Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has acknowledged that it will be difficult to pass Manchester City next season because of the “financial power” enjoyed at Etihad Stadium.
Yet Klopp is determined to ensure that his team, who he described as “one of the best who have ever played for Liverpool”, will challenge City next season in a bid to end a wait for the English title stretching back to 1990.
Liverpool finished the Premier League season a point behind champions City, despite losing only one of their 38 matches, and ending the domestic campaign with nine successive victories.
The win over Wolves took them on to 97 points, the highest tally ever accrued by a club in the top division who did not win the title. Indeed, since the English game introduced three points for a win in 1981, only twice has that points total been bettered by any team in the top division: By City this season, and 12 months ago, when Pep Guardiola’s team earned 100 points.
Klopp dismissed the idea that Liverpool’s best recent chance of winning the title has now gone.
He said: “This was the season we played. Next year we have another season. That’s clear already. As long as City are around with the quality they have and the financial power and all that stuff, it’s not that any other team will pass them easily.
We need to be very, very close to perfection to win the Premier League as long as this is the case. But it’s how I said: We made unbelievably big steps. And I really expect more to come. That’s the truth. What that means at the end, I don’t know. But if you see whatever happens to you in life as the only chance you ever had, then I feel a bit for you, because there is a lot to come, a lot of years, and it’s all about you, and what you do with that.
Klopp declared himself proud of the way his players have maintained a title challenge this season in the face of City’s power.
They led the table by seven points at the end of December, but suffered their only defeat of the league season at City on January 3, allowing Guardiola’s team the opportunity to claw their way back into the race.
Successive draws a few weeks later, at home to Leicester and away at West Ham, gave the title initiative back to City, who never relinquished it, winning their final 14 matches to finish a point clear at the top.
Klopp said: “People who tell us that it’s 30 years [next year since Liverpool won the league], they have bigger problems, to be honest. We have to go again.
“The team tried it [to win the league] for the first time and I really think they did it quite impressively for a first attempt.
“This team is one of the best who have every played for Liverpool 100%. But we play in a league with other very good teams, and we have to accept that.”
For 21 minutes yesterday, Liverpool were on course to win the league, as they led Wolves while City struggled at Brighton, briefly going behind.
The home fans at Anfield roared as news of Glenn Murray’s goal for Brighton came through, but the atmosphere went flat as Sergio Aguero equalised almost immediately, before Aymeric Laporte’s goal put the defending champions in front on the way to a 4-1 win.
Klopp acknowledged that the changes in Anfield’s atmosphere after those goals disrupted Liverpool’s rhythm.
He said: “It’s difficult to prepare a team for a situation like that. To say: OK, if we score and Brighton score, stay calm. How can you know exactly how the crowd will react?
“At first, it was a boost and there was a very good atmosphere which was going nuts, and then it was difficult. You could see it.
“Wolves used that, actually, because until then we were really there. We controlled the game. We scored the goal. Everything was fine. Wolves could not really get us.
“But then, at 1-0, Brighton opened the door for Wolves a little bit, but then it calmed down, and it was clear that when the atmosphere was not that ecstatic any more, that something had happened at Brighton which we don’t like.
“We only wanted to have 97 points and look after the Wolves game. But it’s easy to stand on the sideline and say this. It’s completely different to do it on the pitch.
“But I’m fine with the performance, not that it is really important to judge it today.
“It’s another important thing in very difficult circumstances that they won against a very strong Wolverhampton side. 2-0 is impressive.
“It’s really, really good.”