Part Four: Setting Priorities
Liverpool are competing in four competitions this season and, depending on who you ask, could have a shot at winning any of them. Barring something truly miraculous, though, they won’t be winning all four. How are you going to rank the importance of the Premier League, Champions League, and domestic cups—and why?
I know the league title holds a special place in our hearts. It’s been long. Too long. Far too long. However, I think the Champions League should be the top priority, always. European competition is what sets this club apart from all other English sides. Not even Manchester United can hold a candle to us there. It is why Liverpool matters outside of England, plain and simple. It is the most important club competition in the world. If we have the chance to get to another another final, we should be taking it. I would argue that even making it to the final last year did more for our status as a club than winning the league would have.
Obviously, the Premier League is a close second on this list, for me. If nothing else, it would be nice to get that monkey off our back. As we saw in 2008/09 and again in 2013/14, we were not just in fights with United and City, respectively, but with our own history. It’s high time to put that history well and truly behind us.
There’s a rather significant drop-off to the domestic cups. If you gave me the choice between that coveted silverware or binning both cups and making a run at the title and/or Champions League, I’ll happily choose the latter, every time.
Liverpool winning the Premier League this season is number one for me. I want to see it happen with these players and with this manager. I want Liverpool’s decade-long struggle from the brink, the FSG rebuilds, and the current age of smart recruitment under Jürgen Klopp to finally bear fruit this year when Captain Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League trophy in May.
I still hold out hope for the FA Cup from time to time because I’ve always enjoyed the giant-killer aspect of it. It used to have some moxie. I respect that. On the other hand I have no time for the League Cup. It never seems to have a cool name.
Jurgen Klopp has brought back exciting football to Anfield. The Champions League nights were outstanding events last season, and I will be very happy when Liverpool also earn European glory with Klopp, but I’ve got no problem with the team crashing out in the later stages of the coming competition. The Champion League is a different beast and there are plenty of awesome teams that could turn Liverpool over on a given night. It happens.
But the Premier League title is within reach. And it’s been a while. So it’s time to do that.
This has to be the year that they push for the title, doesn’t it? It feels like the wind is at our back. Barring being a bit light in the middle of the pitch, on paper, our squad is better than it’s been in a decade. The Champions League is so unpredictable that it’s impossible to know right now if we’re going to ram our way into another final or bomb out in the group stages. I think it’s important that we prove our talent in Europe, though, if only so that we can continue to attract top name targets from other leagues. The allure of Klopp will only last so long without results, after all.
The domestic cups are fun and genuinely exciting in the later rounds. I would love to see us manage deep runs in one or both so that more players have a chance to get some playing time, and of course to increase the odds of winning a trophy this season.
That being said: I do want ‘em all.
It’s unrealistic to hope for all four trophies. I know this. Intellectually I know this. Has anyone ever won the quad before? Is that a thing? Can we do it? That’s an impossible dream I don’t think any of us have ever let ourselves dream. But if there’s any team that can do it, it’s this one. It feels like we finally have all the pieces, like we could be unstoppable this season, even with our shortcomings.
That being said, unless we make some miraculous run in the Champions League again this year, anything less than the league is probably going to be a disappointment. I think the Champions League is well and truly the only trophy that would supersede the Premier League title at this point. The league is what has eluded us for the longest time, the one we really need to be considered the force that we’ve been building to. Sure, the FA Cup and the League Cup are nice and I’m sure no one is going to turn down any sort of silverware. But to well and truly assert ourselves as the team we’ve been trying to become, we need a substantial trophy. The League has to be it.
If we don’t win silverware this season then we would have woefully underachieved and heads would need to roll. Thankfully, I’m confident that there will be at least two out of the four on their way to Anfield. The Premier League has to be the one we are aiming for. The PL is now in it’s 26th year and it is an absolute travesty that we have yet to win it. The squad we have going into this new season is the best I have seen in my 25 years of being an avid LFC supporter. This is our year.
Following that, I would absolutely love for us to win the Champions League. As we proved last season, we were made for cup competitions. Ol’ Big Ears belongs in our trophy cabinet. After all, in an alternative reality, we won it last season.
I regrettably have had little time for the FA Cup in recent years. But, it is still an enjoyable tournament and at the end of it all, a really nice Cup to win. That being said, there are those weeks when the tournament is really annoying in the way it interferes with the Prem and match scheduling. Then, it’s on the same scale as those pointless international fixtures.
The League Cup faded into obscurity for me after their most recent name change. It has now become a bad joke but, if they manage to improve it by adopting a more serious approach in the mould of the FA Cup, it would be fun to win it—in addition to something else.
Liverpool exist to win silverware. That’s the oft-heard line trotted out when they don’t for a few years. Hell, it’s the oft-heard line trotted out when any big club doesn’t win any for a bit and it’s also the knock against a side like Tottenham, who may finish ahead of us a few times but whose high-water mark on the silverware front is a 1991 FA Cup Charity Shield draw with Arsenal.
So. Liverpool exist to win silverware. But I don’t care, really. Not this year. At least not unless the silverware you’re talking about is the Premier League trophy. Because this year, with this squad, with Liverpool having done more to improve during the offseason than a Manchester City side they ran level with on form over the second half of last and whose players were more involved at the World Cup? This year, with this squad, the league should be the goal. It must be the goal.
Which isn’t to say that Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have the quality and depth in this squad to make run in the Champions League again and maybe pick up a bit of secondary silverware via domestic cup. This squad is definitely both good enough and deep enough to do that. But there’s only one real priority.
I want to believe in just going all out in each competition and, in some regard, I’m sure that Klopp, et. al will feel similarly. The rotation, though, when it comes to early rounds of the domestic cups will necessarily come and I think that is, in a way, at least part of prioritizing. So, my sense is that the Premier League will come first followed very, very closely by the Champions League and both competitions will get our top 14-15 players almost exclusively.
Obviously there is the hope we draw lower-tier competition early so as to give some of our youth prospects and fringe players a good run out in those cups. The difference between this squad and even last year’s is that the new additions mean that we could conceivably trot out an XI in such competitions that would include first-teamers like Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Clyne, Matip, Gomez, Wijnaldum, and Solanke. Sprinkle in appearances from top-rated youth players like Rhian Brewster and Curtis Jones and that’s a pretty strong “B” squad for the early rounds of the domestic cups.
Our bench is deeper than it’s ever been in my time as a fan. We’re looking at bringing on game changers and the drop off in quality from what you’ve got on the bench versus our starters has really closed. Yes, things are still thin when you consider the front 3, but we’ve got flexible players that will allow us to spell all three at the moment. That’s fantastic news.
So, even if going all out is a touch unrealistic, I do believe it’s reasonable for us to contend for honors in all four competitions for most of the season. Meaning I expect us to be in all four competitions come the new year, at least. Hooray for extra football!