I wouldn't say they were disasters, at least not the last two. I think the level of the squad has gone up over the last couple of years and to be fair it had to and yes at a rather large expense, but we have recouped large amounts as well, got rid of 25 players and brought in 7 who aren't on massive wages, so our yearly expenses were cut, despite the outlay on transfers.
I think we are fairly decent as the sum of our parts, and would look a lot better with say, Hoilett and a poacher upfront - dependant on who we can attract. With a couple of additions, and maintaining most of the squad we have (bar perhaps Kuyt, Maxi or Carroll) I would say we were fairly strong. Last summer we seemed to sign solid players who can do a decent enough job in the league overall, with Bellamy and Downing being the only real "old" players (and its debatable that Downing is really that old) which means at the very least it's a squad to last for a while. I would hope that last summer was the one where we built the foundations, made sure we were at the very least adept, if not 'perfect' with us ready to exploit the next window with "1 or 2 adjustments" as Comolli puts it, to add some guile and trickery to solve any problems we have faced over the course of the season. We cannot really argue with how our defence has performed afterall.
It could be that we sign nobody in summer and I'm left with egg on my face- but if the plan was to make sure that we don't have anyone that is very very weak in the squad in the first proper window (weak in terms of the the likes of Konchesky, Poulsen, Jovanovic, Ngog, El Zhar) all of whom can stay at the club for a while, to then be able to add quality each year (reminiscent of the Mancs in years gone by), then I don't think we've done too badly.
It all rests upon how the next transfer window goes. I don't want to say we are three signings away from challenging for the title as others have done, but I agree that if we can bring in a player for the right wing with pace to be used more often than Henderson and Kuyt, can bring in another striker (perhaps missing out on Wickham wasn't so bad, even if he was going to be 3rd/4th) we'd look like a very solid outfit, almost certainly being ready to challenge any of the positions from 1-4 - but would look very good for claiming the 4th spot, I'd be very confident. Any signings above any beyond that, dependant on value etc, would be a bonus - say an attacking midfielder, or cover for Lucas, or a 4th choice centre back if we look to phase out Carragher and promote Coates, a left winger to replace Maxi and challenge Downing more readily would be a bonus, but not a necessity at this stage.
It's all dependant on keeping Suarez, but he owes Kenny another 12 months regardless of how he feels due to the way Kenny stuck up for him this season.
I am of course disappointed in the points we have received this season, but we're still in with a shout of another trophy, I think we have played excellent football at times, getting the better of teams above us, but just are a little bit of quality away from just being that bit better. There is no doubt that even if we could have converted at the rate of a midtable team, we'd probably be sitting in 4th or just behind.
I certainly agree that we trimmed the squad. It was a big job that we got done and the age mix is better too. That was a job well done.
But has the level really gone up? Honestly? Let's be extreme. Take Cole/Jovanovic vs Downing (and Henderson) and Ngog vs Carroll. The immediate reaction is that we've made a massive improvement. Now compare the goals and assists we got from them, attacking players as they are. Now consider that we have spent 50M... This is typically where we begin to talk about potential. And yet it wasn't too hard to improve on those players.
Next throw in the losses of Meireles and Torres. (Aquilani? Mascherano?) Have we really improved? What does the league table say? IMO, there is no improvement that we can measure. It's all about trust. What really saves us at the moment is the League Cup trophy.
If we want to take real steps forward, we need to be so much better. We might be able to mask last summer's signings as players for the squad and the future, in an attempt to justify them, but we can't afford to make those mistakes again.