Where do you go from a 63-game season where we nearly won the lot?
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool continues to find ways to surprise and amaze us in equal measure, and although it didn’t quite get the fairy-tale ending it deserved, 2021/22 will live long in the memory as perhaps the greatest journey this club has taken us on.
Unfortunately, the way they have chosen to surprise us this time around is by opening with two draws, dropping four points behind Manchester City before we’ve had a chance to catch our breath.
A frustrating performance at Craven Cottage was followed up by a spirited but ultimately insufficient showing against Crystal Palace and leaves us with an awful lot to do at a very early stage.
Liverpool has however shown us their ability, on numerous occasions, to thrive in jeopardy. Two draws at the beginning of a season should not signal the end of the world, but in a universe where a state-owned Manchester City exists and 90+ is an expectation rather than an accomplishment, it can certainly feel that way.
Setting Aside the Start
What can realistically be considered a triumphant season? The one missing ingredient from an otherwise perfect 2021/22 was one of the “big two” pots. The players deserved it. The reality is those are the two most difficult to win, not just for English clubs but in football.
Liverpool was the greatest side on the planet last season and still fell agonizingly short on both fronts. You can make the argument that a team and a club as great as Liverpool need to be putting one of those on the board to class it as a successful campaign, but how can anybody really argue that a season which saw Liverpool play in every single fathomable club game and walk away with multiple trophies be deemed a failure?
There is a famous Bill Shankly quote that reads “first is first, second is nowhere”, which would suggest that the great man would’ve dismissed the shortcomings in the league and Europe as irrelevant, despite the heroics it took to get so close.
Before the famous 4-0 win over Barcelona in 2019, Jurgen Klopp said “If we can do it, wonderful. If not, then fail in the most beautiful way”.
On the face of it, those two quotes sound contradictory. It is difficult though to envisage Bill Shankly watching that side reach three finals and hit 92 points without a smile on his face.
There are a lot of parallels to be drawn from what Klopp said to the culmination of 2021/22. Yes we weren’t able to quite get over the line in the big two and the manner with which we fell short was heartbreaking, but I’d much rather have the memories that came with getting so far than finishing 4th and crashing out in the group stages of the Champions League.
And What of the Domestic Cups?
Have the glorious runs to Wembley heightened the appetite for further triumphs in years to come, after such a prolonged period without them, or does it sharpen the focus on the two which matter most?
It is inconceivable that there were conversations surrounding the parade that it might be a bit of a damp squib, or that there should even be one altogether. In any ordinary season, a cup double would be welcomed back into the city and the players rightly heralded as heroes. Why should that not be the case just because we were good enough to “only” finish second in the other two?
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Looking ahead, if Liverpool can get back to something approaching their best I am hopeful that we can be competitive on all four fronts once more. They’ve given us no reason to believe that can’t be the case and if anything has set the standard for what is possible. They have shown us what a quadruple chase looks like, and they looked at the business whilst doing so.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be some ride. Jurgen Klopp continues to take us to new heights and has recently agreed to a contract extension until 2026 we have lots more of these times to look forward to. It will twist and it will turn and it is for precisely that reason why we love it so much.
You literally cannot win them all, but this Liverpool side will certainly give it a good go.