It is Sunday, and Liverpool are still the Premier League champions. I’ve had a few days to ruminate on and digest this fact, and it still seems a bit surreal. Regardless, it still feels really nice to write down on the page.
While many have covered the emotional and tactical side of things, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about this squad that has been put together. This behemoth of a squad. This is not just a mere collection of talent. These are not Galácticos, or a mash-up of big money mercenaries. This is not Harry Kane and 10 other players on the field. This is a cohesive unit that has been put together with thoughtfulness and care.
Gestalt psychological theory believes that the whole of something is greater than the sum of its parts. This Liverpool squad was built with that thought in mind by Jürgen Klopp, Michael Edwards, Mike Gordon, and the rest of the backroom staff. The team was built to ensure the personalities meshed well in the dressing room, a well documented facet of Klopp’s thorough recruitment strategy. Talent was nurtured where possible from the youth ranks and the bargain buys. Where the talent could not just be nurtured, Klopp, Edwards, and Gordon worked together to ensure they could recruit the essential pieces at center back and in net.
Every single player on the senior squad contributed to the title this season. Need a last minute equalizer at Manchester United? Adam Lallana’s got you covered. Best goalkeeper in the world, Alisson Becker, goes out injured? Adrian is there to step between the sticks keep the ball out of the net. Divock Origi is cool as a cucumber not matter how big the situation he is dropped into. Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain is ready to bring fire and passion to the field, whether he is starting or coming in as an impact sub. The centerbacks have all taken their moments next to Virgil van Dijk.
This is a team where every single player understands and embraces their role, because they know how it moves the team forward. From the bit part players to the players nominated for the Ballon D’Or, everyone is in sync.
There are many players on this team who could play for big sides elsewhere and garner personal glory. Georginio Wijnaldum has shown time and time again when he plays for the Netherlands that he can be a consistent goal scoring threat. But for Liverpool, he plays as a vital cog to transition the team from defense to attack in a deeper role, and he does it on a world class level. Roberto Firmino throws himself into the dirty work of his false nine role, creating space and turnovers instead of demanding he have people feed him in front of goal all day long. Sadio Mané is probably the most low key superstar in the game outside of N’Golo Kanté, and tracks back with aplomb. Even Mohamed Salah has shifted his tactical role, causing a decrease in his goal output, to allow for Liverpool to become better at controlling games.
This team has put together one of the most impressive stretches in the history of the tame. Back to back Champions League finals, winning it last year, followed by a Premier League title this year. Along the way, the squad have clinched the Premier League title with more games left than any other side in history, and have broken points and wins records along the way.
If it seems like I’m gushing, well, I am. Teams like this don’t come along very often. There have almost certainly been better collections of talent across the years, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a better overall team.