I still have a screen shot on my phone from November 6th. Liverpool, top of the league, chased by 19 other teams. It was the high point of the season in all senses of the word.
I wasn’t so naive to think it would last, hence the saved photo, but I didn’t think 2017 would be such a shit show, either. Even if Liverpool manage to turn it around against Arsenal, we won’t be favored to finish Top 4 on current form.
This brings us to a terrifying question, one that I posed during the excitement of Jürgen Klopp’s imminent arrival a year and a half ago: what if Klopp isn’t the answer? What if a manager such as Klopp—one who seems to fit Liverpool’s philosophy and long-term goals perfectly—cannot return the Reds to regular Champions League and competing for trophies? What then?
For the record, I’m not at all advocating #KloppOut or #FSGout or any such thing. However, we’ve seen time and again over the past several seasons how one injury or one suspension can derail any and all progress we’ve made. Our best XI? Sure, they can do some damage in the league. Take out 1-2 key components? We’re in trouble. We couldn’t blame last night’s 3-1 drubbing to a team that hadn’t so much as scored a goal in 2017 on exhaustion. No, without Henderson keeping things ticking over in midfield, and with Lucas Leiva as a defensive stand in, we never really got into the game.
The club made a monumental signing when they landed Klopp, but our efforts to compete for the best players have failed. Sure, this season was always going to be tough, with arguably the strongest line-up of managers at top clubs in Premier League history. But now we’ve seen the other Top 6 teams starting to pick up steam in the second half, while we falter.
I’m not sure what the solution to all of this is. We’re not in the position to outspend other teams above us, especially if we can’t secure that coveted Top 4 spot. Recruitment, even with Klopp, is going to continue to be a challenge until we prove that we can challenge. As it currently stands, we’re in 5th place, a point above United and an extra game played. Prior to the season maybe that’s something we would have seen as an improvement (or at the very least take heart that United are also struggling in the league), but it’s hard to be happy about much when we see predictably poor performances against relegation battlers.
Since there’s nothing else we can do about the underlying issues, let’s keep our fingers crossed for a response against Arsenal.