Firstly, I would like to congratulate Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and his players for their first ever Premier League title for the club. It has been a long await title and many fans have waited too long for this to happen. However, their EPL glory is shaped by a few factors that will be further delved into. Liverpool’s impressive record this season is not a fluke and they were unlucky to not to have won the title last season but credits to Manchester City. The Sky Blues’ title charge last season was a mark of a true champion retaining their title. This season, however, was quite abysmal by their standards.
Change from Within
On the 15th October 2010, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had purchased Liverpool, who had finished a paltry 7th place in the 09/10 EPL season. The club was mired in debt and were only a day away from going into administration before FSG bought the club, revealed former Liverpool FC managing director Christian Purslow. Liverpool were tipped to be the next Leeds United as the Reds would have to sell their players to clear their debt and would have suffered a 12 point deduction. At that point in the season, Liverpool were still in Matchweek 7, garnering 6 points from 7 games and were languishing in 18th position in the league table. This was one of the lowest points of the club’s history. Nevertheless, an unlikely saviour came in the form of John W Henry, FSG’s principal owner.
The FSG purchase of Liverpool was the most crucial part of Liverpool’s road to being a footballing powerhouse again. The group was integral in raising commercial revenue, broadcasting revenue and matchday income. Moreover, they have increased Anfield’s seat capacity and made enhancements to the stadium which has also attracted more sponsors and become a place to hold other events. The group has also focused on partnering with companies around the world to increase the club’s presence and image globally. On top of that, the group had laid a foundation and a system that, in a way, goes against the trend of clubs buying their way to footballing success.
Mike Gordon was also important in getting Liverpool out of turmoil when he became FSG president and was in charge of decision-making at Anfield. He is said to be “most directly responsible for the day-to-day activities” of the club and had identified Jurgen Klopp as Brenden Rodgers’ successor. Gordon felt that Klopp was more suited for FSG’s system because the latter had worked with a sporting director in Germany for most of his time in management. This was crucial because Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s sporting director, was a vital figure in leading Liverpool’s transfer committee. Edwards had led the reformed and data-led recruitment with Gordon and Klopp all having important input in the players that they target.
An example of better recruitment strategy could be seen in Nabil Fekir’s medical with Liverpool. I have rarely heard of players failing medicals and this one came as a surprise because the deal collapsed at the last minute. Although there were some controversies surrounding the authenticity of Fekir’s vulnerable knee (which caused him to “fail” his medical), it also proved to show that the club knows what kind of player they want and who fits into the ethos of the club. This means that players who do not meet the expectations of the Liverpool team can and will be sold or not signed at the last minute. The clear structure and communication among the hierarchies have been essential to Liverpool’s rise to glory. The system works and have seen the Reds turn into a powerhouse in Europe. This is in contrast with teams like Manchester United as they have been struggling to string together good signings after the retirement of David Gill. Liverpool’s model could be the solution to many clubs’ woes.
From Raw Potential to Title Winners
The days of selling Luis Suarez and buying Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, Alberto Moreno and Lazar Markovic are long gone. Gordon’s mistakes in his early career at The Kop has seemed to transform Liverpool’s transfer strategy. Klopp has managed to turn raw potential into world beaters. The signing of their front three, Firmino, Salah and Mane have all drastically improved since arriving in Anfield. FSG’s early Liverpool side are a far cry from the current team which boasts quality in almost every position.
Klopp’s style of play has also changed from when he first managed Liverpool till now. His earlier Liverpool side were reminiscent of his Dortmund team. Relentless pressing and attacking with high energy and intensity. His current Liverpool side still presses high and with energy but they also have more control of the game. The Reds impose themselves on the game and have come out on top on every department which is why they have been able to win most of their games this season.
Turning Points in the Season
At the point of writing this article, Liverpool had only lost two games. One against Watford and the other against Manchester City. They had been on an impressive 44-game unbeaten run in the Premier League that started after their loss against City on 3 January 2019. Only Watford, before the break in the season, has managed to garner three points against Liverpool. This season was rather disappointing as no team really managed to challenge Liverpool. Even Leicester City’s impressive form at the start of the season could not be sustained as no team has managed to mount a surmountable challenge to the champions. It was very clear from the earlier part of the season that this year could really be Liverpool’s year.
A Season of Rebuilding
On the other hand, I have a theory that Liverpool’s success could be down to having no close challengers. I know, obviously. But let’s unbox this a little further. Last season saw Liverpool leading the table with a 10-point gap from Man City but the Reds never managed to recover from the defeat at the Etihad stadium on 3rd January 2019. It seemed as though the Liverpool side are not able to keep their lead on the EPL table as Man City was putting pressure on them. Therefore, Liverpool are doing well this season because there is no one there to challenge them.
Despite the successful Premier League season that Liverpool are having, they have been lucky in terms of the quality of the league. Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs and Arsenal have all lacked the quality to put up a challenge to Liverpool’s imposing team. Even in the clash of the titans match, Liverpool won at Anfield against a strong Man City team.
A good indicator of the dip in quality of the EPL this season would be seeing The Kop struggling to defend their European crown. Although it must be acknowledged that Real Madrid are the only team to defend their UEFA Champions League cup twice. Liverpool’s overall performance in the Champions League have not been convincing either. Their narrow win against Red Bull Salzburg, losses to Napoli and PSG in the group stages and their eventual crashing out against Atletico Madrid have shown that the Reds are beatable.
What else for Liverpool to Conquer?
The true mark of a champion would be to effectively defend their crown. In this case, Liverpool can cement themselves into Premier League folklore if they are able to defend their title in the 20/21 season. The Reds have the potential to win more than one trophy next season should their scintillating form continues.
I understand Klopp’s desire to rotate and rest his first team but somehow it also seems that he did not care for the FA Cup and League Cup this season by fielding a fairly weak side against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Aston Villa in the League Cup. It may be a show of faith in Liverpool’s youth but it could also mean Klopp prioritising the Premier League and Champions League. However, after their first title win in 30 years, I want this Liverpool side to push themselves by retaining their title and go above and beyond in more than one competition. A league title and FA Cup double, three Premier League titles in a row (in which no other team in the EPL era has done other than Manchester United) or even a Champions League and Premier League double could cement this Liverpool side as a legendary team.
Shelf-life of the Team
Every football team has its cycle of successes and downs and this is attributed to the shelf-life of the team. Once a group of players reach a certain age, they tend to decline in terms of their football quality. The average age of this Liverpool’s starting XI is 26.7 years old but the core of the team’s age ranges from 26-29 years old. These are the prime years of the team and could see a decline in superiority if Klopp does not continue to add more quality younger players into his side. However, this speculation can be quelled when players are replaced well and Klopp has done a great job of identifying talent.
To end off, Liverpool’s wait for Premier League glory was due to a myriad of factors and most important of all came from within the club. By changing how things used to work, the Liverpool name has become one to fear again in England and in Europe. The Reds did the hard work early in FSG’s acquisition of the club and had weathered bad days but their faith in the system and manager has reaped benefits as they are now Premier League champions again.