Cor, funny how things can change in the space of a year, eh?
Around this time in 2019, the streets of Liverpool were drenched in a sea of red as fans of the Merseyside club rejoiced in light of their historic sixth European crown.
Jurgen Klopp’s side deservedly triumphed over Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final, with goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi proving enough to overcome a frustrated Spurs.
But while one club from the showpiece in Madrid went on to dominate the Premier League this season, with all kinds of records set to be smashed, the other struggled embarrassingly, ditched their best manager for an age and now need to rebuild with a more vociferous boss in charge.
Make no mistake, Liverpool were almost as brilliant during the 2018/19 term as they are currently. Only a freakish Manchester City side stopped them completing what would have been an extraordinary Premier League and Champions League double.
They may have been helped by Manchester City’s odd summer of recruitment this time around, but the Reds’ record of 27 league wins from 29 games remains ridiculous. They’ve received all the plaudits in the world, each and every one of them deserved.
Funnily enough, their recruitment in the summer of 2019 was minimal. Goalkeepers Adrian and Andy Lonergan were brought in for added depth behind Alisson, while incoming Sepp van der Berg and Harvey Elliott pointed towards Liverpool’s plan for the future.
While the Reds were content with their belief that their squad could go on and conquer England, those in north London knew extra spice was needed.
Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso were signed to bolster Tottenham’s midfield, which had been a weak area since the departure of Mousa Dembele, while hot prospect Ryan Sessegnon was snapped up.
Most of the deals were completed late in the window, because that’s how Spurs conduct business, and while Lo Celso came into his own around December and January, Tottenham’s other two main signings have struggled for fitness and form.
What also didn’t help former manager Mauricio Pochettino was how the form of almost all his players totally dropped off in the opening months of the season.
When the Argentine wanted Christian Eriksen to deliver a good set piece, the Dane would hit the first man. When he wanted Danny Rose to stay tight and defend, the left-back let Joelinton run and score. When he wanted his captain and goalkeeper to catch a cross in the opening minutes against Brighton, Hugo Lloris dropped the ball and broke his arm.
Liverpool and Tottenham were the Champions League’s best two teams last term, but they were ranked first and 14th in the Premier League by the time of Pochettino’s sacking in November.
Nowadays, Jurgen Klopp is undoubtedly the big shiny thing in the managerial world. He’s pushed Pep Guardiola aside with ease this season and has installed a ridiculous level of confidence among his players, which was clearly evident from Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson’s post-match interviews after their first leg loss to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
They’re the team to beat in Europe right now – aside from arguably Bayern Munich – and they know they are.
Just contrast that with Tottenham’s current state. While every player at Anfield knows their role, there’s still a lot of mystery over in N17.
Nobody knows what Spurs’ best team is. Pochettino couldn’t figure it out before he departed, and the following performances under new manager Jose Mourinho would suggest the former Chelsea boss is still working things out.
One team has taken its chance to move among Europe’s elite clubs with its strategy over the past few years, and the other came very close to realising its potential but must now start the process all over again. While Liverpool’s stars will most likely stay at the club for plenty more years, Tottenham have to convince their key performers that things will get better.
But if they don’t, Tottenham will continue to look up to Liverpool as the side they could have been.
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