Liverpool have finished outside the top four for just the second time in Jurgen Klopp’s tenure
“If you cannot be one of the best four teams, you still have to develop and that’s what we did,” is what Jurgen Klopp said the last time Liverpool finished outside the top four.
Back then preparations were underway for their dead rubber against West Bromwich Albion as they finished eighth in the Premier League in 2015/16. The Reds ended up with 60 points.
This season, they have accumulated the second-worst total under Klopp as Liverpool come to terms with playing Europa League football next season. Unlike seven years ago, however, European football is secure. While that is one of the few positives from a dismal season littered with chastening defeats, the former Borussia Dortmund manager finds himself exactly where he was seven years ago.
But with the summer transfer window on the horizon, there hasn’t been a more important time for the Reds to rise from the ashes with a greater emphasis on ensuring the campaign was nothing other than a blip.
“I’m not sure it could have gone better in terms of relationships with the players, the club and the fans,” Klopp said at the time. “It’s been better than I could have imagined but we could have had more points.
“When you see how close the table is [Liverpool are six points behind fourth-placed City] I think about dropped points and where we would be with three or four more points.
“It could be better but it’s OK. We will go to the [Europa League] final and see where it ends. We haven’t had the chance this year to be champions of the league. We could have had a chance of top four but because of the number of games and the injuries we couldn’t get enough points.
“If you cannot be one of the best four teams, you still have to develop and that’s what we did. We have to use each experience from this year for next year. It’s a good atmosphere around Liverpool FC. That makes me optimistic.”
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have been here before.
Many fans, and possibly the players and manager alike, have their eyes firmly fixed on the conclusion of this long campaign broken up by the winter World Cup in Qatar. The false dawns throughout the campaign have left many dejected and scratching their heads at times.
Highs of beating Manchester United 7-0 after firing nine past Bournemouth are glimpses to build on, plus the seven-game winning run which catapulted the Reds to the top-four race – unthinkable at the beginning of April when Liverpool staggered to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge.
Looking to the future, in particular the summer, the months ahead are season-defining, even at this early stage. Transfers are at the forefront of the conversation. In 2016, Joel Matip and Sadio Mane were among the additions for Liverpool – the stalwart and an iconic figure. Alexis Mac Allister remains a name frequently uttered in the same breath as the Reds with recruitment at Anfield rarely coming under scrutiny after their shrewd business launched them to Premier League and Champions League success.
The sentiments are echoed and with the benefit of hindsight, the outlook and situation remains the same. Like they did in 2016, this summer Jurgen Klopp will reiterate that Liverpool must use this experience and develop.