Doom, gloom and disappointment, one can never forget the heartache of a loss in a final. For a team that has been groping in the dark for long now, Liverpool have met with occasional promises of success over the past 10 years now.
Losing out at the final steps of a long journey is not new to a club like Liverpool. Athens in 2007 was perhaps the greatest of these journeys that ended in nothingness. So too perhaps was the second placed league finish in 2001-2002 under Gerard Houllier and Phil Thompson, in 2007-2008 under Rafa Benitez and more recently in 2012-13 under Brendan Rodgers.
On each of these occasions but one, Liverpool have spent the next season in utter chaos, slipping (pardon the pun) from their mantle instead of standing good on the promise to galvanize their efforts the next season towards success. So, why should Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool succeed next season when the likes of Houllier, Benitez and Rodgers failed?
Let’s try and figure it out as opposed to just claiming it.
Europa League Loss is a Reality Check
Now that the cloud of heartbreak across Liverpool may finally be dissipating, those left in the dark as to Liverpool’s condition on the pitch may have a better view of things. It is difficult to criticize a team you so dearly love and even more so difficult to do so when your team is winning. However, if there is anything that Jurgen Klopp’s (so far) short tenure at the Merseyside club has taught us all, is that there is yet more work to be done at Liverpool. The murky days are yet to pass. You could see the same thought in Klopp’s eyes as he fielded the media after the game.
Let’s face it. There was plenty of proof all around all this while that Liverpool needed more than just an arm around the shoulder and some tactical reshuffling to get things in place. The problem is, Jurgen Klopp could have been guilty of underestimating the task at hand when he so gladly took over the reigns at the fallen club.
Who would blame him? His reinvigoration of the famous Anfield atmosphere had us all believing. We were doubters before and belief blinded even our better judgment. The likes of Lovren, Moreno, Can, Milner, Firmino, Lallana, and for a while even Mignolet seemed to be redeeming themselves, setting them selves up for the long haul at Merseyside.
Alas! Even a team that overpowers a free flowing Borrussia Dortmund has its share of fallacies. Jurgen Klopp’s sweeping comments in the media about how the quality of the players was always known to him, now look premature as their quality is now going to be scrutinized with the keenness of a woodpecker looking to tear into the best piece of wood it can find. There are going to be some obvious questions raised.
“When is Philipe Coutinho ever going to deliver a consistent season?”, “Why is Alberto Moreno the first choice and why do we not possess a better quality backup left back in the mix?”, “Why do Liverpool switch off so often, let alone in a European Cup Final” and “What will it take for us to win a trophy?” will be at the very top of a list which has been often put forward but never really fully answered.
Liverpool will now take a realistic view at the transfer window
Had Pool won the Europa League and by extension progressed into the Champions League, they would have done so with a sense of false confidence in the likes of Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and even Emre Can. False confidence, which would have led on towards potential embarrassment had a strong group decided to grace the crowd with their presence at Anfield next season.
Imagine going through the summer without getting upgrades on Alberto Moreno now, or Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet and Adam Lallana. Imagine us going through a summer now without preparing for the eventuality that neither Can nor Coutinho would achieve what is asked of them.
Had Liverpool won the Europa League Final, the truth is, the club and fans may have accepted the above outcomes on the back of success that has been achieved, without addressing the underlying issues. Not that any doubts are being raised over the ability of Jurgen Klopp and his staff, or to their ability to recognize a problem and address it, but with greater fan interest in these ‘issues’ and with the owners having witnessed the dismantling of their assembled side against a quality Sevilla side, the focus will be strong on these matters, and Jurgen will need to think through all of these matters more urgently.
A little bit of fear is oft a good thing, for it tells you which risks are worth taking. A loss is a good way of making the weight of the risk of going into next season with minor changes heavier and hence more damning.
Liverpool Players Have Some Growing Up to Do
Jurgen Klopp’s record in finals could well be the elephant in the room, but the truth remains that his young side gave a poor account of themselves across two finals. The drive and energy may have been present in this really young side but the calm, discipline and ability to respond to pressure wasn’t.
Emre Can was running on empty in the second half. Alberto Moreno was nutmegged once en route to the equalizer and he went on to make more mistakes thereon. The Liverpool team lost its shape after the leveler, and Dejan Lovren let the decisions, going against him from the referee, mess his focus up.
Philipe Coutinho dropped his shoulders and this time not to dribble past his opponents, while Roberto Firmino looked on haplessly after 45 minutes of ruthless aggression. These players seemed to know only one way of looking at a game of this magnitude, with relentless aggression.
It becomes a problem when their aggression is met with equally indomitable spirit on the other side. These are the moments when you need to be clever. Emre Can should’ve managed his game better. He was out for 3 weeks with Ankle Ligament damage and without match conditioning, he would’ve never lasted a whole 90 with his mind and body willing equally, and he didn’t. Alberto Moreno should’ve been less on the front foot while defending and needed to stop trying too hard on an emotional night and kept the basics clear instead. Dejan Lovren should’ve known the value of patience in a game when decisions are not going your way. Firmino and Coutinho could’ve dropped deeper to build the ball out of midfield when they were in possession instead of trying to race out of the blocks on repossession.
These are the values of an experienced player, a mature one. These are values that require the ability to survive a rough phase in the game, not necessarily responding with vigor, but calm. These are values Kolo Toure showed for the best part of the game, and had the rest followed suit, the result could’ve been a different one. Most importantly, these are values that Klopp understands are necessary.
Jurgen Klopp took his entire Mainz team to an Island in Sweden Lake quite famously to live without electricity and ready-made food in order to make men out of the boys he was training. The team, newly promoted to the Bundesliga that season finished the season 11th in the table when most would’ve primed them for relegation.
While perhaps an outing as outlandish may not be necessary, but the same ideal needs to be imprinted into their minds. The boys need to grow into men.
Jurgen Klopp is a Realist and Liverpool Will Reap the Benefits
Jurgen Klopp is reputed to have the mind of a realist who accepts the problems in a situation well enough to ruthlessly start fixing them. It is no accident but destiny that the problems of this young squad were made apparent on the night, and Klopp will have no doubt paid heed to them.
Klopp Summed it all up succinctly in the post game interview:.
The next steps will surely be taken with care and thoughtfulness so as to not fall a step short again. Had Liverpool won the game on Wednesday night, the chances are, a slight complacence could’ve caught them out. Jurgen Klopp is magnificent, but only human, and he would look back to realize later that the loss in the Final was destiny at play.
The last time Liverpool had no European football to bother them, most of this young squad with a few mature heads nearly achieved something special. Perhaps Jurgen Klopp can take the boys, turn them into men and take us the distance this time.