Liverpool’s rise to the top of the footballing tree has been a long one, with plenty of setbacks along the way – but now they have tasted success, the players have no intention of letting up.
It’s often said that the greatest teams are those which can win, then go again and continue winning, ensuring it’s not just a one-season wonder tag which is applied to them.
That can hardly be a complaint levelled at Liverpool, given Jurgen Klopp‘s team have already won trophies in consecutive campaigns, but mutterings from external quarters have already suggested the Reds need to win next season’s title to prove themselves—even before completing the job in 2019/20.
While that notion is as ridiculous as many others levelled at the Reds this season, it’s absolutely fair to note that the best teams keep on winning; few would equate, for example, Blackburn’s ’95 title winners with the Reds’ great 80s side.
But this group of players, and the coaches at the club, have already shown the determination to just keep improving, win the next game and see how many points and pieces of silverware they rack up – and then do it all again.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has explained that mindset which is needed, pointing to perhaps the two greatest individual players in the world over the last couple of decades who refuse to let standards drop: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. As a team, rather than with any particular single squad member, that’s exactly what the Reds are striving for.
“Once you have proven to yourself and externally what you can achieve and the levels you can hit, that’s when the difference is,” he said.
“When you consistently hit them year after year, or as close to, is when you will be satisfied with yourself and others will be satisfied.
“That’s why [Cristano and Messi] go down as the greatest – because they have been able to keep that up for year on year on year, for 10 or 15 years. That’s nothing to think lightly of, it’s unbelievably hard.”
And are Liverpool capable of doing that?
Perhaps over a 15-year period it’s unlikely; club football doesn’t tend to allow for that kind of dominance in England in the modern age.
But certainly the ability to keep pushing and improving, keep challenging and being in the mix to win trophies for several years in succession is a requirement, not just a possibility.
And Ox—who perhaps understands returning from disappointment better than most—feels the Reds have dealt with setbacks in the right way to prove they can push on after success just as much.
More importantly, perhaps, he says the Reds still aren’t yet where they want to be: there’s room to get even better than they are right now, as the best team on the planet.
“When I look at last season, how it finished and we didn’t win the league with 97 points, you’ve also got to respect what Man City managed to do that year, the year after they won it with 100 points.
“We’re on a good track at the minute. 97 points and you’ve got that disappointment, that made us hungry for this year again. We’re going well at the minute. But it’s the same mentality of nothing is done yet, the job is not done.
“Winning trophies and winning matches is the same thing – once that’s what you’ve got your mindset on doing, you do it one week and you’ve got to keep doing it every week. That’s the sort of space we’re in.
“It does become something you’re hungry for.
“We’re definitely hungry but we’re nowhere near finished and we’re not at the target we need to get to. We’ve got to stay hungry and keep pushing, then hopefully we get the results that we’re after.”
Then the next challenge is even bigger: to keep doing exactly the same, and hold off those who want to tear us down.
Ox is right with his points on determination and mindset, and the best part of the Liverpool squad is that they all think the same way.