Part Four: Season Priorities & Defining Success
From earning 97-points but finishing runners-up to a quick corner to help secure a sixth European Cup, football is unpredictable. So here in August, it may be impossible to say where Liverpool will be in May. We wanted to know, though, what the staff of The Liverpool Offside think is the bare minimum to call 2019-20 a success—and what order of importance they would give to the competitions.
This is a hard question, because of course every season you want to see an improvement in the squad, on the pitch, in the results. But how do you improve on last season? The answer has to be domestically. Liverpool came so close to winning that coveted league title last time around. This season feels like it will only be a success if we win it. Not compete for it—that was last season. We need to win it.
That’s a tall order, especially when you consider that last season they only lost one game and still came in second. But winners find a way to push through the obstacles, and this group is a team of winners. Hopefully we see them reach that pinnacle this time around.
I’m also person who cares a bit more for the domestic cups than most. The last two seasons have been disappointing on that front, and I would love to see us back in the thick of it this year, if only so that more players get a chance for some minutes. I don’t rank them higher than the league or Europe, but the domestic cups aren’t throwaway matches for me either. A team like Liverpool should be making it deep into both domestic cup competitions.
Success is both a blessing and a curse. Last season was an absolute blast—even the sphincter-clench inducing moments. Klopp and co. finally brought Liverpool back to European glory—and 11 millimetres away from claiming the Premier League title. Even coming in second with that many points was quite the accomplishment. Repeating that will be tough. For me, though, the priority is the league.
Manchester City is unquestionably the most talented team from top to bottom, so matching their points haul during the long slog of the season will be extremely tough, but we know it can be done. Honestly, keeping the team in the race to the end will be an accomplishment, as would maintaining the gap between us and Spurs.
I really don’t care much about the domestic cups (until Liverpool are actually playing, and then of course they must win every game), so would love to see those as a chance to get the younger players a couple of games. In Europe, getting to the semifinals would be very solid, and of course beating Chelsea next week is something that should happen. Beyond that, I’m honestly not sure what to think about the Club World Cup coming during an already hectic December as well as being played in Qatar. It would be a nice feather in the cap, I guess. If forced to pick I’d say my order of priority is league, Champions League, that Club World Cup, then the FA Cup and League Cup.
The bare minimum to reach is the same level Liverpool reached last season in the Premier League along with at least a solid run to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Winning that European Cup two seasons in a row would be wonderful but it shouldn’t be a measure of success for me.
Klopp has a team that can win the league next season but it’s a damn hard thing to do what with Manchester City so stacked and all the other top six clubs spending money this summer. Letting another club kick us down into third or worse would be bad. I don’t want to say the word ‘failure,’ but you know I’m thinking it—second I could understand, but third would be a step back.
I’m not invested as much in the domestic cups. Liverpool winning is always something to celebrate, but dropping out of domestic tournaments never leaves me sad for very long. Witness the magic of my disinterest in the FA Cup.
We’re going to win the league. I really believe that. Outside of that, I’d love us to defend the Champions League and I think we have the personnel and management to do just that. At the very least, get us back as far as the semi-finals. As for domestic cups, I would love to bring home the FA Cup this season. So, for me, it’s PL>CL>FA>everything else.
Gotta win a major trophy. And not the FA Cup or Energy Drink Cup. CL or League. That’s it. That’s a successful season. It’s that simple.
I think last season did quite a bit of reorganizing to what a lot of us consider success. Any other season, coming in second would be heartbreak, but second was worth celebrating last season—and not just because we made it back into the best in England conversation but that we made it there in the best fashion we could against opponents (or a singular opponent) that have dark magic and money on their side. Not to mention we won the European Cup over literally the best teams in every other major league.
If we fall short of a similar level of success this year, I’m not sure how it’ll feel. Hopefully not terrible. We do have six trophies to play for this time around, almost double what we played for last season, and with that comes more chances to win—and of course more chances to fail. I’d really like us to win one of the domestic cups just because it’s been so long, but how hard it is to win them is just another reason why English football is so competitive. We need to be able to prove ourselves in our own country, though, and with the gap reaching 30 years at this point, at the end of the day all efforts really do need to be on the League.
I know I get boring with these every year, but we’re a 90+ point team at this point, and I expect us to end up in that range, and that may or may not be enough to win us the title. Similarly, we’re good enough to get out of the group stage of the Champions League regardless of who UEFA throws at us, so the knockout stages are expected—at which point it becomes a bit of a lottery. That said, Jürgen Klopp’s ridiculous run of results in two-tie competition indicates we’re likely to do well when we get to that stage, so I understand fans who set their expectations at the semi-finals or whatever.
At any rate, trophies come down to so many factors out of the team’s control that I simply want them to play up to their potential; play good, entertaining football; and then the chips fall where they may with regards to silverware.
As you’ve noticed, domestic cup comps have not even come up, which indicate how highly I rate them. It’s PL>CL>CWC>FA>LC>SC for me.
Look, I know you can’t ever reasonably say anything less than the title would make the season a failure, and that’s doubly the case when you’re facing off against the public relations wing of a human rights flaunting petrostate. So I’m not going to say that. I’m not even going to say we need to match last season’s points haul. But I do think we need to perform at least as well as we did last year, and that that should get us to at least 90 points. And if we do that, well, the rest is up to the football gods and maybe breaking the drought on the three decade mark makes for a good enough story for them to grant it.
Beyond that, this is a group that’s good enough it should pick up one of the three major (or two and the next best) pieces of silverware on offer—meaning either the league, or the Champions League, or failing that at the very least the FA Cup while coming close in the others.
Live up to last season’s league standard and win one of those and hopefully play some exciting football along the way and I’ll be happy. I’ve said it before and I’ll stick to it, this year the clear priority is the Premier League, then the Champions League, then the FA Cup followed by the Club World Cup (hey, it’s two games against interesting opponents and we’re in it for winning something), the Super Cup (again, we’re in it for winning and it’s in Istanbul so why not), then the League Cup (play all the kids), and finally the now-past Community Shield (a glorified friendly we qualified for by coming second).
I’m with Audun on this one: you can’t expect much more from squad who lifted a Champions League trophy and lost a single match in the league to the second-best team in the world. Conversely, it’s hard to expect much less, either.
Which means that for me, priorities and the definition of success in meeting those priorities will be found in improving the quality of individual and team performances: locking down a first choice midfield possessing a mix of creativity, goals, ball retention and defensive steel; defensive progression from Trent Alexander-Arnold to take away arguably the one defensive weak point; managing Rhian Brewster’s development; the emergence of a consistent fourth attacking option to ensure that the drop-off after the front three is less steep.
Show progress in these areas while maintaining the vitality of front three and the current defensive solidity, and I have to believe the result we’re all desperately waiting for will come.