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Everything’s the Best Redux: Team Effort

Liverpool’s current haul of points is owed mainly to an entire squad dedicated to each doing their part.

Liverpool v Newcastle United - Premier League - Anfield Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

Legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly once quipped that playing football was a lot like playing a piano: you need 8 people to lift it and 3 to play the thing. Meant to highlight that everyone’s efforts on the pitch are necessary, it became emblematic of the ethos that struck a chord with most Merseysiders.

A port city that prided itself in putting in an honest shift, Shankly’s Liverpool squads often bore that same blue-collar mentality. When Jurgen Klopp arrived to bring about what feels like a new Golden Age, the affable German often spoke of a similar ethos - a sense of solidarity, of unity, around a greater mission.

This season’s Liverpool squad might have arrived at the platonic ideal of that ethos, a second-embodiment of Shankly’s great vision distilled through Jurgen Klopp’s tactical wiles. It is a squad that, in short, has made manifest the abstract concept of squad depth. It has also made a joke of all the arm-chair analysts that suggested this group could not run with Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester City.

Liverpool have stormed their way, patiently, to the top of the Premier League table and now stand entirely alone at the top. Grinding out results and claiming points when none seemed to be had, this team has shown a mental fortitude in matches that belies their age and the length of time they’ve served together.

That same mental fortitude has been called upon with the loss of major squad pieces during the season. Already considered thin at midfield, Liverpool entered the season with both Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic among the long-term injuries. All-world left-back, Andrew Robertson, was soon lost for much of the Fall, with the New Year bringing the potential that he might suit up again. His deputy, Kostas Tsimikas went out with an injury early in December, forcing Joe Gomez - who’d already been deputizing Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back - into an emergency left-back role. Each of Curtis Jones, Alexis Mac Allister, Alisson Becker, and Diogo Jota have spent time in the training room. And still, Liverpool continued to claim results.

We’ve seen the aforementioned Joe Gomez step into unfamiliar roles without any complaint. And the rest of the club manage to pick up the load and fill the roles of their injured colleagues. For a field of work that is notorious for its fickleness and its competition for places, there is a remarkable (and rare) feeling of support and camaraderie flowing through the squad.

Jarell Quansah moving ahead of Joe Gomez on the center-back depth chart, for example, could have caused an issue. Tsimikas, finally getting a run out after spending the last few years as Robbo’s understudy, could have been incredibly bitter over his bad luck. But everyone seems to know that there are a lot of matches to be played and that everyone will be needed to meet the lofty goals of this special club.

I’ve mentioned that Klopp’s work this year has to rank among his best spells. He’s gotten so much out of a club that was seemingly in such tumult during the transfer window, one that’s turned over nearly all of the key players from his first great Liverpool squad, and one that’s absorbed key injuries and absences better than their other counterparts. All for a club that cost less to put together than nearly all their rivals in the chase for the title to boot.

It is a wonder, not even talking about the tactical flourishes (e.g.: Trent at midfield) and player development work (e.g.: the growth of Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, and Jarell Quansah), that we are at this place at all. But it has indeed taken everyone, pulling in the same direction and, sometimes, taking on a task they’re unfamiliar with, but trusting in the rest of the team to do their part.

Results, I’m sure, will dictate how we remember this season in totality. But being that I’ve resolved to appreciate good things as they’re happening and not just when they’re in the rearview mirror, I wanted to write more words about this special club.

Jurgen’s currently conducting a symphony and the squad are playing with the confidence of a world-class orchestra; and with the quality to back it up. I want to sit here and luxuriate in this moment and send my appreciation to all of the hard work that’s taken place to get this club here. Let’s sit and see what other magic Jurgen’s Reds can conjure up.

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