Part 5: Expectations for 2018-19
A top four finish and silverware was the minimum target for most in 2017-18, and while Liverpool didn’t win a trophy, a Champions League final appearance—as disappointing as the result was—surely more than makes up for that. Are the expectations for next year, Klopp’s fourth at the club after his third summer in charge, the same or are they higher?
I don’t think a title challenge is an unfair expectation, assuming they get things right this summer in the transfer market—and getting things right in the transfer market this summer seems like it’s a fair expectation, too. They might not win it. I mean, City are City, but for all the teams around them that will strengthen, some will stumble or make mistakes. Already you’ve got Chelsea looking a bit uncertain with Roman Abramovich backing out of stadium investment and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino the frontrunner to take over at Madrid. Nothing is certain, but Liverpool are well placed.
And I want silverware from somewhere. Hopefully from the league challenge coming off, but failing that any silverware would do at this point. The progress has been clear, and the league is the ultimate goal, but whether we get that or not next season we need something shiny to wave around after too long a dry spell.
It has to be a title challenge, doesn’t it? Another deep Champions League run would be great, but the main focus should be winning the Premier League. So many positive changes have been made to the team since Klopp has been in charge. The process has been slow-going but inexorable as Liverpool balanced navigating the transfer market and spending within their means. This summer should be the one where Klopp gets those last pieces he needs to fully mold the team to his vision. The league title was always the ultimate goal, and I think next season they have to push for it.
It’s really difficult to say what reasonable expectations might look like until we know what mysteries the transfer window holds. There seems to be a consensus about the areas of need. If Liverpool can address most of those, I think a top four finish is within reach again. I’d like to say a title challenge is feasible too, but the usual suspects will be strengthening again, and might not be making the same mistakes this time. On the other hand, Klopp is the ultimate alchemist, so sure, title challenge it is.
I’m most interested in league position in the upcoming season. Cup runs, either in Europe or domestically, are impossible to really predict. One bad draw (e.g. Spurs drawing Juve in the Round of 16 after an already brutal group draw) or one bad result (e.g. whatever the fuck we did against West Brom in the FA Cup) can end an otherwise promising run. The league is generally a much better indicator of where we are as a club. I believe—based on metrics and form—we were the second-best team in the league, and could have pipped United were it not for our European exertions. As such, I’d like us to finish top two, hopefully making a real challenge for City. With our squad and additions, with a couple more to come, I believe we can really kick on this season. And if Manchester City drop a few more points along the way, this season very well could be one for the ages.
If we succeed in signing the likes of Fekir and get the massive investment that’s been whispered about, I’d say that expecting a title challenge is fair. But even if things don’t come off this summer I’d expect us to remain in the top three all season, challenge in the domestic cups, and hopefully make it into the knockout rounds for the Champions League. Give me that and I’d say we’ve hit on the next stage in our natural progression. Taking home a trophy would be great, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessary to naming the season a success. And, of course, holding on to key parts of our team while stockpiling for the coming year is a must.
I’d like to keep my answer in my pocket until the transfer window closes, but if we close the Fekir deal, I’ll bullishly set league expectations at a EPL era club record 90 points—which may or may not be enough for a title, depending on everybody else—and CL quarters while continuing to play outrageously sexy football. As always, I’m utterly disinterested in the domestic cups.
I want to say it’s the league or nothing but I’m not exactly going to turn down another piece of silverware along the way. It’s true though that we sacrificed the league for Europe this year and that was awesome and all but it’s only been 13 years since we won that one. It’s been almost 30 since we won the league and every year that we fall short hurts a little bit more. We truly were the second best team in the league this year and could’ve been the best if City hadn’t sold their souls or whatever it is you do to get that kind of oil money. I think the kind of success they had last season is difficult to replicate these days, though, and there’s no reason Liverpool can’t mount a true title challenge next season and finally take it for ourselves.