Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits his squad have some way to go to be a genuine top-four side and hopes the forthcoming transfer window can assist the process.
Saturday's 3-1 Premier League defeat at home to Aston Villa highlighted the deficiencies in the side - some of which Rodgers could not explain and others which he will try to correct with new signings next month.
Despite talking up his team pre-match, setting second-placed Manchester City as the target to aim for, Rodgers took a more pragmatic view afterwards.
"That was probably as disappointing as we've been here but I couldn't put my finger on it," he said.
"It is a strange thing football. We were talked up all week about us being top-four material but we know within the group we still have a long way to go.
"There is going to be steady progress and there are going to be steps forward, like in the last few weeks, and a step backward like yesterday.
"We looked at the first six months to assess: we know we need some support and hopefully we can get that in.
"We understand the process as well but the most important thing is to learn from it (the defeat).
"The thing we've learned from yesterday is that you can't ever be complacent.
"You have to be at full tilt every week. If we do that we have a great chance of getting the points but if we don't you can get punished.
"The challenge for us now is to have a good week's training and come back next Saturday and hopefully get three points and get on the upward curve again."
Having dominated the opening half-hour, Liverpool fell behind to Christian Benteke's low, powerful drive which beat Jose Reina off the inside of his right post.
When the Liverpool defence was cut open by a Andreas Weimann-Benteke combination - the former converting a clever backheel from the Belgium striker - the Reds' missed opportunities proved even more costly.
The home side appealed for a penalty - what would have been their first of the season - shortly after half-time when Ciaran Clark pulled Daniel Agger to the floor, but referee Neil Swarbrick saw no infringement.
As Liverpool pressed forward they were caught in possession and Benteke sealed victory by skipping through the defence, and Steven Gerrard's late strike was a mere consolation.
Even the return of striker and top-scorer Luis Suarez failed to spark the Reds, with the Uruguay international's only mark on the day being a yellow card for dissent.
Considering he had just served a one-match ban for picking up five cautions, Rodgers was asked whether that was an area he would look to tone down in Suarez.
"He is a passionate lad. I didn't think he deserved to be booked but he had a couple of incidents he was protesting about which went unpunished," the Northern Irishman said.
"I would never take that passion out of the game. That is what makes him the player he is.
"He's picked up some bookings this season but some of those were needless by the referees - like at Sunderland where he was booked for diving and it wasn't a dive."
Villa manager Paul Lambert was impressed with the way his side - lacking big-name stature - extended their unbeaten run to five matches.
"We feel when we are on song we are a good side," he said.
"You always go into every game thinking you can win but I also know Liverpool were in a rich vein of form and playing really well and we knew Suarez was going to come back.
"They will always have the belief we can win games and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing them perform the way they do and they are getting better and better every game.
"I've always said if you don't give someone an opportunity how do you know?
"The lads have taken to it: Ashley Westwood has been at Crewe and you wouldn't think Matthew Lowton had come from Sheffield United (both in the summer)."