Jurgen Klopp believes this is merely Liverpool’s first attempt at winning the Premier League title but he must buck a trend for that to be true.
“We don’t only play to be champions,” he said, reports the Guardian.
“Yes, it’s a main target, and this team is pretty close, but this will be the first time, not the last time.
“We have to carry on and we will carry on but only one team can be champion.”
Klopp’s confidence is admirable but not every Liverpool fan will share it. They have, after all, seen the team fall away after their previous three title challenges.
Gerard Houllier said Liverpool were ‘ten games from greatness’ in 2002 and finished 2nd. They finished 5th the following year. Rafa Benitez was close in 2009 but 2010 was a disaster and cost him his job.
Then Brendan Rodgers, too, came agonisingly near before a very poor follow-up season.
Klopp will have to do what none of those could, then, should Liverpool not deliver the title. There are mistakes he can avoid, though.
A truly terrible transfer window upset Houllier’s side. Liverpool’s big signings were Bruno Cheyrou, El Hadji Diouf, and Salif Diao. If anything, those signings moved the club backwards.
The latter two sides were undone by key players moving on. Benitez lost Xabi Alonso and struggled to replace him, while Rodgers faced an impossible task in replacing the incomparable Luis Suarez.
But these are tests that Klopp shouldn’t face. Two players are fundamental and nigh-on impossible to replace – Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino. There is zero worry about either of those leaving, however.
Nor should anyone worry about an awful transfer window unsettling things. Liverpool’s recruitment has been exemplary under Klopp and should continue that way.
The biggest worry is that the team can’t recover after crippling disappointment. They’ve put in one of the greatest Premier League seasons ever – one of English football’s ever – and yet may finish second.
Rebounding from that won’t be a simple task. If Klopp can handle that, Liverpool can buck their title trend.