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Liverpool and Managing Expectations in 2018/19

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You don’t need to be an optimist to like our odds this year.

Liverpool v S.S.C Napoli - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Last year, just before the memorable 2017/18 campaign dawned, I wrote an overly optimistic post. It was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, as blindly optimistic about our club’s chances as I could possibly be, all whilst giving a big middle finger to all the doubters and especially Barcelona. It was an intentionally ridiculous display of bravado.

I was going to write a similar post today, but something feels...different. Jurgen Klopp awoke a slumbering giant at Anfield within the bubbling caldrons created during that memorable Champions League run (to wildly and haphazardly mix metaphors). Unlike the 2005 and 2007 vintages, last year’s run to the final of the world’s biggest club competition did not feel like a fluke. We weren’t just beating Europe’s best, we were running them ragged, laughing and singing the whole way through.

The final was a disappointment; but it was not the end of our journey under Klopp, it was our next step. The last bit of confetti had barely fallen on Real Madrid’s celebration when Liverpool announced the signing of defensive midfielder Fabinho. We added three more key players, losing only Emre Can (who surely would have been bumped out of the starting XI by the likes of Fabinho and Naby Keita). We made what appears to be a smart move for Xherdan Shaqiri, and successfully signed Alisson Becker to deal with our biggest weakness.

This summer felt different than previous close-run campaigns because we were ready to hit the ground running in the transfer market. We weren’t surprised by any late shenanigans by Spanish giants. We weren’t scrambling to fill obvious holes in the squad. We were cool and controlled. We were acting like a big club again.

A great transfer window does not guarantee success. Manchester City could win 100 points again, effectively ending the title race in January. Hell, City could win 90 points, leaving almost no room for error for our lads in Red. Hell, Chelsea could do what they’ve been doing: winning the league the year after imploding. My point is that expectations of a title challenge should be tempered.

But. But unlike last year, it’s not ridiculous to dream of a league or Champions League title. You don’t have to be an idiot optimist to think that this team has the potential to break Liverpool’s Premier League drought.

Since his arrival in the fall of 2015, Kloppo has given this side an identity. And what an identity it is! We’re fast. We’re exciting. We score goals for fun. We are controlled chaos, capable of beating anyone on the day. We saw glimpses of how good we could be in early 2016/17. We saw longer stretches in the second half of the campaign last year. If Klopp can find consistency over the whole campaign: watch out.

Last year Manchester City ran away with the league, going unbeaten until coming to Anfield in January. The year before, Chelsea ran away with the league after their own ridiculous winning streak (eventually leaving us in the dust after a disastrous January). If the exciting, if unbalanced, 2013/14 Liverpool team could win 11 in a row, this side surely could. If Klopp can engineer a fast start to the campaign, as he did with his first title winning side, 2010/11 Dortmund, the Manchester Cities of the world might just choose to focus on other competitions when the second half of the campaign rolls around.

As of this writing, Five Thirty Eight gives Liverpool a 24% chance of winning the league. That’s second favorites, behind City (listed at 45% odds). This is no longer in dreaming territory. We’re in with a strong chance. Hopefully this time we take it.