Mark Hughes has rejected the notion that Manchester City's season will be regarded as a failure if they finish outside the top four.
After a short break in Abu Dhabi and a meeting with owner Sheikh Mansour, Hughes is now ready to get City's season back on track again after five successive draws.
That has left the team, put together at the not inconsiderable cost of £200 million over the past three transfer windows, in sixth spot ahead of this weekend's trip to Liverpool.
It is two places below the standard required for Champions League qualification, which has been put forward as the minimum target for Hughes to regard the campaign as a success, but he feels that progress on the field is the priority at this stage.
"With the resources we have, people are saying the top four is the minimum requirement. That is actually not the case," Hughes said. "The clubs you have to overcome to get there are not just the best teams in the Premier League, they are also some of the best teams in the world.
"That is the challenge for everybody and it is very difficult. What we are looking for is progress and I would defy anyone to say we have not made progress from where we were last year."
It is a source of pride, for instance, that City are the only top flight club not to have lost more than once. Even that defeat, in the sixth minute of injury-time at Manchester United, may be considered unfortunate.
"We have played 13 games in all competitions and we have been beaten once," Hughes said. "Ideally, we would like to have changed some of those draws to wins but we have reached a consistent level that allows us to compete in every game.
"In terms of where we were last year and where we are now, it is a different place. I pleased with the progress we are making and that will continue. I am certain of it."