Liverpool have now got everything in place to succeed, they just need to become winners.
Jurgen Klopp has turned the first team into an inspired group of players eager to impress, to express themselves and most importantly, succeed.
Liverpool have not had a team bursting with so much talent since the side under Rafa Benitez in 2008 that mounted a similarly impressive early title challenge. Javier Macherano, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard (in his prime,) Jamie Carragher, Pepe Reina; they were a group of outstanding talent. They never did get over the final hurdle though and Liverpool are the only club in recent times not to have won the Premier League despite being top of the table at Christmas. It’s a daunting statistic and it could be the one thing stopping this current crop of talented players.
Only James Milner knows what it takes to win the Premier League in this team. Not even the manager, the sublime Jurgen Klopp, knows what it takes to win a league title in England. Some of the best players of this generation have come to Liverpool with ambitions of achieving the feat but have failed. Luis Suarez couldn’t push the Reds in 2014, Gerrard couldn’t do it in 2008 but can Klopp do it this year?
Liverpool have the enthusiastic manager; one with revolutionary ideas and charisma. They have youth in abundance and the emergence of Ovie Ejaria, Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold has been one of the brightest sights this season. A crop of talented academy stars are being given an opportunity and they are taking it, showing passion, excitement and innocence. It’s been refreshing. Klopp has the full backing of the board too – his summer transfer business demonstrated that. There’s also a group of leaders evolving and Jordan Henderson seems to be growing with maturity every week. As well as a top manager, financial backing and an exciting group of future stars, Liverpool already have quality in the side. Philippe Coutinho is arguably the best number 10 in the country, Roberto Firmino is his side-kick and Joel Matip looks to be one of the best centre-back buys in the league.
But the one thing missing, that stands out like a sore thumb, is the serious lack of winning experience in the side.
Milner has won two Premier League titles with Manchester City but only a handful of other players have won domestic leagues and none with a major club. Some have only experienced a domestic Wembley final once, while many more have yet to experience success in Europe, whether that be in the Europa League or the Champions League.
It takes more than talent to win the Premier League – Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team proved that in his final season. They were an ageing bunch of players and were not the best squad in the league – far from it. But they knew what it took to win a league title and with Ferguson’s guidance, they were able to maraud their way through the campaign.
This season Liverpool appear to be challenging for the title but it should not be a disappointment if they don’t succeed. They are a team in transition and they should only go upwards with the resources all in place. The only thing that remains is gaining experience. The Europa League final loss to Seville last season would have been an excellent lesson learned. It may take a few more defeats too before the Liverpool players know what it takes to win the league. A top four finish should be the ultimate aim this season. Liverpool cannot consider themselves back in the heights until they can manage regular European football as well as a successful league campaign. There is no good reaching these levels, or getting into the top competitions if you can’t compete.
Liverpool are taking steps, the right ones, but they also need to be careful not to expect to take leaps. Patience is the key and then experience should be the final jigsaw piece in the puzzle.