Believe it or not, it was just over two months ago that Liverpool were sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League after a 7-0 demolition job at the expense of Crystal Palace. Since then, goals, wins, clean sheets and pretty much anything positive have come in desperate paucities for us. It goes without saying that retaining the title is out of the question. So what does remain in the question, and what can Klopp feasibly strive for to avoid flushing this campaign down the drain?
I think there’s a general consensus that securing a Champions League spot for next season has to be top of the list. FSG have already elucidated generously as to why Liverpool couldn’t afford proper squad replenishment in January, and on how the pandemic has hamstrung us financially. Being deprived of the CL’s prodigious TV rewards could rule out any marquee signings for the foreseeable future.
And of course, would any of Michael Edwards’ targets even be interested in joining a Europa League outfit? The annual whispers of Kylian Mbappe to Merseyside have surfaced again, but it’s hard to imagine the hottest property in Europe, who was playing in a CL final last year, downgrading willingly. The same is true of the likes of Erling Haaland and Dayot Upamecano.
And it’s for that reason that I feel shouts that Klopp should go all-out for a second Champions League crown in three seasons are ill-founded. Simply put, the Reds aren’t quite good enough. The Champions League has seen its fair share of dark horse victories in its relatively short life, with Chelsea in 2012, Inter in 2010 and of course Liverpool in 2005 coming to mind. But there is a certain amount of quality required to overcome teams as good as the Manchester Cities and Bayern Munichs of today. And it’s difficult to argue a team missing its captain and pretty much all its centre-backs fitting that bill.
I can’t help that the Champions League trophy is this season’s equivalent of the forbidden fruit to Liverpool’s Adam and Eve. It’s all too easy to see Klopp trying to stretch his paper-thin squad to accommodate challenges on multiple fronts, before yet another cruel intervention by the footballing gods.
As much as I’d love to be proven wrong and to see us clinch #7, pragmatism must take precedence during these uncertain times. There’s too much riding on a top four finish for us to allocate resources elsewhere- including Liverpool’s short-term and long-term future.