It’s hard to find a club like Liverpool: It’s been 26 years since their last championship, yet it remains one of the biggest names in the sport of football not just in England but all over the world. I doubt there’s another club that could go this long with a league title and remain so massively supported.
Lets throw it out there: The only thing that differentiates Manchester United from Liverpool was Alex Ferguson. He had the luck and the ownership patience to survive a through rough seasons, and capitalize, along with some smart people in the board room, of the Premier League’s financial rise. The on field success along with the globalization of the game turned the Red Devils into the hottest thing around, while Liverpool, be it the Hillsborough demons haunting them or simply making wrong decision after wrong one, sunk into mediocrity.
It’s hard to say Liverpool has done nothing since their last league title in 1990. There were the fun Roy Evans teams in the mid 90’s, preparing the rise of Michael Owen. The 2001 season with the cup-treble, the 2002 second place finish, and of course, the Benitez years, which included the 2005 Champions League title, the 2007 Champions League final, and their 2008-2009 season, finishing second behind Manchester United. Liverpool lost only two matches that season, but too many home draws erased the impact of winning all four matches against Manchester United and Chelsea.
Then came some bad years, until the peak of Luis Suarez (at least at Anfield) and the last Steven Gerrard had in him. Liverpool made a stunning run for the title in 2014, until they slipped, figuratively and literally, on a Sunday afternoon at home against Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea bus. Liverpool finished second that season, but Brendan Rodgers’ credit ran out after a season and a bit, ushering the Jurgen Klopp era before 2015 was over.
Where does this leave us? Right now, Liverpool are 4th in the Premier League, playing exciting, frantic, lightning-in-a-bottle type football. They’ve scored more goals than anyone since Klopp arrived, but the thing fans are looking for the most is consistency, the good kind. Their wins at Chelsea and at home against a defensive Hull might suggest that Klopp and his team are figuring out how to score even without the space allowed by the more naive or unprepared of opponents.
Liverpool haven’t strung together consecutive top 4 seasons since 2009, and that’s the first on the agenda. But there’s more. Being able to compete financially is another part of completing the puzzle. The new TV deal should help, but with Liverpool not having the kind of owners willing to splash the cash like the big fish in the Premier League pool, it comes down to better tactics and pinpoint signings, which Klopp is hoping to provide. Remember, Klopp didn’t turn Dortmund into champions right away. It took him a couple of years to build the foundation.
Expanding Anfield is a step in the right direction to help the club realize it’s enormous financial potential, just as big as United’s. At some point though, the ceiling of top 4 and playing great football has to be broken and replaced with more than just contending for the major titles and participating in the Champions League. Replaced by winning championships, and contending for the UCL title. It might take them more than this and next season to get there, but Liverpool seem to be on the right path of returning to where this club and its fans have used to dwell in. For their sake, we’re hoping it doesn’t take too long, and that this time the trail doesn’t end abruptly, hitting a dead end.