Part One: Title Hopefuls
Liverpool are your defending Champions League winners. They’re coming off a 97-point league season. And, unlike in past years, they’ve kept the squad together. They may not be outright favourites, but they’re a near universal top two pick for the Premier League. It’s not a position Liverpool have been in, not in the Premier League era, so we wanted the staff of The Liverpool Offside to reflect on the journey—and the club’s return to the limelight.
Before winning the Champions League final, I remarked to Thomas Gronnemark that Liverpool supporters had more fun losing to Real Madrid the year before than City fans had winning any and all of their three trophies this year.
After winning it? This is well better. City are still favourites, and deservedly so, but just take a second to look at our squad. It’s chock full of players and personalities that aren’t just objectively good at their job of kicking a ball, but seemingly good human beings as well. And it’s headed by the best of all of us, Jurgen Norbert Klopp. It’s easy to root for a squad full of players who were overlooked—some of whom have been relegated and rejected. Throw in a couple of undeniable belters and an academy hero, well, now you’ve got a stew.
The journey that brought us here since Klopp took over—from drifting without a rudder in the sea of mid-table mediocrity to one with a clear vision and purpose—has been incredible to watch. And it should give us Reds even more appreciation of the end product and where we are now, both on and off the pitch.
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Honestly, I’ve written ad nauseam at this point about how abrupt and distinct Liverpool’s improvement has been since I’ve been a fan—and how that contrast is made more abrupt because my fandom was forged during the days of Roy Hodgson and the end of the Hicks and Gillett era.
But it really can’t be overstated: we’re standing in the sunshine of a new and brilliant dawn, and instead of being anxious or angsty about not signing anyone this window, I am cool and calm knowing that any lack of movement at this point is down to Klopp looking out at the market and saying thanks but no thanks.
It feels great to be a Liverpool fan right now. The team is really good and the Club is doing (mostly) all the right things on and off the pitch. It feels like a real chance for them to push on and establish themselves as one of the best (if not the best) team in Europe. Oh, and it’s quite fun to be the insufferable prick every fan of other teams thought we’d be if we won the league. Joke’s on them. We’ve conquered all of Europe and we’re never gonna stop.
I’ve also talked previously about being someone who found the club while Hodgson was in charge and so not knowing what success would really, truly feel like. The kind of progress we’ve witnessed in the past few years has been incredible, then, even when it sometimes hasn’t felt like progress in the moment, and last season was the first time we got to harvest the fruits of our labor. And what a harvest it was.
So does that mean we have to keep planting for next season and for another harvest or is there still bounty to harvest this season? I think, for me, it’s pretty important that for the first time we were able to keep a winning team together, so that gives me hope for the season to come, especially seeing what Tottenham was able to achieve with a less talented squad that they didn’t add to last season.
While things have looked dire at times during preseason, I trust that all the pieces are in place to mount an even stronger challenge—and hopefully come out on top. I am nothing if not an optimist.
It’s odd how inevitable where Liverpool are feels right now—because it certainly didn’t feel inevitable at the start and it’s been in the making for a few seasons where the club has been able to add talent to the roster at a rate completely unheard of in the past—but given how uncommon the sort of trust, leeway and patience Klopp and Edwards have been given is in modern football, we really should not take the position Liverpool are in for granted.
A unified vision of what kind of personalities are desired, what level of talent is required, and what brand of football is aspired to has made this team unique and uniquely fun to follow, both on and off the pitch. I’m enjoying the hell out of every day of it, am happy that a major trophy has been earned already, and hopeful that the club can establish themselves at this level for the long term.
What a time to be a Liverpool fan. Will this feeling ever become normal? I’ve barely even stopped crying from watching Jordan Henderson lift the Champions League trophy, and it’s already time to do it all over again.
Imagine going back in time and telling yourself that Liverpool will make no major signings over the summer transfer window, and you’re going to be pretty much fine with it. The team that Klopp has put together feel greater than the sum of their parts. The fact that we’ve kept all of our best players and get to see some old friends like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get added to the mix makes me so excited for this season.
Looking at how Klopp and Edwards put this squad together is really something to behold. They’ve built an incredible core of players, a group that counts some absolute world class standouts amongst them. Not only are they good players, they have as a group bought into Klopp’s plans and carried his plan out leading to European glory for the sixth time. And on top of the current success, you can see how the youth system revamp and infusion of talent is building the next generation of players for continued success. This is a very nice feeling to have.
It can be easy to get caught up in the hand-wringing over new signings and depth and trying to keep up with City, but sometimes you just need to step back and at least try to take it in. Liverpool are clear second favourites in England, a top ten team in Europe. This time, they’ve kept the team together—this time, unlike in past years when they’ve been good and close and almost there and then it’s all fallen apart.
They have the best centre half in Europe. Arguably the best goalkeeper. They’ve got Salah and Mané and Firmino. The list goes on. With the club’s title drought ticking over to three decades there’s some unavoidable angst and urgency for some—but it’s also worth noting that this is a place most Liverpool fans today have never been. This is a place fans who were first introduced via the Spice Boys or arrived in time for Houllier’s treble or lived through Hicks and Gillett’s dismantling have never experienced. And it’s a place that most thought Liverpool would never get back to
Liverpool are one of the best teams in Europe again. They’re a destination club. They’re title hopefuls at the very least. And they actually—somehow, and at least as far as anything can be in football—look to be secure in that position. Step back and breathe it in. Celebrate it. Enjoy it.