Liverpool’s 'Great Expectations' simply aren’t enough in this Premier League title race

There’s a Charles Dickens book title which pretty much sums up Liverpool fans’ hopes at the start of every season. There are always 'Great Expectations' around Anfield, and that’s what makes the failures hurt more.

What are the current failures, though? Because you don’t need to be a blustering White House official to see that the current season has been a positive one, if only you want to see it.

At this stage of the last campaign, the Reds were ninth in the table with 31 points. In 2014-15 they were eighth on 35, and even in the much-storied, often longed-for 2013-14 season they were fourth on 43 points at this exact stage. They’re now fourth on 45.

Feeling better yet? Didn’t think so.

As ever, it is what is going on around Liverpool which determines just how the club should feel at any one moment.

This has turned into a quite ferocious Premier League season set at a blistering pace. Last season seemed a gentle stroll by comparison, with eventual champions Leicester amassing 44 points from 22 games at this stage. So yeah, this season’s Liverpool would be top of last season’s league right now. What was that thing about feeling better?

And so instead of 'Great Expectations' this seems more like 'A Tale of Two Cities'. It is both the best of times and the worst of times for Liverpool at the moment – and the best and the worst of recent years. There is improvement, there is progression, but neither seems to be arriving quickly enough for that longed for league title to appear. And how it is longed for.

The obsession over that league title meant that Liverpool’s fine start to the season led many to get ahead of themselves. When the bigger sides were beaten and the smaller ones completely obliterated, those expectations grew. Going top of the league in early-November was just the pre-cursor to even greater things. Then reality bit.

A small squad lost key players, and suddenly looked frail. Whereas others at the top end of the table could cope with an absence by throwing in another £25m+ player, Jurgen Klopp’s options all seem to be players who could be good, their inconsistencies becoming a maddening element of a campaign which had – and still does – promise so much.

And in the 3-2 defeat to Swansea on Saturday, those inconsistencies were there for all to see.

There was a defence failing to cope with even the most modest pressure from Paul Clement’s strugglers, a disjointed midfield lacking any spark and a misfiring attack looking a world away from earlier in the campaign. The likes of Ragnar Klavan, Emre Can, Divock Origi and this current version of Daniel Sturridge don’t exactly inspire much confidence, either in themselves or in others at the moment.

Is the title gone? Probably, with Chelsea 10 points ahead, but it is worth remembering that whenever Liverpool have come close in recent years they’ve done so with a strong late run. And if you want a little shot of confidence then take a look at the Reds’ final nine league fixtures of the season. Not bad, are they?

But before that there’s the chance to reach Wembley in the League Cup semi-final against Southampton on Wednesday, and then an FA Cup fourth round clash at home to Wolves at the weekend.

In these long years without a league title, these competitions have come to resemble sticking plasters placed over an obvious gaping wound, but they now seem a lot more than that – as indeed they tend to have done at some point of most seasons.

Now, Klopp has seen his side’s season go off the rails. It needs placing back onto them, and the next week seems crucial to that.

Those great expectations may never truly go away – and nor should they, because what is football without hope after all?

But hope and dreams have been part of the Liverpool psyche for far too long now.

The cold hard process of just getting results simply has to begin for things to change.