Taking The Objective View

12th April 2018

What a week for LFC. What a week to be a Red.

Not only did Liverpool secure a Champions League semi-final place but they did so with a win at The Ethiad. The psychological impact of that win, as opposed to a 2-0 defeat, is huge. While qualifying in any way was the most important thing, going through narrowly after a loss in the second leg would have left some lingering doubts.
Now there can be no doubt that Jürgen Klopp, who has been telling everyone that “Citeh” are the best team in Europe, possibly the world, will be drumming in the message that in 2018 Liverpool’s record against the “World Champions” is P3 W3 F9 A4!
It occurred to me after recording last month’s overview show that we all need a bit of perspective to fully appreciate how good these Reds are at the moment. I think I’ve found a way to do this. It’s all about seeding, hear me out.
This time last year I was saying to anyone who would listen it’s about the top 3, not top 4. The fact that Liverpool could only finish 4th meant they had to pre-qualify for the CL group stages. Through the summer most Reds knew that qualification was essential to maintain the momentum, the impact of dropping back into the Europa League would have been huge and would have taken all Klopp’s powers of motivation to get the players and supporters back up. On August 23rd we all would have taken getting to the group stages as a fulfilment of our ambitions.
Thankfully that didn’t happen. So let’s collectively take our minds back to early September, after the group draw, but before a ball was kicked. And let’s pretend there is a seeding announcement as follows:
1-4 semi-finalists
5-8 losing quarter finalists
9-16 qualifiers from the groups but do not make the quarterfinals.
Where would you have put Liverpool at that point?
Before you answer let’s consider the teams that were in the competition at this stage and considered good bets to get out of their respective groups. In addition to the other 4 English teams, you had; Barca, Real and Athletico Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munch, Dortmund, Roma, Leipzig and Sevilla. All with significant recent European pedigree.
My view was that getting out of the group was a pre-requisite and winning the first knock out stage to get to the quarterfinals would be par. So I’d have seeded Liverpool between 5 and 8.
If you assume that Real, Barca and Bayern take 3 of the top 4 seeds and City the fourth, that puts Liverpool in a scrap with PSG, Athletico, Spurs, United, Roma and Seville for the next 4 seeds.
I appreciate it is difficult to be objective and look back 7 months given all that we now know but I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that getting to the quarters is a hell of an achievement and anything beyond a massive bonus.
The achievement of reaching the semi-final will place Liverpool higher in any such seeding exercise next season, will raise expectations and increase pressure but on the other hand will attract top calibre players to Anfield. It’s not that long ago that we were bemoaning having to compete against the likes of Arsenal and Spurs who could offer Champions League football which we couldn’t.
So, while we all anticipate the semi-finals and hopefully a final, let’s remember what Klopp has achieved this season.