Disappointment, Anticipation, and Defining Moments:
Weeks of Reflection Lay Ahead
There’s a lot that goes through your mind when the final whistle blows. It’s a range of emotions.
You’re proud. They did everything that they could and put together a season that wins the Premier League in 22 of the 30 league campaigns that have been played under the title of “the Premier League.”
Sunday was the third time that Liverpool has taken Manchester City to the final day in the last nine years. Each time, Liverpool won and so did City. They’ve won six of the last ten titles and four of the last five. As we have pushed them to the incredible consistency and league dominance that they have achieved, all other sides have faded, failing to even come close to mounting a significant challenge most years. If not for Liverpool, the Premier League is no more competitive than Ligue 1.
That’s the reality of living in this era. We can decry it all we want or we can attempt to not see it. The fact is, clubs backed by oil barons and petro states have won 10 titles since 2004, the only exceptions being Liverpool posting 99 points, Leicester City in their miracle season, and Manchester United during the tail end of their most powerful years.
Over the course of that time…
The money that has come into the league has killed off hope of competing for much of the league. Slowly it has even made the task too great even for powerhouse clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, and aspiring big clubs like Tottenham. With the sale of Newcastle United to the Saudis, it’s only going to continue in the years to come.
To the credit of everyone at the club, the trends of the last decade haven’t daunted Liverpool or seen them give an inch. They built a team capable of great things, a team that can win anything. Unfortunately, in a world with that Manchester City team in it, you really can’t win everything. You’re proud that they tried and came as close as they did though.
All of this is not to take away from City’s achievement in the end. The last few weeks have been difficult for them after falling short yet again in the European Cup. Going down 2-0 in each of their last two matches, only to respond, finding clutch goals and the points they needed to see the title over the line shows a great deal of resolve and character. It’s theirs and their performance on the final day was as inspired performance as they’ve given all year. They deserve what they have.
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You replay the little moments that decide a season. The clear handball committed by Rodri in City’s match against Everton. The 2-0 lead at home to Brighton slipped away. The third goal was conceded against Brentford back in September to leave there with a draw. A total of six points were taken off Spurs, City, and Chelsea. But it’s never one moment.
In truth, titles can just fade away like smoke in the wind. This one didn’t fade away until 20 minutes to go on the final day.
You’re sad for them, as much as you are, sad for yourself!
The Reds were almost perfect over the course of those 38 games. It doesn’t get much better than this. We’ve only done better twice in our history, both times it was this version of Liverpool, and they only won the league once.
A Realistic Review
Winning everything else along the way thus far has made it a lot easier to stomach, but as we look back on it, we can’t view this league season as a failure. There were moments that were incredible, whether it was Salah’s goals against City and Watford in consecutive weeks, Divock’s winner at Wolves, absolutely destroying Manchester United twice, or giving it to Everton at Goodison. Klopp has always emphasized the journey and though it may not have had the perfect storybook ending we all craved and that looked possible for 70 minutes, it has still been an incredible journey. One worth appreciating and remembering fondly.
I wrote a few weeks ago that a cup treble is euphoric when you operate in the context of a normal season or Liverpool team. Even I find it difficult to maintain that perspective at times, none more so than when that final whistle went.
We wanted someone or something to blame. You want them to get the rewards they deserve for all the joy they’ve brought us. We need one more moment with them.
The good news is, you’ll get it. In this dream of a season, there has always been one more thing they’ll give you. Next Saturday, the real prize, the grandest of prizes, awaits. A seventh European Cup was all the award I could have wanted for them at the start of the season. The fact that it could be the third and final bit of icing on this cake, it’s only fitting that the opponent is who it is.
Completing the Cycle
The journey with this team really started in 2018 with that run to Kyiv and the loss to Real Madrid that saw ownership buy a world-class number 6 and goalkeeper in the months to come. There have been a few days as a Reds supporter where falling short hurt more. Today might be one of them, but we start the process of exorcising demons this weekend.
All teams go in cycles. The group evolves and changes. Teams do not remain together forever, even when they’re as good as these Reds. Change is not only inevitable but necessary. It feels, to some extent, like some kind of change is coming.
Klopp’s recent comments have hinted that some players may go in the summer and that there may be some rebuilding to be done. The age profile of the squad and the ever-increasing salary demands of its biggest stars dictate that a shift toward the next era of this squad may be on the cards.
What better way to end this cycle than overcoming the foe that killed our dream in 2018 and eliminated us from the European Cup last season?
If you had many days where the Reds have brought you joy before the last couple of years, I will bet those days were when they were playing in the European Cup. It’s as much a part of this club’s identity as Anfield’s famous atmosphere. European nights in the ground are the gold standard for atmosphere and our greatest songs are often focused on the achievements of the club on the continent. Embrace it. The league is not the end all be all.
European Glory and Beyond
The European Cup with its grand nights against the biggest of opponents. This is where we define ourselves. The league may be the plaything of oil-rich clubs for now, but the European Cup is the proving ground of kings.
In his post-match interview, Jurgen said “if you want to win big, you have to be prepared to lose big. That’s what we did today, but that’s okay.”
It’s more than okay. You win some, you lose some in life and in sport. How you respond in each is where your character shows. These boys have won big, they’ve lost big. It’s been a wild ride that has already shown us they have the highest caliber of character. Now we close the loop. We complete the cycle.
If the next chapter in this journey is to look different, this team deserves one more great moment with us, the fans. What better way than number seven, against Madrid in Paris? What’s a more fitting end than overcoming the opponent where it all started? It’s all there for us. Dreams remain to be had.
You will play in the league every season, but we know all too well that what happens on Saturday only comes from being elite over the long haul. They are that. They are deserving. These are our Reds. The treble chasing Reds who will parade through the streets of Liverpool waiving shiny objects in a matter of days. How many shiny objects will they have with them? Who knows? But we close the loop, we complete the cycle.
Whatever comes after that can wait. For this week, we salute them as the Champions they are, and celebrate their successes for what they are. Dreams tossed and blown, hold your head up high. These kings have one more battle to win before their coronation.