December 1, 2023

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Georginio Wijnaldum (r) of Liverpool celebrates with Virgil Van Dijk after scoring his teams fifth goal of the game during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: 4th December 2019. Picture credit should read: James Wilson/Sportimage via PA Images

How do Liverpool go about defending their Premier League title next season?

The Reds have swept all before them with a dominant season, but Jurgen Klopp and his players will want more success, more glory and more trophies

For Liverpool fans, it was worth the hangover.

They will have awoken on Friday with heavy heads, but smiles. Champions of England again, after 30 long years.

It was an emotional Jurgen Klopp that reflected on the Reds’ title success on Thursday night.

“I’m completely overwhelmed,” he told Sky Sports, his voice breaking as he spoke. “I never thought it would be like this – I had no idea!”

Klopp had been with his players when the moment finally came. Sat on a terrace at the Formby Hall golf resort, near to his home, he watched as Manchester City came up short against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Defeat for Pep Guardiola’s side means Liverpool have wrapped up the Premier League title with seven games to spare – perhaps the most comprehensive title success of all time.

Their dominance has been absolute. Nobody, but nobody, could question the Reds’ supremacy this season. They are the most deserving of champions.

For Klopp and his team, the next few weeks are to be enjoyed. They will start their parade with, of all things, a trip to the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, and know that 15 points from those final seven games will see them set a new all-time record points total for a top-flight season.

It is not just success that is coming their way, it is history.

The moment should be savoured, for sure. How could it not, after three decades of longing and hoping and wondering if it would ever come their way again?

But within Anfield, thoughts will already be turning towards the next challenge.They have got to the top, now can they stay there? 

It was Ronnie Moran who used to set the tone whenever Liverpool won a league title in the glory days of the 1970s and 80s.

Moran, a fierce taskmaster and a man steeped in the club’s tradition, was the one who would hand out the medals at the end of each season.

A big job, no? Not for ‘Bugsy’. Instead, the legend goes, he would enter the changing room with a cardboard box and casually throw the medals at those who had earned them, with a simple message.

“See you next season.”

It may be an extreme example, but that was the mentality of the club in those days. Enjoy yourselves, yes, but do not lose sight of the bigger picture. The most important success is the next one. 

Klopp uses the word “greedy” a lot when describing his team. He speaks of their hunger and their desire and their attitude, and it is that elite mentality which has enabled them, as much as their skill and their athleticism and their coaching, to roar away from the chasing pack this season.

Now, they face a new kind of challenge. They have climbed the mountain; European champions last season, English champions this. Champions of the world in between. What is left for them to do?

Quite a lot, as it happens. 

It was Bill Shankly, perhaps the most significant figure in Liverpool’s history, who spoke of “a bastion of invincibility”, about a club that would “conquer the bloody world”. 

“Napoleon had the same idea,” Shankly said. “I wanted Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in.”

Liverpool’s form over the past three seasons tells you this is no flash-in-the-pan triumph. Klopp’s side have been building towards this, almost from the day the German walked through the door at Anfield. Brick-by-brick, step-by-step, they have edged ominously towards the promised land.

“We can still improve,” the manager warned on Wednesday, following his side’s thrashing of Crystal Palace. It sounds ridiculous to say, given they have dropped just seven points from a possible 93 this season, but he is right.

It remains to be seen just how much the coronavirus crisis will affect the Reds’ forward planning. They had planned to add at least two new players to their squad this summer, but the financial impact of Covid-19 led them to shelve a move for Timo Werner, the RB Leipzig striker who eventually moved to Chelsea.

It is hard to see where Liverpool can improve their team, but there are obvious upgrades to be made in terms of their squad. An injury to Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane would be hugely damaging, for example, so a high-class replacement forward would be desirable – if hard to find.

Cover at left-back, too, may be useful. James Milner fills in admirably but is a midfielder and will be 35 in January. The difference when Andy Robertson is missing is there for all to see. 

Neco Williams looks, from what little we have seen of him, capable of becoming Trent Alexander-Arnold’s understudy at right-back, but another senior central defender may be required if, as is anticipated, Dejan Lovren opts to move on in search of regular football.

The midfield looks well-stocked, particularly if Naby Keita can stay fit and turn moments of quality into sustained periods of form, and there is genuine excitement about the emergence of a gifted crop of youngsters, too. Not only the all-action Williams, but attacking midfielders Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, and striker Rhian Brewster too.

There will be departures. Nathaniel Clyne leaves on Tuesday, and Adam Lallana will follow after six years of service. The England midfielder has not played as much as he would have liked over the past three seasons, but will be missed in terms of his personality, dedication and high standards. He has been a key part of the culture Klopp has created at Anfield.

Xherdan Shaqiri could well leave, while decisions will need to be made on the likes of Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic, who have spent the season out on loan. It remains to be seen whether the market will allow for permanent buyers, or if another temporary move will be needed. Liverpool, sources tell Goal, are relaxed in any case.

As for the rest, Klopp believes there is still more in the tank, and why wouldn’t he? Liverpool’s squad is, Gini Wijnaldum aside, tied to long-term contracts, and most of them are in, or approaching, their prime years.

Virgil van Dijk, Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane are all 28, Robertson and Fabinho are 26. Alexander-Arnold, the club’s brilliant homegrown icon, is just 21, already one of the world’s best, and ready to get even better. Joe Gomez, at 23, will be England’s first-choice centre-back for years to come, if he can stay free of injury.

Jordan Henderson, the captain whose influence extends way beyond his performance on the field, turned 30 earlier this month but has never looked better. The Wearsider will remain an integral part of Klopp’s side, though the presence of Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 25 and 26 respectively, mean he has plenty of options.

Liverpool should expect a response from their rivals. Manchester City will surely come again, Manchester United will always have lofty ambitions and Chelsea are building an impressive young squad. The challenges will come, for sure.

They will come from within as well. Questions will be asked as to the team’s desire, their “greediness” for more success. Can they challenge on multiple fronts? Can they maintain their remarkable consistency, when all the world is waiting for them to slip and to stumble? What happens if injuries hit certain players?

Fair questions, but ones Liverpool are more than equipped to answer. They have the manager, they have the players, they have the hunger. 

They have the trophies.

A bastion of invincibility? That’s the aim. Good luck to them.