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The Liverpool Offside 2016-17 Season Preview, Part 5: Defining Success

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In the final part of our season preview, the TLO staff set out exactly what it would take for 2016-17 to be rated a successful one.

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Part 5: What Would Make 2016-17 a Success?

Last season, Liverpool’s target was top four and silverware—and they fell agonizingly short on every front. This year, for most, the expectation will remain the same. But is that a fair expectation? And exactly what will it take for you to consider 2016-17 a successful season?

Steph (EpicSkyline)

I think that’s fair, and that will always be my goal for this team. Klopp had a full summer transfer season as well as the time working with a good chunk of the squad who didn’t go away for international duty. They’ve already been to two finals with him, so the team is certainly on their way. The journey is important too, of course. A season is ten months long, and if all I cared about was seeing them lift a trophy, it would be an awfully dull nine and a half months. Every season has given me moments I’ll always remember. That being said, you know, a trophy would be nice. Champion’s League football would be nice. And after all the investment put into this team, and all of the talent it contains, I don’t think it’s unfair at all to expect that.

EJ (Emre’s Brylcreem)

Yes. It is fair, and I will be terribly disappointed if we don’t finish top four. I believe in Klopp, at least barring an epic and unforeseen disaster that makes a failure to finish top four forgivable. Every time I read "LFC finished eighth [insert-hyperbolic-insane-Tony-Evans-headline-here]" I want to die. Two cup finals. The lifelong memory of the Dortmund victory. The United spanking. The Villarreal smackdown after Klopp took offense to Marcelino’s celebration. That speaks to what this side can be under Klopp. Top four next season is the goal.

In this moment, though, we should expect and be excited about the memories we are about to create through the communion that is Liverpool Football Club. We are part of the holy trinity, and we will retake our perch. T minus 48 hours, Reds. I love you all. May we commune again in May as champions.

Zach

There’s no excuse for finishing outside the Top 4 this year. Indeed, if the stars align, I could even see a title run in the cards. Last season Klopp was a lot like that veteran poker player who sits down at the table for an hour or two and doesn’t seem like all that much of a threat, only to see him winning big hand after big hand toward the end of the night. He was just getting the lay of the land, and (to mix metaphors) I think he’ll have the lads firing on all cylinders this year.

All of that said, competition is probably going to be as fierce as it ever has been in the Premier League. It’s going to be a tough season, even without Europe, but I expect Klopp to get us back to Champions League at the very least. Cups are always difficult to predict because one poor performance, or even one bad decision can end your run. Caveats aside, I wouldn’t be surprised to find us back in Wembley again this season.

Tito

Top 3 and a guaranteed spot, domestic cup agnostic. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be favorites, while Chelsea have the perfect manager to exorcise the demons of last season. Arsenal will be Arsenal. However, I don’t see United being as good/deep as many are making them out to be, nor do I see Tottenham’s 70 points from the last campaign sufficing in this supercharged year.

Winning the league would obviously make the year perfect—we almost did with a more flawed (even if awe-inspiring) squad than we have this year. However, coming third behind City, whose second 11 is pretty formidable in its own right, and one of either Chelsea or United, is a reasonable goal I believe we possess the ambition to shoot for. Domestic cups would be nice too I guess, but not essential to my happiness.

Jordan

I think it’s more than fair, to hope for top four and a piece of silverware. I go back and forth with wondering about the competition. I’m half expecting all the egos now at United to make the place implode. Manchester City will offer an interesting competition because oh my god Pep Guardiola, and I have no idea what to expect from Chelsea at all. Anyone else is kind of cannon fodder. But that’s enough; that’s enough to challenge and us and make this season interesting or terrifying.

Then the optimism kicks in, and I can see the shine of silverware and the Premier League trophy in the distance. Glittering in the sun, begging us to come and take it just like that Texas revolution flag. For all the competition ahead of us, we are our own worst enemies. We will be our own undoing if we can’t beat these teams because I truly believe we can. From the deepest parts of my heart, I know we can do this, if we can get over whatever fatalist mentalities that have plagued us in the past.

But my favorite bartender is ready when we can’t.

Matt

A successful season can usually only be calculated by taking the collective hoots and hollers pinged out from my match-watching couch and subtracting all the groans and silence. Example equation from recent seasons: Hoots minus groans equals shrugs. But, this year we’ve got Jürgen Klopp straight out of the gate and Klopp has had the freedom to create a team that will play for him and compete with anyone.

I know all the much-discussed warnings of caution. The Premier League is an insane beast right now full of new, big time players at big time clubs brought in by fancy, big time managers. But, there is no need to be upset. Liverpool is in that group of big timers, too. And teams up and down the table will be keeping an eye on Liverpool’s resurgence under Klopp. I expect us to fight for everything and with everyone. And I expect to never be disappointed with the team’s efforts.

Top four would be a party. Winning the league would be an elation on par with time travel or a glimpse at the meaning of life. Or reliable wifi. I really just want more hoots than groans.

Chuck (CStars)

While fifth is not the aim for this season, finishing fifth would represent Liverpool’s second-highest Premier League finish this decade behind the exploits of 2013-14 with Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge, and Raheem Sterling terrorising defences. As Matt has pointed out, we’ve got Jürgen Klopp in a full season, but there are so many difficult teams with top managers and players to contest with. Liverpool belong among that group, but there’s a lot of uncertainty as to how performances and results will unravel in the early months of the season.

Looking back on the parts two and three, The Liverpool Offside staff generally expect more from a Klopp side and the players this season. I broadly agree that we will see progress from the tactical and individual side this season. Without European football, this should translate to reasonably aiming for the top four with the expectation that failure to attain a spot should be considered somewhat disappointing.

A problem, though, is that teams have European football the following season simply because they have better players and squads than the rest. This season we will see how far Liverpool can go with Klopp and a more rounded squad but without the "burden" of regular midweek matches. These conditions lead to a minimum expectation of a top four finish, one that Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur all share. At least two will be disappointed.

It’s a difficult question to answer. Last season, I thought finishing in the top four was essential to blast away the stagnation of 2014/15. Even with finishing eighth last season, Liverpool seem to be in a better position than finishing sixth the season before. Two semi-finals were supplanted by two finals where Liverpool were very much in with a chance of victory. This side is moving in the right direction, and no matter what happens this season, Liverpool will be far better from it under Jürgen Klopp.

Kevin (SaintGrobian)

The top half of the Premier League was a scary, scary place before today, and it will remain so for 2016-17. Yes, the Premier League’s representatives in Europe have, in recent history, been good for a laugh more often than they have been worthy ambassadors of the "English game," whatever that is now.  Still, the evolution of the Leicesters, Stokes, and West Hams of the world remains quite impressive.

I have the utmost faith in Klopp, but I’m leery of expecting miracles from him. I’ll be ecstatic with a top four finish. Is that a "fair" expectation?  I honestly have no idea, with the ludicrous amounts of filthy lucre permeating the league and continued hoarding, however ill-conceived, of star power (most notably in the city a short highway ride away). Absent a top four spot, I would be happy seeing the identity of this team come into clearer focus. Klopp is not averse to tinkering, but I don’t expect him to do so obsessively. I look forward to seeing what the preferred starting XI looks like at the end of this season.

Khaine

Top four is the measure of success in a season where we’re unlikely to play more than 45 games, while a lot of our competition will have 20-40% more than that. As much as I enjoy the occasions, I’m not that big on domestic cups, especially at the cost of a CL spot, which is where I think the Reds absolutely need to be, year in, year out. Despite the surplus of excellent managers and the volume of footballing talent around the league, there has been a lot of turnover at a lot of other teams, which, along with the light match load, gives Liverpool an edge. I will be disappointed if we are unable to breach the top four this year.

Beyond that, I want my two points per game average, I want the team to score a metric ton of goals and be exciting to watch, and I want to see individual players really develop under Klopp.

Noel

Liverpool aren’t favourites, but they’re good enough. In many of those recent seasons when Liverpool finished the season in a disappointing place, the talk was always that when everyone was fit and on form, they were a side that could measure up with anyone. The problem, of course, is that squads never stay fit and on form to a man over the length of a Premier League season. A lack of Europe should help with that. This summer’s moves in the transfer market should help with that.

This Liverpool side—a Liverpool side with a foundation that, fit and on form, could measure up with anyone—is now also the deepest Liverpool side in recent memory. Perhaps in all of the Premier League era. At least aside from those niggling fullback question marks. So. The unexpected might happen; a forgivable implosion or series of unfortunate events might happen. But the expectation has to be that this side, under this manager, is at the very least good enough to be a top four and silverware kind of side.

If things fall the right way, they might even be a side that could achieve rather more than that. They might not be favourites, not for the league or the two cups they’re in, but nobody would think them an impossibly unlikely winner in any of the competitions they’re involved in this season. Fourth and silverware is the minimum; this side is good enough for that to be a reasonable goal. But for the first time in a long time, so much more seems possible.

Also In This Series

Monday - Part 1: Transfer Business
Tuesday - Part 2: Jürgen Klopp in His First Full Season
Wednesday - Part 3: Player Expectations
Thursday - Part 4: League vs. Cup