Part 1: Two Games from Greatness
Liverpool had one of the greatest seasons in the history of English football in every way bar trophy haul. In the end, though, the only thing that matters much to the history books and for many fans, rivals, and pundits is the trophy haul. We got together to try to figure out just how good the 2021-22 season was and put it into little bit of perspective.
When the final whistle blew on the Champions League final and Liverpool had lost the Champions League seven days after losing the Premier League, I’m not gonna lie, I felt pretty bad about this whole football thing. To come all that way and end up with, if not nothing, then at least end without the two trophies that really matter felt harsh. It felt cruel.
Then, because Jürgen Klopp is much smarter than I am, they had a parade to celebrate their FA Cup and League Cup and maybe a little bit to celebrate the league title won during lockdown that they never properly celebrated and oh yeah to celebrate coming within two games of winning the quadruple and recording what would have been the greatest season in the history of English football.
And four trophies or not, that’s what it was. One of the greatest seasons ever in English football. At halftime of the final league game, while Aston Villa had gone two up on Man City, if Liverpool win theirs they usually win the league. With how they played against Real Madrid, the vast majority of the time they win the Champions League.
That we’re in the universe where fate or the gods or dumb luck decided they wouldn’t get either doesn’t change how they played or how they got there. Missing out on the trophies in isolation doesn’t even really bother me now, then. What does still hurt a little is thinking that this group, this team, deserved a place in the history books as more than just the ones who pushed City.
My heart is broken. I am so proud of what this team accomplished, but so frustrated that they weren’t rewarded with the trophies that would have made those accomplishments really matter. I think maybe that when the dust settles and we look back at the season in the years to come I’ll be able to better separate my sadness out and appreciate what a wild ride this was.
Liverpool were essentially two goals away from winning a quadruple and two goals away from winning absolutely fuck all. Football is a funny game.
Logically I can tell myself “two golds and two silvers is a good haul,” but emotionally I’m not there yet. At all. I was dreaming about number seven and/or twenty. I was dreaming about another Super Cup and another FIFA Club World Cup winner’s badge. I was dreaming about immortality and crushing United’s vaunted treble season into meaninglessness. It simply wasn’t meant to be. The fickle nature of the football gods—and a fair bit of sportwashing—said that it would be otherwise.
However down we might be at the moment, though, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that as a fanbase, Liverpool supporters had more fun losing the two biggest trophies on offer than Manchester City or Real Madrid had winning them. It was a hell of a ride. I’m not mentally or emotionally prepared for the 2022-23 season yet, but I know I will be ready for the next journey—wherever that takes us—when we get there.
It feels cruel for such a special season to end the way it did. When I woke up the morning after the Champions League final it was difficult to appreciate the journey and acknowledge how incredible the season really was. It’s still hard to put everything into context when the last two matches ended in such bitter disappointment.
The incredible scenes from the parade through Liverpool went a long way towards making me feel a lot better about everything, though. Seeing the city turn out to celebrate what Klopp and the players accomplished provided some very valuable perspective. This was an incredibly special team, the likes of which we may never see again. It was the most likable group of players I’ve ever seen in my years following sports, and they were a joy to watch. They deserve to be remembered, even if after failing to pull off the quadruple they likely won’t get that recognition they deserve from the wider footballing world, but hopefully they will get it from Liverpool supporters.
Seasons are defined by trophies but are experienced week to week. With that perspective I think it’s okay to be disappointed with how the final week of the season shook out. I wrote a lot this year about how I thought this team was worthy of doing the unthinkable, and they got closer than anyone else ever has. That they didn’t quite make it in the end is okay. It doesn’t change how worthy they are.
Because of the second part of the first sentence I’m really not all that bothered by what happened. I was in a dark, dark place after the Champions League Final. But, once I woke up and saw how happy the team was at the parade—all the pain was gone. A lot of folks think about football in binary terms: a season ends, a new one starts, things stop, things start over, etc. But this team and manager have shown us there’s continuity from year to year. Because of that, I have no doubt the tangible success this season deserved will be realized next season in a league win and/or a Champions League trophy.
That was the best season I’ve ever been a part of. I would trade nothing for nothing. That was fantastic.
That’s not true. I got into Anfield for Tottenham. I would trade not getting in for winning. We’d have the league then.
But that’s nonsense shit. They were tired! They deserved to be! We went for four and lost two. But I would still rather go for four. That’s immortality. Don’t pretend you didn’t want it.
After the final whistle blew in Madrid, I wrote a bit here and promptly turned off all football-related news for a week. It isn’t fair that arguably the most brilliant Liverpool squad many of us have witnessed in our lives would leave us feeling disappointed at only ending up with two trophies. It’s not fair that after laying waste to all manner of records, playing in a third Champions League final in five years, and running the greatest ever Premier League season down to the final nine minutes that I personally couldn’t even bear to watch the parade.
However, it’s in times like these that one realizes just how insatiable we are as football fans: whatever success we have is never enough. I’m as guilty as any of us. Jurgen Klopp, one of Earth’s Top 5 Humans, tried to warn us against our—let’s not sugar coat it—greed weeks ago when he told us that the world isn’t only for the winners but is also “full of triers.”
Meaning in other words, the joy has been in the journey.
And there are few football teams I’ve witnessed that have squeezed so much joy into one season quite like this Liverpool side have. From watching pausing and repeatedly rewinding Sir Alex Ferguson’s grimace as the Reds demolished Man United to witnessing one of the most beautiful team moves you will ever see in Mohamed Salah’s first goal in the reverse fixture to Sadio Mané hilariously taking the ball off of the Manchester City goalkeeper’s toes in the FA Cup semi to Mikel Arteta trying to face Klopp down and getting his team walloped in response to Joel Matip finally finishing one of his slaloming runs against Leeds to finally shutting Diego Simeone and his annoying Atletico Madrid team up to that physics-defying strike from Thiago...
The moments were innumerable. Timeless. Immortal. And in the end, the trophies would have been incredible but it is these moments that we’ll treasure.
The last week of the season certainly took a little bit of the sheen off of the season, but much of that came from the terrible treatment of the fans in Paris. To come within a point of the Premier League title and within a whisker of finding that one little crack in the Wall of Courtois to take another Big Ears home in the most competitive (or sportswashed) era of the sport is pretty sensational. Liverpool were in every single competition until literally the very end, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around just how good this side is.
Statistically, this is one of—if not the most—dominant Liverpool sides in history. They only lost 4 times across 63 games in all competitions for the best win percentage in club history at 71.9%. Klopp’s side scored 147 goals in all competitions, smashing the previous club record of 138 goals.
From a more emotional standpoint, this was the most fun Liverpool side I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d counted how many times I uttered a gleeful “OH MY GOD HOW” or just devolved into maniacal cackles, like I did after seeing Thiago’s physics-defying strike or Mohamed Salah’s solo wonder goals against Manchester City and Watford. Klopp has built a team that plays fast, plays fun, and plays for each other, and they deserve all the plaudits despite only winning two trophies.
Endings don’t always turn out the way you hope, but that was a hell of a season from Liverpool Football Club. As a fan, all you can really ask for is that your team is in the fight for trophies at the end of the season, and Liverpool pushed it down to the wire for all four. That’s the dream scenario for any season.
Despite missing out on the two big trophies, my strongest memory of the season will be the parade we were treated to at the end of it. It was one where the fans lifted the team when they were down, a team and a fanbase in perfect sync, saluting the efforts of each side across a long and memorable season. It was beautiful.