Part Two: Season Priorities & Success
Liverpool’s push for a historic quadruple showed this is a team with the depth and talent to compete for silverware across every competition, but no matter how good a side is even being in the running for the quadruple takes luck—and doing so again would have to be a goal set more in hope than expectation.
In the second part of TLO’s season preview, then, our writers try to set out their realistic priorities and expectations heading into the 2022-23 season and outline what they see as the minimum achievement that would make it a success.
I would like to focus our challenge on the two biggest competitions: the Premier League and Champions League. The schedule is going to be a challenge this season, and even without the additional complications of a winter World Cup last year, gunning for four trophies led to some tiredness and lack of sharpness in the final stages.
I would like to avoid that if possible, but most of all, I would like another journey. I want more of the beautiful stress of being involved on the final day on multiple fronts. Reckon it’s our turn to be in the drivers’ seat, though. Also, the final day of the season is the day after I get married. So, yeno, Liverpool, what if?
I keep thinking about how bonkers it is that there’s a World Freaking Cup right in the middle of the European league season. What happens before the World Cup are 16 league matches and an entire group stage campaign for the Champions League. That’s 22 matches where, broadly speaking, the first team needs to be used. I think there’s also one or two EFL Cup games in there, but I really can’t be bothered by that this season.
So, I think the number one priority is to get to the World Cup break on solid footing. There’s no possible way to figure out what happens next. If you’re offering me top of whatever CL group we get and top of the league by then, or even just within 2-3 points of the top in the league and through in Europe at the break, I’d absolutely take that and go from there.
To compete for the quadruple again would certainly take a bit of good fortune on the injury front and some kind draws in the cups, especially as we’re going into a season starting early off a short summer break and is then set to be interrupted by a winter World Cup.
Still, if things go right this squad is stronger than the one that started last season so nothing is off the table. The top priority, though, will be the Premier League and securing a finish in the 90-point range will be the target. We’re well past the prove it stage for Klopp and these players, so if they can do that they’ll have done everything that reasonably can be expected of them in the competition that, for me at least, matters most. If they can manage that then I’m just going to try to enjoy the ride.
After last season and coming two games from ultimate glory, I have difficulty saying what exactly success is for this team. We can’t possibly term last season a failure, even if the two ultimate barometers for success weren’t reached. However, doing the same again—losing out on the league and European titles even if we managed another piece of silverware or two elsewhere—would hurt. Maybe it wouldn’t be a failure, but it would risk this Liverpool side going down in football history as one that couldn’t produce when it mattered most.
However, after how close they came last year it’s hard to imagine a team this talented and determined not pushing forward and winning at least one of those big trophies. So I guess that’s how I would define success: a Premier League title or a European title.
I want something historic. Maybe a quadruple is too much to hope for but capitalizing on what looks like it just could be a slight down year for Manchester City, aiming for a deep Champions League run, and utilizing enviable squad depth to take one of the domestic cups does not seem entirely unreasonable.
And yes, I am aware that how bonkers it is to any Reds supporter under the age of 50 that Liverpool have reached a level where that feels like a reasonable target. The Jürgen Klopp era deserves the sort of epic accomplishment like the one they nearly achieved last season for the history books, and this squad looks up for it.
Outside of that, it will be exciting for supporters to witness the emergence of the 2.0 version of the squad Klopp signed up to build when he extended his contract. This is the man who turned Robert Lewandowski into a monster and Darwin Nunez looks like the kind of raw material Klopp needs to build something special with. Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott have generational potential. Signing Joe Gomez and Ibrahmia Konate long term has been smart business. I’m excited for what comes next.
Another season of being in the mix for the Premier League and at least making a quarter-final appearance in the Champions League will be an acceptable season to me. It’s likely to be a weird one with a short summer and a winter World Cup, so no matter how good the Reds look I don’t feel right saying winning one of the big ones is a necessity.
Not coming away with one will feel like a disappointment, but as long as we’re in the hunt for both it won’t feel like a failure. At the same time, I do think winning either number 20 or number seven is what we need to consider it a success.
I’ve been doing these previews for quite a few years now, and I’ve always maintained that while silverware is the goal, the margins are so fine it cannot be the ultimate determining factor of whether a season was or was not a “success.” And never have fine margins been so apparent as last season’s journey. Liverpool were a couple of goals and a couple of halves of football away from a historic quadruple—and a couple of missed penalties away from coming away empty handed.
The football gods giveth and taketh away.
Liverpool once again appear to be one of the top two sides in Europe. It’s not difficult to imagine a season where the Reds come back to win one or both of the trophies that eluded them last year. But equally, it’s not difficult to imagine a couple of key injuries derailing our season at precisely the wrong time and having nothing to play for after March. We have lived both realities in recent seasons.
In retrospect, merely qualifying for the Champions League was a massive accomplishment in an injury-riddled 20-21 season. Whereas last season, one in which we reached three finals and won two of them and achieved more than 90 points in the league, almost feels a bit of a disappointment because of what could have been. In the end, though, all I can ask for this season is 90+ league points and at least one shiny thing.
This becomes repetitive because I want the same thing every year: get 90+ points in the league, reach the knockouts in the Champions League, and play fun, attacking football with this squad of players I love. Beyond that, there are so many things outside a team’s control that will determine the final outcomes. And if we do those things—the 90+ points and fun football and the rest—we’re very likely to be lifting some silver by the end of the year.
As for priorities, as fun as winning a few finals was last season, and as significant as the quadruple would be in terms of defining this team’s legacy, I ultimately just don’t care that much about the domestic cups. The strategy of focusing on the league and Europe while letting the kids and subs carry us as far as they can in the cups remains fine by me, even if it’s unlikely to lead to more success in those secondary competitions.
Now that we’ve bagged the League Cup, FA Cup, and Community Shield—checked off the boxes and won it all with Klopp—it’d be cool for the players to shake off that pressure and focus on the big prizes this season. Namely the Premier League and the Champions League, in order of priority.
I don’t even care about points or how early we win it—just win it. Just get over the line, one way or another. The good vibes, the individual player growth stories, the seamless club governance - The Klopp Effect has well been documented and talked about over the years. Now I’d like us to focus on legacy, on winning the big trophies and getting that count higher while Klopp is here.
The quadruple-bid was fun and all, but it was kind of an accident. It was nice to have the luck of the draw for once in the domestic cups, but you could really see the effect of the accumulated fatigue near the end of the season. I’d expect Klopp to prioritise the Premier League and Champions League, and hey, if our second-stringers and kids play well enough to bring us into the deeper stages of the FA or League Cup again, then why not?
As the others have said, I expect Liverpool to be in a tight battle for the Premier League late into the season and to progress deep into the Champions League knockout rounds, and those two competitions should remain the focus. Anything else is gravy, really, as we enter the first real season of transition away from the original front three under Klopp along with some of the new, younger players in midfield potentially forcing their way in on a regular basis.