After supporting The Reds of Liverpool for over 40 years (yes, over 40 years), thanks to Jürgen Klopp, it’s refreshing to look forward to the start of a season with some expectation and actually be able to voice it.
Apart from instilling a culture of exciting football, he has built an incredible atmosphere of oneness and focus most importantly, the strong promising spine of Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Nabil Keita, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firminho and Mo Salah we can count on to deliver the trophies we have all silently craved.
Alisson directly fixes the goalkeeping problems since Pepe Reina, while VVD should keep improving our defense while Keita adds new dimensions to our play.
Last season Liverpool played 12 draws including 7 at home, converting those draws to wins must be a priority. Players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Fabinho should prove instrumental coming off Liverpool’s strengthened bench. (Yes I expect Henderson to start more games than most think).
If pre-season matches are anything to go by, our summer arrivals seem to have seamlessly settled into the brilliant team atmosphere Klopp has built so there’s little chance of internal disruption.
The penny has dropped. Liverpool fans have been long-suffering over the years and this season have greater expectations, Klopp and his men need to deliver. First and foremost, Liverpool Football Club need a domestic trophy. Apart from accelerating development, it’s indeed long overdue and is clearly the ‘next step’.
Secondly, although Man City remains the Premier League’s best and favourites to retain their title, Liverpool must contribute to disallowing them from cruising to it again by considerably closing up last season’s 25-point gap, be positioned (with the help of other teams) to challenge if City should terribly slip and finish top 2.
Furthermore, rivals Chelsea, Man Untied & Spurs don’t seem to have done enough during the off-season to strengthen while Arsenal appear to have a lot to make up.
Though our spine must consistently deliver top performances to achieve this, it’s the addition of Naby Keita I expect to tip the scales in our favour. If the Guinean gets going, he will add various dimensions to Liverpool all over the pitch in defending, providing unique creativity, opening spaces up for the front three and adding fire to our sometimes chilled belly. In addition, Sturridge’s preseason performances and attitude have been a breath of fresh air but I’m not holding my breath over his long-term fitness just yet.
Since Klopp arrived Anfield we’ve reached both European Cup Finals and a League Cup final but lost all three. What we aren’t reminded of is: he got there with teams no-one expected to make it all the way (the Liverpool way) and how much we enjoyed the rides, it’s now time to start enjoying destination benefits, injuries and luck permitting.
By Sola Aiyepeku (Twitter @solaiyeps). Mr Aiyepeku writes in from Lagos, Nigeria and is a sports administrator & broadcaster