When the summer transfer window shut with Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk at Southampton, Liverpool supporters worried that Jurgen Klopp & Co. didn’t do enough to secure a Top 4 spot.
When the winter transfer window shut with Philippe Coutinho at Barcelona and Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, Liverpool supporters worried that Jurgen Klopp & Co. didn’t do enough to secure a Top 4 spot.
Sure, the ideal scenario would be the one where Philippe Coutinho and Virgil van Dijk were happily playing football for Merseyside’s finest (along with any number of Big Name Players™ who have the audacity to play for other teams), but Liverpool with Van Dijk and sans Coutinho is not miles worse than the inverse.
From September until the end of December, Liverpool made due without Van Dijk. The Reds racked up 41 points in 21 league matches, good enough for 4th spot on the table, 3 points behind Manchester United. Additionally, they had won their Champions League group, despite an early exit from a domestic cup competition. And, some evidence suggests they did all of this despite Coutinho, not because of him.
Since Phil’s departure, and Van Dijk’s arrival, Liverpool have now made it 50 points from 25 league matches, good enough for 3rd spot on the table, still a pesky 3 points behind United. They still have the Champions League knockout rounds to look forward to, despite an early exit from a domestic cup competition. And at least we managed to knock out the Toffees along the way.
We still have a lot of work to do. Thirteen league matches remain, and the four-team scrap for the final three Champions League places will be intense. Liverpool’s biggest test will come on Sunday when the Reds host fellow Top 4 chasers Tottenham, fresh off a big win over good-for-nothing United. Spurs need a win more than we do, but a Liverpool win would go a long way in burying Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League qualification.
Of course, beating Spurs is not nearly enough, as we saw in the defeat to Swansea after beating the Champions Elect, Manchester City. Win, lose, or draw on Sunday, it is the twelve remaining matches that truly decide Liverpool’s fate. We can bemoan the loss of Coutinho, but Liverpool still have the firepower to beat any team in the Premier League, especially those minnows further down the table.
And there is the small matter of the Champions League knockout rounds. Liverpool were favored by the Football Gods with a winnable draw in the Round of 16. We still have a great squad, and a manager with the European pedigree to guide us. With both domestic cup competitions binned (even if unintentionally so), a good cup run would greatly boost morale around the club.
Besides, this is Liverpool. This is Europe. Liverpool belong in Europe. And for the first time in a decade, it feels like the Reds are not wholly out of place in this elite competition.
It’s not perfect. Football, as in life, rarely is. But we need to make due with what we have, which is still considerable. Let’s end this season on a high, and continue building toward greatness, becoming a more perfect version of Klopp’s Grand Vision.