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The Liverpool Offside 2016-17 Season Preview, Part 4: League vs. Cup

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In part four of our season preview, the TLO staff ask if a lack of Europe is an excuse to focus only on the league or a chance to target a treble.

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Part 4: League vs. Cup

Without European football, Liverpool’s schedule should be a lot less congested. Some will see that as a chance to focus solely on the league while others will hope it can translate to being able to play the strongest lineup across the three competitions Liverpool will compete in. Do you see 2016-17 being case where the league is all that matters, or should Liverpool be trying to win every competition they’re in?

Dan

Where Liverpool finish in the league can make or break the long-term health of the club, as the financial and player recruitment payout for returning to the Champions League is large enough to serve as a foundation for future success. As a result, if you’re setting priorities, the league has to be it.

That said, winning is fun and I would love to see a good cup run. Brendan Rodgers, who was always wary of cup competitions, trotted out a full strength FA Cup side against Arsenal right as Liverpool were making their push for a league title in 2013-14. The 2-1 cup loss, which came in mid-February, was followed by nine straight league victories.

Two lessons from that: If Rodgers was willing to go all out for a fifth round cup match, you can bet Jürgen Klopp will do the same. Also, domestic competitions aren’t too burdensome on their own—it’s only when they are paired with European competition that league performance can suffer.

Jordan

I’m a glass half full kinda girl. Most people see the lack of European competition as a shadow; I see it as fortunate vacation. I want to be able to focus on the league and nothing but. I think it’s pretty clear that Leicester proved that’s the only way left to win it if you’re not a Chelsea or Manchester City, to forget about any and all cup competitions the team is in. Is it unrealistic? Maybe. Will I be angry if we progress through the League and FA Cup competitions? Hell no.

But I think, for the first time in a while, we actually have a team that can well and truly challenge for the league. I am full of righteous Klopptimism and I will gladly eat my shoes if we fail to make top four, but I think we can do that at the very least. The only thing that’s going to be our undoing is our defense, as always, but at the very worst, we could just try to outscore our opponents. I know it’s the not the best memory of the 13/14 season, the hemorrhaging goals part, but it did make for some damn exciting matches.

EJ (Emre’s Brylcreem)

The league is all that matters. And so long as we finish top four, I don’t even care about silverware this season. To be sure, the club’s professed ethos is that it exists to win trophies, and winning trophies is fun. But twenty-six years is a long time, and one doesn’t need much of memory to remember fans lining the roads to Anfield in 2013-14. Top four satisfaction notwithstanding, it’s time to target winning the league. And while Klopp said we’d win the league in three years, I want it now. I think we’re good enough now. Also, does that three-year countdown begin this year or last? Asking for a friend.

Zach

Jürgen Norbert Klopp doesn’t like to lose football matches. Ever. Last season he was forced to run out a weakened side against West Ham in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, which went to a replay, which we lost in extra time because of course. So, even in a season where we were the most overplayed team in Europe, when we should have instructed Mignolet to just throw the ball into the back of the net, Klopp was still out there trying to advance in every competition. My point is this: whether I personally think we should just focus on the league is immaterial because Klopp is going to try to win the treble next year.

He might not be successful on any front, but he’s going to try to advance and win the cups, and he’s going to try to win every Premier League match. It’s the only way he knows. Hold onto your butts.

Steph (EpicSkyline)

I always find this question to be a bit strange. Of course I want Liverpool to win every game, all the time. I think they have enough depth, at least in midfield and attack, for Klopp to field good teams in all three competitions. I also think it’s important to play it by ear, because what I think in August may likely be vastly different than what I think in December, but I think you absolutely start the season with the mentality that you’re capable of winning everything.

Tito

All three. It’s no contest. Our excellent transfer window means we have to pieces to field a formidable 11 every week while even sustaining a few injuries. The Ojos and Stewarts of the academy have already proved their domestic cup worth and playing them there should not be seen as a lack of ambition. With no Europe, we have no excuse to not go for it all.

Noel

Liverpool have one or two players who could rotate in at every outfield position bar fullback, players who have a realistic case for starting. Sturridge and Origi up top. Wijnaldum and Henderson and Can and Grujic in midfield. A crowded attacking band. And a pile of players who can do a job at half a dozen positions if called upon. This side, it has depth. Enough depth that with a bit of judicious rotation, Klopp should be able to play something that looks very much like a viable, reasonable, defensible best XI every time out. Just sometimes that best eleven will have Sturridge up top and sometimes Origi and then, every once in a while, it might be Roberto Firmino.

With all due respect to Leicester City and their ridiculously unlikely achievement last season, Liverpool aren’t Leicester City, and without Europe this is absolutely a side that has the quality and depth to realistically push for the treble. They may not be favourites to win the league or either of the cup competitions, but for this team and with this manager it wouldn’t be a shock if they did win any one of them. So. Dare to dream. Push to win all of them.

Chuck (CStars)

As Liverpool have an early start in the EFL Cup or League Cup, wouldn’t it make sense to just make sure minutes are spread around and players are involved until January? The FA Cup doesn’t start until January just after the busy festive period. If Liverpool are still in England’s second domestic cup competition then great, go for it. The semi-finals of the EFL Cup take place in January, but until 2017, any cup competitions should be secondary to making progress in the Premier League.

From January onwards, the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the EFL Cup naturally demand the attention of a club with Liverpool’s stature. Liverpool need to play the long game this season and settle down in the first half of the campaign. Yes, there’s no European football and only four domestic cup games (potentially, anyway) until January, but why not eke as much advantage in the first half of the season as possible? Every drop of focus and concentration should be poured into the Premier League in the months ahead.

Kevin (SaintGrobian)

Personally, I’d prioritize the league. I don’t enjoy getting comfortable with the idea of this club being perennially in the 5th/6th/7th table positions, and now is the time to change that narrative. It’s going to be vicious trench warfare this season in the league, with revitalized rivals lurking everywhere and a tough start to the campaign. We need to maximize every slight advantage we might conceivably have over any given opponent, and not playing on mid-week is going to be a key one.

But who am I kidding? As Zach noted, this is Klopp’s car now, and the Klopp-mobile has neither functioning brakes nor a reverse gear. Also, the rear-view mirror is broken.  But there are some awesome heavy metal mixtapes in the glove compartment. Because the Klopp-mobile is a muscle car classic and has a tape deck. Fasten your seatbelts, everyone.

Matt

My very favorite thing about Jürgen Klopp, the very best thing for me, the thing that I love about the man the most, is that he shamelessly wear his passion for the game, he shakes it and moves with it, delights in it like the plumage of Carnival. I do believe that if there is a match to be played then it is a match Klopp will aim to win.

There’s no continental football on the schedule for the coming season. That means plenty of training between matches. Readiness. That means the movements get mastered early. Confidence. All the players get well versed in Klopp Dynamics. Harmony. And we just charge ahead like a herd of kitted out buffalo through the great domestic plains of competition. All for win and win for all.

Also In This Series

Monday - Part 1: Transfer Business
Tuesday - Part 2: Jürgen Klopp in His First Full Season
Wednesday - Part 3: Player Expectations
Friday - Part 5: What Would Make 2016-17 a Success?