THERE’S nothing more I want than for Liverpool Football Club to win the Premier League.
Sure, world peace would be great and there are any number of political circumstances around the globe I wouldn’t mind being sort out in a manner I judge to be favourable, but if I found a lamp with a genie inside then I know exactly what my first wish would be. I think all supporters want the same thing.
The vast majority of arguments between Liverpool supporters come about because people have a different approach to broadly the same subject. Some people are furious that The Reds didn’t buy a centre-back in the summer, for example, while others aren’t sure that there were many out there that were significantly better than the current ones. Personally I believe the problem is to do with the system employed more than the personnel tasked with employing it.
I’m an eternal optimist. It’s the only way I can cope with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I didn’t see getting knocked out of the fourth most important competition as a major problem. As far as I’m concerned it means The Reds can concentrate fully on the league, given they will have more time between games. Other people are furious that The Reds’ “best chance at silverware”. After all, “Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies”. Either way, we all want the same thing, which is for The Reds to be successful. I believe, perhaps misguidedly, that the title isn’t gone after five games.
I think Jürgen Klopp believes that too. Anyone who supports Liverpool, regardless of age, will know that the pressure to win the title grows with each passing day. Older supporters have waited for nearly three decades to see The Reds be top-flight champions once more and they are losing patience. The idea of a “five-year plan” is not appealing. There is no gradual buildup, just the here and now. I agree with The Anfield Wrap’s Neil Atkinson that far too much changes in the course of five years for such a plan to be worth the paper it’s written on, yet I also don’t think it’s realistic to assume you can go from constantly finishing outside of the top four to lifting the title.
Of course this weekend’s opponents in the Premier League skew that opinion somewhat. Leicester City went from relegation fodder to title winners in little over 12 months. For some Liverpool fans that means it’s possible and The Reds should be challenging every year. But the thing is, so many variables had to fall into place for The Foxes to be champions. It’s easy to forget now that it’s happened, but they were 5000-1 to do what they did. That’s bookie speak for “impossible”. If you don’t believe me, here are some things that bookmakers thought more realistic than Leicester winning the league:
- Simon Cowell becoming Prime Minister (500-1)
- The Queen having a Christmas Number One (1000-1)
- Kim Kardashian to become US President (2000-1)
- Elvis Presley to be discovered alive and well (2000-1)
- Piers Morgan managing Arsenal (2500-1)
Bookies thought it more likely that Elvis, who was found dead and certified to be so by a doctor and who would have been 81 in 2016, could be alive than Leicester would win the Premier League. In fact, they thought that it was more than twice as likely. We can dismiss it all we want, but The Foxes did the near impossible when they won the title and they managed it because so many things worked out for them; they had that little bit of luck that has so far eluded Liverpool in their search to end the drought.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people being impatient for a title. As I said at the start, I want nothing more than for that to happen, I’m desperate to see it. Yet the manager has been in his job for less than two years. Now that Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard have both retired, there are no players in the squad who feel the burden of not having won the league for so long. The only reason that they will feel that burden is if we put it on them. As supporters, we are responsible for creating the atmosphere in the ground, for better or worse. At the moment it seems to be for the worse, with every misplaced pass receiving moans and groans.
I understand why, I’ve done it myself. I’m not trying to act all high and mighty. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to support the team, but it does no good to be consistently negative. There’s a reason that the manager keeps referencing the atmosphere. Positivity can help, negativity doesn’t.
The absolute worst thing for a title challenge is complacency. The Liverpool players simply cannot afford to go into any game presuming that they’ll win just because of the opposition. Yet as supporters we seem to think we can. The Anfield Wrap’s Andy Heaton made the observation the other day that the last 10 minutes against Burnley was a totally different atmosphere than it would be against Borussia Dortmund or Barcelona. Where, in similar circumstances, there would have been hope and encouragement for the latter teams, we saw anger and fatalism instead. That won’t help the team win a match, let alone a league title. Burnley beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and took a point off Spurs at Wembley, but the Anfield crowd reacted as if watching a draw against a non-league team.
I understand that the league is there to be won now, not in five years. I’m as bored of the wait as anyone. But I think Klopp sees this as a project that needs to be taken steadily. I think he is viewing the defensive issues as something that can be sorted eventually, perhaps in January if Southampton are willing to sell Virgil van Dijk. You might think he’s wrong — plenty of people do — and he’s absolutely not above being criticised. But ultimately what does that criticism do, other than make us feel better? It’s giving the press a narrative, letting the tabloids run stories of Liverpool as a club in crisis and seeing some so-called “fans” calling for the manager’s head.
Impatience is entirely understandable and some of the manager’s decisions are frustrating to say the least. Yet when all’s said and done we’re also watching some genuinely thrilling football. This isn’t Roy Hodgson level of dirge that we’re having to put up with. We all think Liverpool Football Club is one of the biggest and best sides in the world and, to an extent, we’d be right. But one League Cup in 11 years suggests that the club has fallen a lot further than some supporters are willing to admit. Getting back to the top of the pile, competing regularly for league titles and other silverware, takes time. The Reds on the right path, but we all need to accept it isn’t linear.
Neither the manager nor his players feel the burden of not having won the league for nearly 30 years. Perhaps they’d be better placed to do so if we didn’t keep reminding them.