Liverpool are back where they want to be in the Champions League—or at least in the qualifying rounds of Europe’s premier cup competition—but finding success there, retaining a top four spot, and maybe even challenging for the title in the Premier League is going to be difficult. What would you like to see happen over the next few months to help to work towards those goals, and what do you feel should be the expectations for the club heading into the 2017-18 season?
This past season, Liverpool had about twelve outfield players capable of being regular contributors for a top four side. Two of those, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, must be considered long-term injury doubts even if they stick around. Another two, Dejan Lovren and James Milner, are probably bench options for a side that wants to reliably challenge in England and Europe. That leaves a strong core to build on, but one that needs depth. That twelve probably has to become at least sixteen for Liverpool to have a chance of getting where they want to go—and that’s assuming everyone sticks around.
That’s the sum of it, and the club signalling their intentions with regards to Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah (in place of Julian Brandt), and Ryan Sessegnon shows they know it, too. Now they need to do the hard part: follow through. They need to keep hold of that core—or at least the parts of it that Klopp wants—while adding at least four players good enough to contribute regularly for a top four side. Add in a bit of injury luck like Chelsea had this past season and it just might get them where they want to go. What they cannot afford is a summer of failure like the last time they got back into the Champions League.
We need a wowzer of a transfer for sure. A couple of wowzers and some solid depth in a few areas would be ideal. We've seen this team purr before. It just needs a little more variety and some special moves. Quality on the bench and we'll be fighting for the league. Anything in the Champions League is candy. Getting out of a group would be excellent. But the Premier League is the ticket. A whole bunch of teams with their sights on glory now. We must become top four lords.
Signing the right players could be the difference between finishing fourth and fifth, and so, that's why finishing in the top four is such a big deal. It's a base to give Jürgen Klopp, the players, and the recruitment team the ability to kick on and shape the next couple of years of the Klopp era. This makes the season a positive one. We've had the cup finals and big league results last season, we've had the improved league consistency and big results this season, and next season is time to consolidate all that progress to keep Liverpool as part of a competitive pack with a team that can get better through signings and Klopp's guidance.
Whatever happens with the Champions League qualifier in August, we’re going to be playing in Europe at least through December. We struggled enough this season and all we really had to worry about was the league. If we’re going to get through 2017-18 in one piece, we need a bigger squad.
Obviously defense has to be a priority, but if there’s a solid attacker we have a chance of getting we should pursue that. Also, I want Daniel Sturridge to stay, but either way the club should resolve that situation soon. If he does move on we’ll need to move quickly to get a replacement, before prices go up and the decent strikers get snapped up.
Being back in the Champions League is lovely, but I definitely think the Premier League has to remain the top priority. We have to show people that qualifying this season isn’t another fluke like 2013-14 was. We have to demonstrate that Top 4 is an expectation for Liverpool, not a stretch goal.
I would hope that the lessons from this season, hard lessons about squad depth and defense, have been learned and we end the summer with a decent list of players that we’re able to bring in. I’m the one eating crow after saying last summer that I didn’t think we needed much and oh how wrong I was. But now, with the prospect of the Champions League, not to mention the domestic cup competitions, I think we need to shore up nearly every position we can. Injuries and absences were two deciding factors for Liverpool this season, and while we managed to get high impact players like Sadio Mané last summer, it meant nothing when he was out when we needed him most. That’s not his fault, of course, but Klopp needs to plan for that kind of thing happening.
Before pounding out this answer, I told myself “Don’t say you just want to be like Spurs,” and then threw up a bit in my mouth when I realized that the answer was “I’d like to see us have a season like Spurs.” As much as I’d love another deep cup run (hopefully with a more silvery ending than our most recent forays), I think it’s vitally important to solidify our spot in the Champions League. Of course, the finances and availability of players is something that can’t be overlooked, but it is also important from a perception standpoint. As for work to be done this summer, I trust in Klopp to do what is necessary. He has experience building a Champions League caliber squad, and I trust him to do exactly that over the summer.
I think the first goal is to improve squad depth this summer and retain key players like Philippe Coutinho. After that, a comfortable top-four finish would be the goal—and a decent run in the Champions League to give us some exciting European nights at Anfield would also be much appreciated.
Successive appearances in the Champions League would be a sign of progress for me (and ideally without the hassle of going through qualifying matches next time around). Assuming they make it past BSC Young Boys (or whatever) this year—which is an assumption I hate to make, because we know what can happen—my grim expectation is that Liverpool make a valiant, if ultimately unsuccessful, effort at getting out of the group stages.
Regardless of whomever is brought in over the summer, this squad is still a work in progress, and odds are Liverpool will be facing some heavy-hitters in Europe. I hope that we can spring a few surprises, but I’m not betting the farm on it. Take the opportunity, learn from it, build on it, and be back again next year, and then the year after that.
World domination. But I’ll settle for now I’ll settle for two consecutive Champions League appearances and maybe some silverware.