Fan Diaries: Being (Cautiously) Optimistic about Liverpool’s Summer

2018 will go down as a history making year for Liverpool Football Club. In January, the sale of superstar midfielder Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona cast gloom and doom over whether the historic Merseyside Club could ever achieve its status among the European elite. Fenway Sports Group, the Boston based owners of the club, had another big name pried from their grasp, just like Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez in years prior, and it seemed as if the second half of the 2017/18 season would be smeared in doubt once more. Coutinho’s sale proved to be the catalyst for the most compelling second half of a Liverpool season I’ve ever experienced as a fan. After signing defender Virgil Van Dijk for a club record 75 million pounds, The Reds kickstarted 2018 with a 4-3 victory over a then unbeaten Manchester City. Liverpool’s swaggering offensive style catapulted them to a date with two time defending European champions Real Madrid in the Champions League Final, the Red’s first appearance in this match since 2007. Following two catastrophic slip ups from Loris Karius and a Gareth Bale stunner, all of Liverpool’s momentum was crushed in ninety minutes. Despite this defeat, a general feeling of optimism still permeated throughout the Anfield faithful: Liverpool were back among the European elite.

Loris Karius gifting Karim Benzema the opening goal in the Champions League final. Image:

Although Liverpool’s 2017/18 campaign yielded fantastic results and a display of what manager Jurgen Klopp’s style looks like when he has most of the pieces he needs, I can’t help but feel a concerning amount of deja vu. Let’s rewind the clocks back to the end to the 2013/14 Premier League Season, the last time Liverpool came within inches of winning a major trophy. Under the tenure of now Celtic coach Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool demolished their competition with a high intensity offense and the highest goalscorer in the league: Luis Suarez. Liverpool were three matches away from a Premier League title, until a fatal mistake, or slip up, from Steven Gerrard ruined Liverpool’s momentum and relegated the promising Reds to second place.

Sound familiar?

Liverpool have the unfortunate tendency to always be the bridesmaid, never the bride. While clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea have been married to success in the era of big money football, Liverpool’s relationship to winning is that of a one night stand: it feels good but will never be anything substantial. After the dramatic heights of the 13/14 campaign the Anfield faithful were ecstatic about the possibility of being back in the champions league and their second place league position helping them to attract new signings. Although Luis Suarez departed the club for Barcelona, the club’s recent success and that second place dough were put to use. Liverpool welcomed Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, and Mario Balotelli. At time of writing, summer 2018, only two of these seven players, Lallana and Lovren, have nailed on spots in the squad while the rest have been cast out of the club on loan or permanent transfers, while Moreno has fallen out of favor under Klopp. The 2014/15 season, where Liverpool were expected to continue their bombast and offensive success from the previous campaign, was miserable. New players seemed slow to gel, while returning players couldn’t hit the heights of the previous season. Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League and bounced out of the Champions League in the group stages in their first season back in the competition.

Naby Keita will be a welcome addition to Jurgen Klopp’s dynamic midfield. Image:

This summer, after another season of offensive bombast and fanfare, Liverpool began their post World Cup preparations by signing Fabinho, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker. While there is more reason to be optimistic about the pedigree of these new signings, the worries surrounding squad chemistry from 14/15 still linger. How long will it take for Fabinho and Keita to become comfortable in a geigenpressing system and the physicality of the English game? Will Xherdan Shaqiri be happy coming off the bench, or be able to shake off the claims of “laziness” that were lobbed at him by former Stoke City teammates? Will Alisson thrive or crumble under the pressure of being the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, or will one simple mistake early in his Liverpool career condemn him to Karius levels of infamy? Will superstars Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino display any early fatigue from the World Cup which could dull their explosive edge from the end of last season? While fans should keep faith in Jurgen Klopp and his distinctive philosophy, history tends to follow Liverpool more than most clubs. Liverpool have flirted with success before, it’s about time Klopp and his men marry themselves to it.


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