With a 4-2 aggregate win over Villarreal, Liverpool have reached the Champions League final, important in a season where they’ve already won two. For Liverpool, the appeal of making history edges closer byeach victory and now they are in a pole position to win a quadruple of trophies. In layman’s terms, it’s astonishing. The Carabao Cup and FA Cup are already theirs after beating Chelsea via penalties at Wembley, and they’re also wired in Premier League title fight against Manchester City, whose one advantage is having less games. Liverpool have the greatest achievement in English football within their grasp and they will not easily let that pass by.
What is stopping Liverpool? Their stories rivals wilted to them in defeat thanks to the whims of Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz, more on them later, during a week when they reached the FA Cup final by besting Man City 3-2, and even deepened Everton’s worries of relegation with a 2-0 victory. Besides dropping points to a resurgent Spurs team last weekend, it’s been smooth sailing for Liverpool, whose fans must be pinching themselves.
Still, all this evangelical praise of a historic season, which would surpass the achievement of Man United’s 1998-99 treble, could easily collapse in just a few games. Their fate is in their hands to either make history or to deteriorate their season into one of disappointment. While the club are in a privileged position, one even the pinnacle of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squads couldn’t materialize in May, their season has already provided memories aplenty. If they can’t catch a Man City team who have caught fire following another Champions League collapse, if they stumble in the FA Cup to a Chelsea team renowned for cup success under Thomas Tuchel, and if they fall to a Real Madrid team who’ve swatted away elite opposition en route to the Champions League final with a tenacious game-lasting grit, supporters would still view 2021-22 with a bittersweet flavor.
Add Diogo Jota to the above image, and you have arguably one of football’s most potent attacking forces. Then throw Luis Diaz into the mix, and that becomes a matter of fact – all bear their own strengths, bringing different elements in to make Jurgen Klopp’s signature gegenpress style click in various combinations. It is daunting to consider the variety of ways Liverpool can pick apart their opposition. In the heat of a derby match, where both teams have determined missions at either ends of the Premier League table, the club can rely on Divock Origi as their timely talisman, scoring the winner in the latest Merseyside clash, ensuring Everton remain stuck in the abyss of relegation fear.
Salah, though on a drier run since January with three goals in 15 games, has the pace and pressure to be an unstoppable force at right wing when he turns the afterburners on. Just view Salah’s goals at Old Trafford, where he played a part in trouncing Man United 5-0, and the Egyptian made a mockery of their defensive line, darting behind it with the feet of a a feline and kick of a tiger. On his opposite flank, Sadio Mane has hit fierce form at the most ideal stage of the season, with all matches now their own cup finals, but Mane has seemed to relish the intensity factor and incorporate it into his stride. While the stats do all the talking for him, Mane exudes the swagger of a player aware of the fact he’s the hottest player currently in the Liverpool squad.
I’ll mention Roberto Firmino, who has been at the epicentre of Liverpool’s attack and constantly subject to criticisms that his numbers aren’t good enough when compared with his offensive counterparts. There is some truth behind Firmino’s figures which on the surface fall flat, with his output (5G/3A in 2021-22) not hitting anywhere near the standards of the duo he’s sandwiched between. What Firmino consistently provides Liverpool is reliability, a reliability with his shots that most strikers wouldn’t scratch, is markedly undervalued – just see how he capitalized on a lapse in concentration by Benfica, which in the Champions League quarter finals, could’ve been easily swatted away. In a world of Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Gavi and Vlahovic among others, the role that utility players like Firmino play for the biggest clubs has never been more understated than now, quietly fulfilling their role which may not reap much reward in goals, but still fundamental to the squad.
Still, fan frustration is understandable. When your domestic rival is Manchester City, it can get demoralising. To perform so well for so long, yet still not be assured of the league title is indicative how far both clubs have pushed each other since 2017, but now we are starting to see the bulking financial difference between them. Liverpool face the sobering thought of another 90-point season which doesn’t end with silverware, and even if they can claw back a three-point deficit to Man City, the latter have just signed Erling Haaland, so really, even if the likelier scenario of a fourth title in five years occurs for Pep Guardiola’s team, they’ll still be ridiculously strong heading into the next campaign. With each year that passes, their desperation to win the Champions League becomes more evident in their transfer spending, now more erratic in scrambling together a super squad than before where they made signings that weren’t cheap, but weren’t widely predicted. Haaland joining City was rumored for months, and the narrative strung along since his £51.2m release clause was activated by City is the that they are the perennial villains of modern English football; now, they’re more disliked than ever.
Most neutrals view Liverpool’s quadruple hopes as the compelling story. Not because they get a romantic glint in their eye when they see Anfield, but because Man City’s domestic dominance under Guardiola has run its course. Before it was impressive, when they reached 100 points and swept every domestic trophy, plaudits were given, but now any interest in them has faded. Whilst there is an over abundance of the anti-City agenda, particular targeted to all fans as if they’re all fair-weather supporters, seeing the differing net spend between them and Liverpool makes it clear what separates them principally. With the money City boast, their transfer tactic has devolved from strategically surveying the market to now throwing offers at the biggest names available, with the £100m deal for Jack Grealish being a prime example. They’ve become complacent with their cash, and you can argue this is from Guardiola gradually assembling his team, getting all the pieces he wanted, and three Premier League titles later, he’s done that. Now, City’s only upgrades possible are statement signings. Grealish was that, yet many say he hasn’t not lived up to his billing, with some claiming he’s not even the best player to come from Birmingham, giving that praise towards Jude Bellingham.
Compare that with Liverpool, a team who’ve spent less but reaped greater reward from their transfers, doing so ever since Klopp came through the door. assisted by Ian Graham, their director of football, the Reds have become notably adept at buying in the right players, ones who often surpass their predecessors. “We have to make sure with the analytics that the player is as good a we think,” Graham explained. “We have to extract his worst games so we can show that this is the worst level he’s at.”
It is an assessment which draws together many results, whittled down by scouts see which targets match best with the team’s style. It’s a deceptively complex process, one that helped Liverpool sign Virgil Van Dijk. It helped sign Allison, Sadio Mane, Fabinho, Thiago, Robertson, and Salah. Not all of Klopp’s 25 signings settled in at Anfield, but it’s to his credit that he has helmed the club’s most successful era in modern with some of the most astute transfers ever put to penned-in-contracts.
Sunday beckons, as they host Wolves in another fixture where three points is required to win the league, but it will be the concurrent match 35 miles east of Liverpool which will determine whether they regain the Premier League, as leaders Man City host Aston Villa. Get through all that, ideally with a second league title in three years, and there’s the small matter of a Champions League final rematch against Real Madrid on May 28th, where Liverpool will be desperate to exact revenge on Real Madrid after their 2018 loss and ultimately win a seventh European trophy, sealing off 2021-22 as one of the greatest footballing seasons ever witnessed.
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