To say winning the Quadruple–the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League, and the Premier League–is a dream isn’t accurate. No fan ever really thinks of it before a season starts, or really before even February. It’s beyond fantasy. It’s not something you’d ever give the time of day. Perhaps England being one of the few countries that even allows team to compete for four trophies only makes it more ludicrous. Sure, some teams have taken some combination of three before, but they’re so few and far between the idea of four is…well, right out. If it’s beyond teams that were utterly dominant or had such a financial advantage on the competition, then how could anyone else? “Preposterous” is as kind as you can be.
The idea/fantasy/hallucination of winning all four trophies that are available to English clubs every season is a recent phenomenon anyway. Because squads have only become so big and so talented thanks to the money that the Premier League is now awash in, especially at the top. There’s no way you could nurse a roster of 18-20 players through four competitions without every player stepping on their tongue by April 1st. And your U-23s would cough up some early round in the League or FA Cup when you tossed them out against an inspired lower league club on a field somewhere that looks like a parking lot. That’s how it works.
But now that teams can go 24-25 deep, the Quad has just toed over the line from Narnia to the very edge of reality. Man City’s four straight League Cup triumphs is a testament to the strength of their entire squad, where they can roll out the B or C team and still roll over whatever opposition is in front of them for an entire tournament.
So Liverpool aren’t the first team to be this close. Just three seasons ago, Man City had already banked the League Cup, which Liverpool have this year. They were in the Champions League quarterfinals, the FA Cup semifinals, and in a prime spot to win the Premier League. This isn’t new. And then Spurs and VAR got in the way, and their quad dreams were toast for another season. Last season they got to semis of the FA Cup and the Champions League Final. But Chelsea kneecapped them in both. That’s as close as any team has gotten, and that was in a season in the glorified TV studios of empty stadiums.
But this is new for Liverpool. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have generally chucked one of the domestic Cup competitions at a very early stage, if not both. When they would turn it over to the B team and the kids, they weren’t quite enough to get through any opposition that was taking the competition more seriously and was above the level of 11 guys who go to the same pub. They’ve left their focus for the Champions League and the Premier League in the past.
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But this year has been different, as it’s been the biggest and best squad Klopp has ever had. In the cup competitions, at least the early rounds, they can give Virgil van Dijk a night off and still have Ibrahima Konaté and Joe Gomez in central defense. Or Konstantinos Tsimikas at left-back instead of grinding Andrew Robertson into dust. Just three weeks ago, after a grueling and simply ridiculous 120 minutes and penalty shootout win over Chelsea to claim the League Cup, three days later Liverpool watched their sixth- or seventh-choice forward, Takumi Minamino, score twice to advance them in the FA Cup. The midfield rotates on a match-by-match basis between seven or eight guys, and then James Milner comes on in the 80th minutes regardless to cut diamonds with his jawline. The depth is other worldly and unheard of in every place outside of Manchester.
Can they do it? If you squint, yes. They have just about the easiest Champions League quarterfinal draw in Benfica, and then a semifinal likely against a Bayern Munich team that has looked defensively ropey of late (though in the same style that Liverpool have looked defensively ropey, so that’s a semifinal that could end up 10-8 aggregate). They have their own destiny in their hands in the league, where they play City on April 10th and should they win or draw that and just better City’s results afterwards, they’d win the league. They’re two games from winning the FA Cup.
On the flip side, to win all four they’re looking at beating City twice, possibly three times. They play in the league on the 10th. They play a week later in the FA Cup semifinal. They could yet still meet in the Champions League Final. To win all four trophies would mean City wouldn’t win one at all. That hasn’t happened in the past four seasons.
Or Liverpool might have to go through Chelsea three times, and in three matches against them already this season they’ve drawn them all. They’ve already “beaten” Chelsea in the League Cup final (11-10 on penalties), and Chelsea could be waiting in both the FA Cup and Champions League final. To win all of them, it could mean not losing to Chelsea in five matches over the whole season. That seems a tall task in itself. And that’s without mentioning the scary side of Bayern Munich that’s in between either of those scenarios.
But the point of all this isn’t really whether or not it could or could not happen. It’s dealing with the idea of dealing with it at all. As said at the top, this isn’t something any fan thinks of in August. Or even November. It didn’t even really dawn on Liverpool supporters until they were holding up the League Cup. So it’s not something that can hurt you, most season. In all seasons, really.
Go out of the League Cup in October or November, oh well. Less fixture congestion. The League Cup is the $20 you found in your car seat. You’re delighted to get it, but your life wouldn’t have changed much if you didn’t, because you didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about finding a $20 in your car seat. Go out of the FA Cup in January? Eh, that stinks. Would have been nice, been a while, but that feeling goes away quickly. It’s not one of the two that really matter.
But now it’s here, and it’s more possible than it’s ever been, and yet still remains the impossible task that’s never been done. All the things that had to align just to get to this viewpoint are rare, and in some ways, Liverpool aren’t even close yet. But then, they likely will never get closer.
Do you allow it to become reality as a fan? There may be no other chance. And yet, it’s still so unlikely. It probably won’t come again, and the fact that it may not is probably why we have to embrace it, with the overwhelming likelihood of heartache that will follow from doing so. We never cared about missing out on it before, and now we may have to simply because it is so ridiculous that we have to go all in on this one opportunity. The silliness of it is what makes it real.
Am I really going to have to be “disappointed” with just two major trophies in a season? That’s stupid, and yet it’s what’s on offer.
But then being a fan of anything generally means opening your heart to simply having it stomped on. That’s love, after all.