So we all know the bad news by now. Liverpool have won precisely one game in 2017 so far and none in the Premier League. We’re out of the FA Cup and the League Cup. We’ve dropped out of the Top 4 and getting back in won’t be easy in the time remaining. The squad is tired. Jürgen Klopp is probably chainsmoking right now. The fans are getting restless. (Although that last bit is probably just a typical Tuesday, if we’re being honest with ourselves.)
The good news is that the path between here and Matchweek 38 is bright and clear. No more Cup ties. Only one midweek fixture scheduled for the rest of the season. Plenty of time for Liverpool players to rest, clear their heads, and focus on the task ahead— Champions League qualification.
It’s that clearing of the decks that has Gary Neville so optimistic about the Reds’ chances.
“Liverpool had a period where they could pick the same side, they had that week to prepare. The minute that that squad hit three games a week, with the way that they play, was always going to hurt them. You cannot play that way three times a week. When you are leaving six players back at base, it causes disruption, it disrupts the squad and the squad isn’t good enough. Liverpool will get stronger as the season goes on. Now they are out of the cups, they are back to that period where they will have a week between games, and that is when they get can get their energy up and become devastating. Next season, when they potentially get back into Europe, they will have to strengthen the squad.”
On the one hand, you have to take anything positive about Liverpool coming from one of the Neville brothers— or indeed any former United player— with several grains of salt. On the other hand, Gary isn’t exactly wrong here. Fewer fixture obligations, more time to rest, a singular objective to work towards, and just enough time for Klopp to evaluate what he’d have to do for this squad to meaningfully compete next year with Champions League football (potentially) on the menu.