions League in mind. Big players were being left out of Premier League games to be fresh for the Champions League, and it should have been the other way around.
“Next season, Brendan needs to make sure he’s playing his best team in the Premier League, and then rotate in Europe and cup games.”
Liverpool may have to settle for the Europa League next season but, although the winners of the competition now earn a place in the Champions League, Thompson maintains the Premier League should be a priority for Rodgers next season.
He said: “If Liverpool are in the Europa League next season, we still need to prioritise getting back into the Champions League – that’s where the club needs to be.
“I know you can still qualify for the Champions League through the Europa League, but that’s a tall order. So the Premier League takes precedence over everything else next season.”
Meanwhile, Thompson praised Aston Villa for their performance in knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup after they came from behind to win 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday.
He added: “Aston Villa were absolutely fantastic, I’ve got to take my hat off to them and Tim Sherwood. They had the better players all over the park, and Liverpool didn’t seem to get out of first gear.”