As the 2017-2018 Premier League season comes to an end for Liverpool with a top 4 spot guaranteed, Mohamed Salah setting new scoring records and a Champions League final awaiting, it’s a good opportunity to review the club’s main priorities for the coming months, including that match at the end of May against Real Madrid.
1. Build a Contender
Jurgen Klopp has managed to put Liverpool in the top 4 twice in a row, something Brendan Rodgers failed to do. Something that hasn’t been done with the Reds since 2008 & 2009, when Rafa Benitez was still in charge, and the players under his command were Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso. Klopp’s top tier players aren’t far behind that trio in quality; who knows, perhaps they surpass it. But even without Manchester City’s historic form for most of the season, Liverpool were a step behind what is required from a championship contender.
In terms of depth, in terms of defensive consistency, in terms of winning some big matches (failed to beat Chelsea and Manchester United this season) and in terms of adding some variation to the front three. The midfield is getting a new face in Naby Keita, but Liverpool need another front three player that isn’t Dominic Solanke (still too raw it seems) or Danny Ings (probably will never be enough). Adam Lallana might finally be fit and ready to return to his form from 2016-2017, but Liverpool can’t 100% rely on that. A deep run in the Premier League with title hopes still alive in April requires more.
2. Hold on to Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino
Pretty simple. After each of Liverpool’s strongest seasons in the last 10 years or so, they were forced to give up key players. Xabi Alonso left after 2008-2009 to Real Madrid, and Liverpool never recovered until Luis Suarez hit his peak form. When that was over, he was sold to Barcelona. Yes, Liverpool bounced back once Klopp took over fully from Rodgers, but this season the club sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in the middle of the season – not exactly something a massive club does.
The Coutinho deal right now doesn’t seem like a bad one – huge cash injection without losing anything on the pitch, for now. If Liverpool don’t beat Real Madrid, questions will be risen, do not doubt it, about what Coutinho would have done differently.
Salah is the big name with Real Madrid being mentioned, but Firmino, even without breaking records, has been just as instrumental to Liverpool’s success this season. Liverpool need to hold on to all of their key players, but these two are above everything else. Not just in terms of building upon success for the year or years to come, but to show Liverpool are finally evolving from a high-tier feeder club to truly one of the big boys again.
3. Win the Champions League
Surprised this is only number 3 on the list? Dial it back to 2005, with Liverpool coming off their stunning final against AC Milan, winning the club’s 5th European Cup trophy despite finishing just 5th in the league and going down 3-0 at half time. Did this advance Liverpool as a club? Not by as much as you’d think. A club’s true worth is shown with consistency in the league and the ability to compete successfully on both fronts, not random wins or long runs in European competitions. Yes, Liverpool can add to its incredible lore by beating Real Madrid in Kiev, and it would turn this season from pleasing to historic, but the way to advance the club forward has more to do with consecutive Champions League appearances, deep-season title runs and finally, ending the championship drought which is now past 28 years.