Part 5: Expectations for 2019-20
After the season Liverpool just had, most will only have one goal in mind for 2019-20, but is it really the Premier League or bust for the Reds this time around? And if that is the expectation, what is the club going to have to do over the summer to close the gap on Manchester City heading into a season where they’ll be competing for up to seven trophies?
There is no bust with this team right now. I obviously hope we win the Premier League, and I think we can be a consistent 90-95 point side for the foreseeable future, but whether that is enough to take the throne from City is impossible to predict.
As for what can be done to improve our odds, I think it mainly comes down to squad depth. The front three played over 12,000 minutes between them this year—84% of the available frontline minutes—and shouldn’t be expected to repeat that feat. Perhaps Divock Origi is ready to spell them more consistently than was the case this season, but I have my doubts, and with Sturridge leaving there are even more minutes to go around. A genuine rotation piece for the front line, then, is my priority this summer.
Similarly, our fullbacks put up crazy playing numbers—particularly for a position that is so physically demanding—and are likely to need some backups that aren’t total scrubs. With Moreno definitely and Clyne most likely leaving, that means two new fullbacks should be brought in for cover. With the number of games we’ll be playing next year, simply relying on Gomez and Milner doing swing duty at the fullback positions could come back to haunt us.
Finally, there’s the creativity from midfield question, for which an answer may already exist. Assuming Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keïta can stay healthy, I don’t see the need to bring in a playmaker. Given the history of the players in question, however, that is a hefty assumption, and there is a chance we should look to add some sort of progressive passer or distance shooting threat to our midfield.
I believe we’re witnessing the start of a Kloppian dynasty, meaning another major trophy this season has to be the goal. And the only trophy that matters is the league so tooling up for a 38-game grind has to be the primary focus. That’s the target. However, expectations can only be finalized at the end of the summer arms race—or fine tuning race, as it might end up—between City and Liverpool.
Despite finishing a point behind them, Liverpool arguably have the better starting position: they’re younger and already know they will be getting a few “new” signings in the form of players returning from injury (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), and players hopefully now settled so they can live up to expectations (Naby Keita). With that in mind, all we really need is a versatile attacker and full back cover to round out the squad depth.
Meanwhile, City could be said to have the tougher task. The departure of captain Vincent Kompany leaves the Citizens without their emotional leader while Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, and John Stones remain an unconvincing batch of central defenders. And key cogs Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Fernandinho are all a year older and on the wrong side of 30.
The squads Liverpool and Manchester City have assembled are bordering on historically-great in their performances, possess phenomenal levels of focus and rarely slip, making the margins ever finer. Which is a long-winded way of saying that, right now, there’s a top two in England and Liverpool might even edge City as of today, but we won’t really know until any summer deals get done and we’re heading into August.
Depth? Continued good luck with a lack of injuries? Strategic spending? It’s hard to say what happens next year going up against a team with an essentially unlimited war chest, but I’m excited to see the plan they come up with.
To be honest, I’m something of a pessimist here. From the sounds of it, the club is choosing to make only minor additions this summer in the transfer market to a squad we know we got 100% and then some out of this season. City, meanwhile, look to be spending big. Again. I hate to say it, but if City take another step forward, then I just don’t know where a couple more points comes from with this Liverpool squad.
I really liked winning the Champions League. Winning the Premier League would be a fantastic achievement so, yes, let’s go and aim for that next season but I don’t foresee disappointment if Liverpool fall short as long as they continue their excellent form.
Manchester City will be stronger, as will the other top teams. Maybe. Maybe not Arsenal, because I don’t know what they’re smoking over there. But the league will be difficult to win. Best league in the world and all that. I’m just ready for the ride to start again. It should be fun. And if I vomit, I’ll deal with it then.
I know a lot of Liverpool fans are going to be league or bust next season, but I just can’t bring myself to go there. This is especially true after I wrote “Manchester City Need to be Perfect to Catch Liverpool” back in January. Opps. I mean, I wasn’t wrong, but god damn, City. If City manage another 98-100 points (or more, as crazy as it is to talk about), I don’t know that we can top them—and, reasonably, I don’t think we can be too dejected if we can’t.
That said, I want us there if City slip up. And if they don’t for a third year in a row, I’d like to push them the whole way, like we did this year.
As for the other competitions? So much depends on draws and injuries. While Liverpool were far from lucky in their Champions League draws and managed to win it, their tough draws in the League Cup and FA Cup forced them to make a choice between them, the league, and the Champions League. We obviously, and correctly, focused on the latter two. The Ping Pong Balls of Destiny might be kinder to us next season, and if they are that would change the calculations considerably.
I think we’ll be a real test for clubs in all competitions. I still think we lack two or three players to compete across the big three comps, but I think we have the personnel to do as we did this past season: challenge all year in the biggest two and hope for the best.
Audun’s points on what we can realistically expect are, as most of his opinions, largely on point. I’m wary of placing a point total that goes beyond the 90-95 point threshold that Audun lays out for the simple fact that while the target may be to hit something like 98 points next season, it’s clear just how narrow the margins are.
The gap between us and City was a measly point. The gap between us and third place was 25 points. Even making allowances for recruitment and coaching changes happening below us, it should be us and City again. What that means when it comes to laying siege on the defending champions, though, is impossible to predict.
I do think we’re still two or three players away from truly being their equals in both quality and depth, but if Edwards and Co. can deliver a bit more magic this window, anything is possible.
We’re going to win the League.
Damn right. We’re going to win the league. Or, to echo Audun, we’re probably going to top 90 points again. The league is definitely the target and 90 points is the goal, but you can’t really account for what the behemoth that is City might do, at least not totally. So. Another season like the one we just had in the league and I’ll be content with the journey no matter the outcome.
Beyond that, it’s about looking like we belong and earning a bit of silverware somewhere to keep this thing going. Another deep run in Europe, even if it doesn’t get us to another final. And domestically, we’ll hope for a kinder draw in the FA Cup this time out—remember when aforementioned behemoth City drew Rotherham, Burnley, Newport, Swansea, and Brighton before facing Watford in the final?
I’m also going to be the weirdo who kind of really wants to win the Club World Cup just to say we’re the best football team in the world and have the shiny gold badge to prove it. Plus it’s only two extra games—ignore the League Cup and it balances out.
Winning the Champions League was just the start. I really believe we could be on the cusp of an era where Liverpool might just become not only the best team in the world, but where they could become one of the most legendary sides in the history of the game.
City have reached 198 points over the last two seasons, which is an absolutely remarkable amount of points, so I think the aim for next season has to be 105 points for us—and that with this squad, that’s achievable. We can’t really control what they do, so i think Jurgen and the boys will just have to aim even higher next year and let the chips fall where they may.
I want all seven trophies, but I especially want the league. We’ve proven we can do it. We’re good enough to keep things going next season and keep our place fighting at the top of the table, and I don’t believe City can keep up their pace for a third year in a row. If we don’t get complacent, and if we get it right this summer, that Premier League title will be ours.