Liverpool legend Sir Kenny Dalglish says this year has been a big step forward, regardless of how the final few weeks pan out.
The Reds reached the Champions League final last year, but even so, 2018/19 has been a clear case of improvement.
Under Jurgen Klopp, the Reds look far more secure and have more belief in themselves, are involved in a huge title fight and have eradicated many of the shortcomings of previous campaigns.
Dalglish, talking to the club website, says that two key additions made over the past 18 months have been key to that progression, with the Reds’ defensive resilience a real plus point.
“Two people with real presence and stature, as well as stopping them at one end and Virgil [van Dijk]’s knocked in a couple at the other end!
“And when you’re confronted with Alisson Becker one on one, he’s an imposing figure to try to knock it past. So they’re two areas we’ve strengthened over the last 12 to 14 months, and that’s fantastic for us.
“You’ve got two young full-backs, Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and [Andy Robertson] Robbo [who have] done unbelievably well for two young guys. They’ve been really successful in what they’ve done.”
The improvement at the back is evidenced with the fact the Reds have the best defensive record in the Premier League this season.
Just 18 goals have been shipped this term, while last year’s total was 38 and prior campaigns saw 42, 50 and 48 conceded.
It’s no coincidence that such a step forward has seen the Reds go from battling for fourth to leading the league with just seven matches left to play, albeit with Man City having a game in hand.
Klopp’s team will be giving everything to land the long-awaited league championship title, but Dalglish wants perspective alongside the eventual outcome.
“Whether you win the title or you finish second, or you get progress in winning the Champions League or you don’t, I think the positivity in and around the place is brilliant and I think we really are stepping forward and getting closer and closer.
“We’re closer this year than we were last year, so that’s the most important thing.
“In the Champions League we got to the final last year and lost to Real Madrid, so maybe they’ll say ‘you’re only at the quarter-final stage so that’s not really progress, you’ve not got to the final yet or are not winning it’, but when you compare the progress from last year, you need to win it.
“So if you don’t win it, is that not progress? I think it’s still progress.”
The King is right in what he says—the upswing in optimism and expectations alone should be seen as proof that the club is not just going in the right direction, but has made enormous strides that way.
Now it’s on to Tottenham and the next challenge, and hopefully another step closer to silverware in May.