Jurgen Klopp has prioritized the big prizes during his time as Liverpool boss, but winning the FA Cup would bring his side one step closer to immortality
Klopp led Liverpool to the Carabao Cup final, his first season in charge, in 2015/16 when trophies took precedence over a shabby Premier League season, but otherwise the Reds were furthest into the quarter-finals of the same competition in 2019. 20.
During Jurgen Klopp’s first six years at Liverpool it seemed as if domestic cup competitions were little more than an inconvenience distracting from bigger prizes.
In the FA Cup, Liverpool have been conquered by West Ham, Wolves, West Brom, Wolves Again, Chelsea and Aston Villa, all ahead of the last eight. In Klopp’s first FA Cup game – a 2-2 draw with Exeter City at St James Park in 2016 – the average squad number of Liverpool’s 11 starters was 34.
Klopp and Liverpool just had more important things to do. During his time in England, Mauricio Pochettino was criticized by some for saying that winning the FA Cup “wouldn’t change the life of Tottenham”, concluding that only success in the Premier League or Champions League could save the club would take to the next level.
Klopp might not have said that publicly but his strategy was the same as Pochettino’s. The first step was to take Liverpool back to the Champions League, then build a side capable of competing with the best and finally beat them. Winning their sixth European Cup in 2019 and their first league title in three decades in 2020 were the ‘life-changing’ moments Pochettino eluded; Liverpool have gone from being a very good team to being a great team.
After you win the big trophies, the smaller ones suddenly become more attractive. Claiming a quadruple would be another significant milestone simply because it has never been done before. The only way to achieve such immortality is to win the whole lot.
“We all agree that this season has been a very successful season so far,” admitted Klopp on Friday. “But without winning something, it won’t be the season.
“We’ve already won the Carabao Cup, but we’re Liverpool, we’re a world-class club, we have a world-class side, so it’s difficult to call a season absolutely successful when you only win the Carabao Cup if one is attending the other endgames.
“The crucial part is coming now, no problem at all. But the icing on the cake is still missing and we are working on that now.”
He added: “There’s a really good reason why a team has never had a chance to become champions and qualify for three cup finals – because it’s incredibly difficult.”
Perhaps Klopp made a conscious decision to attack all four competitions this season; Perhaps an unusual schedule and adjustments to the fixture schedule helped Liverpool compete on multiple fronts into May. or maybe Liverpool finally possess the quality of depth to go the distance.
Mo Salah has been named on the bench in two of Liverpool’s last three league games and has been kept fresh specifically for games like this; such a prospect would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. where it used to be that front three, now there is a famous five.
Whether by circumstance, design or a bit of both, Liverpool are on the verge of winning both domestic cups, having already beaten Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final. Should they defeat Thomas Tuchel’s team again, the season would already be considered a success even if the Premier League trophy lands in Manchester and the Champions League in Madrid.
If you can’t win the grand prizes, make sure you’re able to win everything else. It has taken some time but Liverpool have now reached that point. Most of this team has won practically everything, the one trophy missing from the cabinet is this one.