“Liverpool are becoming Tottenham, think they are a big club, but the real big clubs are not too worried about them and what they are going to do and who they are going to buy. At this moment, Liverpool think we are a big club but we are not.”
25 years after they won the League, they had only a League Cup to show in the previous decade. Their squad too was an indictment of where they were and carried the likes of Christian Benteke, Steven Caulker and Alberto Moreno to name a few. Liverpool and FSG seemed to be sailing a rudderless ship and the cycle of disappointment looked set to continue.
However four days later, their fortunes were about to change as Liverpool appointed a bespectacled German coach by the name Jurgen Klopp and the rest as they say is history.
It got worse before it got better. Klopp's first season at Anfield featured two Cup final losses and Liverpool finishing eighth in the league. But five years later, Liverpool won the Premier League while losing only two games in as many years.
They have also reached back-to-back Champions League finals, winning the competition in 2019. This has been nothing short of a 5-year miracle. It is a testament to Klopp's astute management and meticulous planning in the transfer market. It has also been about Liverpool's clear identity and a winning culture that started from the owners and spread to the guys cleaning the Kop after a match-day.
How Liverpool built a title-winning side
Klopp has been the influential cog at Merseyside and has developed a style of football that is both attractive to watch and effective. He has transformed his front-three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino into world beaters. Klopp has created a midfield trio of marathon runners and has demonstrated the impact of full-backs on the modern game. But this transformation at Liverpool is much more than just their manager.
Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s director of football and the man behind the scenes, has had as much of a role in the rise of the club in recent seasons. To get to where they are today, Liverpool have done as much right off the pitch as they have done on it.
Liverpool's scouting network and money-ball based transfer policies have worked wonders. They unearthed diamonds from relegated clubs like Newcastle and Hull by signing Andrew Robertson and Georginio Wijnaldum. As Gary Neville said, Liverpool turned £30 million players like Mane and Salah into £130 million players. And finally when they had to go big, they bought the finished articles in the form of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker to complete their team.
But it does not end there. Liverpool have done all this while being a selling club and have had a net spend of only £107 million across this 5-year period. They have been able to squeeze out every single penny from the transfer market.
Christian Benteke and Mamadou Sakho were sold for a total of £52 million to Crystal Palace. Dominic Solanke and Jordon Ibe were shipped off to Bournemouth for a combined fee of £35 million while Phillipe Coutinho was jettisoned for a massive fee in excess of £100 million.
How Arsenal managed to regress while Liverpool plotted their way up
Since that fateful night in October 2015, Liverpool have hardly put a foot wrong in these last five years and are now set up to dominate England and Europe in the foreseeable future.
On that same day, Arsenal beat Manchester United 3-0 at the Emirates. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were in the prime of their careers. Fracis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla controlled the midfield, and Arsenal finally had a reliable keeper in the form of Petr Cech.
Coming off back to back FA Cup wins, it seemed as if Arsenal had turned a corner and could supplement their consistent Champions League finishes with a sustained title push. But as Liverpool’s fortunes rose with the emergence of Klopp, Arsenal’s light grew dimmer and dimmer.
The five years that followed included the entire 'Wenger Out' shenanigans, the Unai Emery fiasco and the growing divide among the fan-base as demonstrated weekly on AFTV. To exacerbate matters, there has been a complete failure at the Arsenal board level during this last five years.
Ozil and Sanchez were allowed to run down their contracts. Aaron Ramsey was let go on a free. The transfer strategies were highly questionable and now it seems like Arsenal’s transfer policy is dictated by super-agents.
So that is where we are now, in 2020. Arsenal are facing a situation not too dissimilar to what Liverpool found themselves in during 2015. A managerial change, the fans dissapointed with their board and American owners and the club slowly losing its identity and brand.
It would be naive to think that Arsenal are a big club. Yes, Arsenal are a huge organisation, with history, values and a huge stadium and a global fan following. But are Arsenal really challenging for the biggest titles?
Do the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea really care what Arsenal do in the transfer market? Are they worried that the Gunners will catch up with them or be a force to be reckoned with? Much like how it was with Liverpool in 2015, the answer to all these questions, unfortunately, is no.
Arsenal currently sit seventh in the Premier League and are set for their worse Premier League finish since the competition's inception. Their star striker and captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang only has a year left on his contract and could leave North London this summer.
Mesut Ozil earns 350K a week and is nothing more than a shadow on matchdays. And finally, the defensive issues at Arsenal are perfectly encapsulated by David Luiz who was offered a 1-year extension by the club.
While things do look despondent at the club, its never as bad as you think and its isn’t all doom and gloom yet. Arsenal now have a manager who like Liverpool and Klopp, the fans can believe in and rally behind.
There is a promising set of youngsters emerging from the Hale End academy such as Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock that Arsenal can build around. Signings such as Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba, Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney do show some promise.
Football moves in cycles, and there will come a time in the future when Liverpool will drop off, Guardiola will leave City and United and Chelsea might have to evolve. That time will come, and Arsenal and Arteta need to set themselves up now so they can take advantage of the changing of the guard when it comes and be in a position where Liverpool are in today.
In the age of spending and oil money, Liverpool have been able to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea on a much smaller budget. They have shown clubs like Arsenal what the way forward is, and what direction they need to take. It is now down to the Arsenal hierarchy to follow Liverpool's footsteps and bring the glory days back to Islington.Published 09 Jul 2020, 12:17 IST