Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp enjoyed a remarkable 2017/18 campaign, including reaching the Champions League final, though could they go one step further in achieving outright domestic and European success?
Last season: Liverpool enjoyed a relatively successful season last term, again qualifying for the Champions League following their fourth-place finish in the Premier League.
However, their most significant success came in Europe’s premier club competition, as the Reds made it all the way to the final, before eventually succumbing to Real Madrid (the less said about Loris Karius, the better). Liverpool have shown steady signs of improvement under Jürgen Klopp, as they look to challenge the likes of Manchester City in securing that elusive Premier League title.
Manager and tactics: This will be Jürgen Klopp’s fourth season in charge at Anfield, and his mantra of “turning doubters into believers” rings true amongst the Liverpool faithful. Buzz phrases like “heavy-metal football” and “gegenpressing” are synonymous with Klopp’s style of play, and this Liverpool side’s boundless energy starts in attack with Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian striker harries and hounds defenders into a panic, forcing misplaced passes from which Liverpool’s two other attacking superstars, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, can reap the rewards.
Some of Klopp’s summer signings will slide seamlessly into the system, notably Naby Keita. The Guinean midfielder has been described as a more offensively-minded version of N’Golo Kante. His impressive interception and tackling stats are matched by his first-rate goal and assist return. Watch out for him jinking in-and-out of defenders with the ball at his feet, whilst nabbing the ball from the opposition in defence.
Another critical component of Liverpool’s play is the overlapping full-backs. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson maraud up and down the flanks, creating space not only for themselves but also for their more creative teammates. Operating a 4-3-3 formation with one defensive midfielder will allow the Reds to turn defence into attack in a matter of seconds. Opposition teams will have to be wary of Liverpool’s pace and attacking verve on the counter.
Captain: Jordan Henderson has led this Liverpool team since the departure of Steven Gerrard in 2015. His inconsistent displays have sometimes resulted in derision amongst Liverpool fans, but after long bouts of injury, Henderson was back to his best in the second half of last season. Playing in a more defensive role, his breaking-up of opposition attacks and much-improved range of passing culminated in some fine performances in the World Cup for England.
Following the arrival of summer signing Fabinho from Monaco, Henderson faces fresh competition in the defensive midfield position. It remains to be seen whether Henderson will play in the heart of the Reds’ midfield, or whether he will be relegated to the bench. If that is the case, expect James Milner to be handed the armband in his place.
Star man: There is only one man isn’t there? Liverpool’s Egyptian King, Mo Salah, had already reached cult-hero status on Merseyside after his displays last season. Breaking the 38-game Premier League goalscoring record is an unbelievable feat in itself, but merely giving him that accolade alone does not justify just how good he was. Winning just about every end-of-season award shows just how superb Mo Salah was in his first season at Liverpool.
His electrifying pace and dribbling paired with his knack for scoring goals in virtually every game are what stand out the most when analysing his performances from last season. However, his excellent interplay with Firmino and Mane enabled all three of them to express their full potential and get the best out of one another. It is unreasonable to expect another 44 goal return this season, but I would not be surprised if the Egyptian bagged more than 30 in all competitions this time around.
All of Liverpool’s other stars will want to prove this not a one-man team, but one to look out for has to be Naby Keita. Most fans in England are not aware of the regard in which he is held in Germany. He could be Liverpool’s next superstar.
Transfer activity: Liverpool have not messed around this transfer window, bringing in a host of international stars, all vying for a starting spot. In addition to the aforementioned Keita and Fabinho, Liverpool splashed the cash (£67 million to be exact) on Alisson, the former Roma goalkeeper as they look to fix their goalkeeper woes. After Loris Karius’ tragic performance in the Champions League final and nervous start to pre-season, the decision was taken that Liverpool would finally make a move for their man. The Brazilian number one performed exceptionally for Roma last season, making multiple world-class saves as the Giallorossi finished third in Serie A.
Liverpool’s other major signing was Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swiss winger pinched from relegated Stoke City for a relatively low fee of £13 million. Shaqiri played well in a poor team under Mark Hughes and Paul Lambert, but he will have to do something special to displace of Sadio Mane or Mo Salah.
Regarding outgoings, Emre Can left the club to move to Juventus after the expiry of his contract at Liverpool, and Danny Ward (arguably Liverpool’s best ‘keeper before the unveiling of Alisson) left for Leicester City.
2018/19 expectations: After fixing Liverpool’s main problems over the past 12 months, it looks like Liverpool are ready to mount a serious title challenge. Manchester City will rightly start the season as favourites, but Jürgen Klopp’s Reds look best placed to rival the Citizens over the coming months. The truth is that Liverpool is a club with a history of winning silverware, something that has been severely lacking in the last ten years. Given the amount of money spent, Klopp must find a way to end Liverpool’s trophy drought for this to be classed as a successful season.