Why I Think The Squad Can Win A Domestic Cup

It’s really easy to spend all of your time focussed on the Premier League and Champions League. In fact, last season I wasn’t even bothered about the latter competition until we won it. I’m obsessed with winning the title. It bothers me more than is sensible that we haven’t managed to do it since 1990. I want that monkey off the club’s back and I genuinely think that this squad and this manager deserve it. Even some proper arl arses who refuse to admit that football is even a thing nowadays compared to what it was like in the 1980s are quick to say that this is the best Liverpool team that they’ve ever seen play. If not for Manchester City and the Abu Dhabi billions, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jürgen Klopp’s team would be dominated both domestically and in Europe right now. Yet Pep Guardiola’s team exists, as much as we might not like it to, and so I still long for us to concentrate on nothing but the top-flight.

Ordinarily that would mean that I’m right on board with the manager abandoning the cup competitions completely. I know that the ‘Liverpool exists to win trophies’ brigade hate that sort of shout, but the reality is that neither the FA Cup nor the League Cup hold the same lustre they once did. To see the likes of Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino have to run around on a Wednesday night after a tough game at the weekend and another one a couple of days later couldn’t interest me less. The very existence of the cups will almost certainly come into question in the next few years, especially given the rumours about an expansion of the Champions League format that will start to dominate the footballing calendar. Yet part of the reason I’m not bothered about the cups is that we simply haven’t had the squad to cope with them in recent years. Does the win over MK Dons mean that’s all about the change?

We Didn’t Look Disjointed

Yes, it was ‘only’ MK Dons. It’s easy to forget, though, how being complacent about such matches has caused the Reds trouble in the past. Let’s not forget that Alex Ferguson hadn’t long left Manchester United when Louis van Gaal’s side lost 4-0 at Stadium:mk at the start of the 2014-2015 campaign. If you wanted to be really negative then you could say that the Dons had chances that a more clinical team would likely have scored from, yet it’s also worth pointing out that we had more opportunities to get on the scoresheet than just the two times we did. James Milner’s speculative shot to open the scoring should have been dealt with by Stuart Moore, but we always felt like we were completely in control of the game. It made a huge difference compared to previous cup matches in which inexperienced teams have played and looked as though they’d never met each other before kick-off.

That’s why I’m feeling more hopeful about the cup competitions than I have done for a long time. The togetherness of the first-team obviously isn’t just limited to them, with the rest of the squad fighting for each other and congratulating each other when someone does something worthwhile, such as when Coaimhin Kelleher made the excellent save with his legs towards the end of the match. Jürgen Klopp is instilling his team with a confidence and belief in themselves, yes, but he’s also getting them to play in a way that means players can interchange with each other across the board. The only player that can’t do that in any real sense is Roberto Firmino, such is the extent to which he’s a standout cog in the Klopp machine. He’s as close to ‘irreplaceable’ as you can get, with Sadio Mané through the middle the only impressionist act that the manager’s agues found for the Brazilian.

It’s A Talented Squad

Another reason for my renewed sense of optimism around the cups is that we’ve got a genuinely talented squad at our disposal for the first time that I can remember. I was blown away by the extent to which Harvey Elliott looked as though he belonged on the pitch against MK Dons. Having spent the summer thrilled about the potential of Rhian Brewster, he was shown up on the night by a sixteen-year-old with a dodgy haircut. That’s not to put Brewster down, who I still think is going to be a thrilling prospect, but rather to praise Elliott. When you consider that the defence featured Ki Jana Hoever, who looks a real prospect, as well as two players that can’t get into the starting XI in Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez, you can see that this squad is full of talent.

It’s perhaps best summed up by the performances of Adrián, who no one expected to be as good as he has been but who has mean we’ve barely missed Alisson. Obviously we don’t necessarily want these players to have to replace our entire first XI and the usual caution about the opposition applies, but when it comes to the cup competitions it’s common for teams to rotate heavily and I think we’ll be well-placed to give any of them a game. Arsenal are coming to Anfield next and I wouldn’t be surprised if Klopp kept the team pretty much as it was, with maybe Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi coming into it if they’re back from injury. For the first time in a long time I’m actually excited to watch us play in the cups. Long may that continue.

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