James Milner believes it may be next season before fans see the best of Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp continues to stamp his mark on the club.
Liverpool reached the Capital One Cup final with a penalty shootout win over Stoke City on Tuesday night, but the Reds’ performance on the night was disappointing.
They have also been inconsistent in the Premier League since Klopp’s arrival, but Milner is simply delighted they have managed to seal a trip to Wembley during a period of transition, though he acknowledges it will take time for the team to reach its full potential under their new manager.
“This club is built on success – they’re used to winning trophies,” said Milner. “It’s always tough changing managers. There has been a big change: in the playing staff and on the ground.
“We can win a trophy and be in the hunt for others during a transition season when it’s easy to say: ‘There’s been a lot of changes – let’s see how we do; do the best we can and go again next year.’
“Hopefully we can do both: the transition with the new manager and keep improving – get a few players back as well. The longer this team is together, with the signings that come in the summer, along with the manager and the coaching staff, the better we’ll get.
“At times we haven’t performed with the quality we want – we know we can improve – but the bottom line is we’re still in every competition. We’re not a million miles off in the league. With a few more points and a few more goals, we’ll be closer [to the top four]. With a strong finish, we can be in a reasonable position.
“Saying that, we’re a long way from where we want to be. Considering the results we’ve ground out, we can be proud at this moment in time. There’s definitely a lot more to come from this squad.”
Milner hails ‘incredible’ Flanagan
Milner, meanwhile, reserved praise for Jon Flanagan after the Stoke game, with the locally-born full-back making his first Reds start for 20 months as a late call-up to replace the injured Nathaniel Clyne.
“Incredible, I can’t say enough good things about him,” Milner said. “I’ve played with him at England before so I know what a quality player he is.
“He just always makes the right decision. The amount of time he’s been out, I don’t think there are too many players who could have come and played 100-odd minutes. The physio has probably pulled him.
“I can’t say more good things about him: the desire, the hard-working that no-one sees in the gym until five or six o’clock every day: the long hours (wondering) am I going to get back? Watching the lads go out and train, play games while you’re stuck in there with the physios – and the physios have put a lot of work in with him as well.
“So to play for the length of time he did and how well he did; Stoke were pretty quiet on that side and they’re a quality team going forward.
“It was an unbelievable performance from him and amazing to see. The fans want to see a local boy do well. It’s a great story.”