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Liverpool Season Review: A stuttering campaign salvaged by last-gasp European Qualification

Mane and Coutinho celebrate

Follow Your Sport kicks off its post-Premier League feature series with the Liverpool Season Review.

What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Liverpool this season. After beating Manchester City 1-0 at the turn of the year, their form in months of January and February went downhill and rapidly so. They were knocked out of the League Cup semi-final and the FA Cup by Southampton and Wolves respectively, while a return of 6 points in 7 Premier League games put even their Champions League hopes in jeopardy. However, in the end, they did achieve their target this season – qualifying for the Champions League – thanks to a late-season surge.

 

The Numbers

Liverpool, at their best, are exquisite to watch. The speed at which they can develop an attack from the back, due to their excellent link up play and fluidity in the middle of the park, makes defenders shudder in fear. However, their success this season can be boiled to this one stat:

Liverpool have covered 115 kms more than any other Premier League side during the course of the season. They have run approximately 500 kms more than their rivals Manchester United, which on an average, makes it 13.15 kms more than them per game! However, many wouldn’t be surprised by this stat, as Jurgen Klopp has always been known for implementing Geggenpressing, a tactic which demands an atrocious level of fitness.

 

Liverpool distance covered

 

The Reds led the league in terms of goals scored for most of the season, but could only finish with 78 in the end(4th highest in the league). However, the distribution of the number of goals is interesting- no one has scored more than 15 goals, rather the burden of scoring goals has laid with no one in particular for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Coutinho and Mane have scored 13, Roberto Firmino has 11, Adam Lallana has scored another 8 and James Milner has slotted home 7 penalties. Liverpool are no longer a one-man team.

However, Liverpool must improve their defending from set pieces, which has been their Achilles’ Heel this season.

 

Squad Analysis

If one would compare Liverpool’s squad with any other club in the top 6, it’s actually quite a feat that the Merseysiders have managed to finish in the top 4 this season. Liverpool’s first eleven is top notch but the squad certainly lacks in depth. Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and of course Daniel Sturridge – these are the important players for Liverpool, but almost all of them are injury prone. Without Sadio Mane, Sturridge and captain Henderson, Liverpool struggled at the start of the year, which eventually cost them a possible title and cup challenge.

Simon Mignolet has been a man on a mission and has effectively silenced his critics in recent months, handing Liverpool vital points with his ridiculously good saves. Loris Karius also performed well in the Cup games but is yet to prove himself as a reliable custodian of Liverpool’s goal. However, he does have time on his side.

Liverpool’s defence has been shaky this term again. The centre-back partnership of Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip looks good, but Liverpool need another centre-back as cover as Ragnar Klavan has not been up to the mark. Liverpool got away with James Milner as a left back this season, but surely they need a new left back if they are to push for a trophy. Nathaniel Clyne could also do good with some competition around him.

When Jordan Henderson was fit, he played with Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum on either side of him. Since his injury, Emre Can has taken up the role has been an utter revelation. However, Liverpool still need a dominant force in midfield, some who can sit in front of the centrebacks and orchestrate the game effectively.

Liverpool have a plethora of attacking options at their disposal- Sadio Mane, Coutinho, Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi. However, against the smaller teams and without Mane, the Reds lack width and a winger should be bought in the summer. Daniel Sturridge is one of the best when he’s fit, but his injury problems mean that Jurgen Klopp can’t rely on his for the whole season and hence an additional striker may also be required.

 

Stand Out Performer

 

Sadio mane celebrates

 

Sadio Mane, the £36 million signing from Southampton took no time in adjusting to life at Anfield after scoring a stunning goal on his Premier League debut against Arsenal. He has scored 13 this term and assisted another 5. With the Senegalese in the team, Liverpool are a force to be reckoned with.

He gives Liverpool an extra dimension with his pace, trickery and an eye for goal. Wouldn’t be unfair to say that indeed he has been the best signing of the season.

 

Also Read: Top 11 Signings of the 2016/17 Premier League Season

 

Strengths

Liverpool’s strength lies in their attacking talent. Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge are world-class players and when they deliver, the Reds seem to overpower their opponents with ease.

Also, Jurgen Klopp’s impeccable record against the best of the Premier League is worthy of show off. They are unbeaten in the league against the top 8 of the league. Their outstanding record against the very best is due to the fact that when they play with teams with an attacking intent, their ability to exploit spaces, press and force mistakes makes Liverpool the team to beat the best in the league.

 

Jurgen Klopp claps

 

Weaknesses

Well, we just mentioned that Liverpool are a tough team to beat in the league. However, the smaller teams won’t agree to that. Liverpool losses this season have come against Burnley, Leicester, Swansea, Bournemouth, Hull City and Crystal Palace. And the reason for this is simple – teams which are happy to sit back and deny Liverpool any space in the centre seem to do well against them. This weakness was brutally exposed in the absence of Sadio Mane, as the Reds had no width or pace in their attack.

Also Liverpool’s defending has been sub par again this season.

 

What to Expect

With all said and done, this season will go down as a successful one for Jurgen Klopp, who managed to get Liverpool in the top 4 after making a net profit in the summer. With the right summer signings, Liverpool know they have a really good shot at glory next season and a trophy would be expected from Klopp next season. The mood at Anfield is buoyant, as it welcomes back Champions League football and expectations will be hoping for another step forward in the right direction in the 2017-18 season.

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