European Season Review: Liverpool
Written by: Ravish R Narvekar
The Reds marked Jurgen Klopp's first full season in-charge with a place in the top four and a return to the Champions League...
Five times European champions Liverpool are back, back where they belong. It's been a season of tactical improvement for the Reds under German manager Jurgen Klopp and one which should serve the team well going into a busy 2017/18 campaign.
|Season 2016-17 Stats|
Premier League: 4th
EFL Cup: Semi-Final
Liverpool began their pre-season away at Tranmere Rovers. Danny Ings scored the only goal in a hard fought 1–0 win. Five days later, the Reds travelled to the Highbury Stadium to face Fleetwood Town, newly signed Marko Grujić scored the opening goal on his debut, while a goal from 16-year-old debutant Ben Woodburn scripted another clean sheet for the Reds.
The Reds won their third successive pre-season game on 17 July, with Ings and Woodburn scoring in a 2–0 win over Wigan. On 20 July Liverpool defeated Huddersfield Town 2–0 through goals from Alberto Moreno and Grujić; reserve goalkeeper Shamal George also featured in the last 25 minutes of the match as a striker. Liverpool began their campaign in the International Champions Cup on 28 July, conceding a 0-1 defeat against Chelsea. On 30 July. In the next match, Liverpool defeated AC Milan 2–0, then they played the final pre-season match in the U.S. against Roma, suffering a 2–1 defeat.
On 6 August Liverpool played Barcelona at Wembley in the final game of the International Champions Cup and won 4–0, with summer signing Sadio Mané getting on the scoresheet along with Origi and Grujić, and former Liverpool player Javier Mascherano scoring an own goal. Liverpool's pre-season ended the following day, with a 4-0 defeat at Mainz's Opel Arena.
|English Premier League|
Liverpool began the season with a visit to the Emirates Stadium and were able to snatch 4–3 victory over the Gunners. But the rest of the month was not that impressive, a loss to Burnley and a draw at Tottenham Hotspur. September started on a good note with a win over the defending champions Leicester City at Anfield and another over Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool made September a perfect month with three wins in a row in the league when they beat Hull City 5–1 in front of the Kop. Then came October and the Northwest Derby agains Manchester United, which ended in a 0–0 draw. Unbeaten in October, Liverpool entered November with confidence by beating the Hornets 6-1, this result put Liverpool on top of the Premier League for the first time since April 2014.
On 4 December, the Reds travelled to the Vitality Stadium to face Bournemouth and took a 3-1 lead, but three goals from Bournemouth in the final 20 minutes of the match caused Liverpool to suffer a 4-3 defeat. Liverpool ended the year with a win over Everton in the Merseyside Derby and a crucial win over Manchester City at Anfield. Liverpool entered 2017 in second place, a dry and win-less January removed them from a height they are yet to return to.
Just one week later, yhe Reds got their first Premier League win of 2017 with Mane's two goals in two minutes sealing the 2–0 win against Spurs which was followed by a defeat at Leicester City. By the start of March, Liverpool won yet another match against the top 6 teams, this time a 3–1 win at home to Arsenal. After beating the Gunners, the Reds won their next game at home against Burnley. On 19 March, Liverpool travelled to Manchester City for a crucial game in the battle for Champions League qualification which ended in a 1-1 draw.
On 1st April, Liverpool defeated Everton in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield. Then a draw against Bournemouth and defeats against Stoke City and Crystal Palace put their Champions League qualification in doubt. Liverpool needed two wins in their last two games to guarantee a top four place which they did by beating West Ham United and Middlesbrough and ended the season with 76 points.
The Reds started the FA Cup against Plymouth Argyle in the third round where they drew 0-0 at Anfield and had to travel to Plymouth where Lucas Leiva scored the only goal which helped Liverpool through to the fourth round. In the fourth round, they were up against Championship side Wolverhampton Wanders. It was a very cloudy evening at Anfield, as Wolves recorded a historic win by beating the Premier League side.
Richard Stearman headed home in the first minute before Andreas Weimann rounded goalkeeper Loris Karius to double the lead before the break. Divock Origi lashed in a late consolation and Wolves survived an onslaught as Klopp suffered three straight home defeats as a manager for the first time since 2007.
In the second round, Liverpool faced Burton Albion whom they thrashed 5-0 at Pirelli Stadium. Another away game, another win followed and this time it was against Derby County in the third round. In the fourth round, thanks to the double strike by Daniel Sturridge the Reds sank high-flying Spurs at Anfield. In the quarterinal, Liverpool faced Leeds United whom they passed through comfortably 2-0 and entered the Semi-final to play Southampton. The first leg at St. Mary's Stadium was all about Nathan Redmond and not the "Red Men" as Southampton claimed a vital lead. At Anfied, in the return leg, The Saints beat Liverpool by the same margin to secure a 2-0 aggregate victory and a place in the EFL Cup Final.
|Top 3 Players|
|Phillipe Coutinho||Sadio Mane||Roberto Firmino|
It was another excellent season for Philippe Coutinho, as he finished 2016/17 as Liverpool's top goal scorer, with 14 goals – the most in his career so far. The Brazilian was a genuine PFA Player of the Year contender before injury cruelly disrupted his season in November. We didn't see the same Coutinho until the final few weeks, sadly, but he really delivered when it mattered, scoring vital goals against West Ham and Boro. He's not world class yet, but is threatening to be.
Sadio Mane was perhaps not seen as a great piece of business last summer, but he has proven to be a sensational signing. From his memorable debut at Arsenal onwards, his speed, movement and end product helped make Liverpool the most devastating attacking team in the country on their day and he finished the campaign with 13 goals in 29 appearances. The greatest compliment you can pay Mane is that the Reds look a completely different team without him.
Roberto Firmino is arguably Klopp's favourite player and there is still a feeling that he hasn't always received the credit he has deserved. He has led the line superbly, combining intelligence, touch and endless hard work and he has also scored at key times. The winner at Stoke City was absolutely crucial. When Liverpool purred, he was invariably the one leading from the front, but his finishing could have been better on occasions.
|Flop of the Season|
Alberto Moreno’s season started with a pathetic performance away to Arsenal, one that saw him dropped and Klopp turn to James Milner as a left-back.
The Spaniard made just 11 appearances from that point on and looks certain to leave in the summer. His 7/10 rating at Crystal Palace was just about Moreno’s only good performance of the season.
Alberto Moreno's performance in 2016-17
|Top 5 Matches|
Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool
2. Liverpool 6-1 Watford
3. Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
4. Liverpool 3-1 Everton
5. Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough, Anfield (21 May 2017)
|Manager's Report Card|
When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield, the German was under a lot of criticism for being the most inflexible man but as the season passed by, he proved everyone wrong, even though his tactics didn't work on numerous occasions. Klopp, who once preferred his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation changed it to 4-3-3, with which he stuck with for the most of the season.
Many managers who get tarred with the ‘inflexible' brush are rigid in their general philosophy, but when it comes to actually carrying it out they are more than willing to change things on the pitch.
The 4-3-3 formation seemed to work, as the Reds were just six points behind the League leaders Chelsea by the end of the year. But the biggest sting to his tactics came when Sadio Mane left for AFCON 2017. Klopp experimented with a few alternatives during this time, but stodgy lineups which packed the centre of the park failed to stretch the opposition defence and led to predictable attacking play.
On the positive side, Liverpool master-minded the counter-pressing game especially in the game against Hull City which was one of the best games of counter passing played.
|What They Need|
One of the things we learned from Liverpool's season is their big guns stepped up for the big moments, a tendency to score some very important goals.
Liverpool's injury list put a major dent to their title challenge. Klopp and the Kop sweated over Mane’s injury in particular.
Jurgen Klopp got his tactics spot on against the top 6 opponents. Liverpool delivered superbly in the big games. But sadly, Klopp couldn't figure out a way for his side to regularly break down teams who park the bus in the so-called 'smaller' fixtures.
Now with the Champions League qualification in the bag, Klopp has entered a critical stage of his tenure. His first season showed promise, this first full season more still, but next year a title challenge that progresses late into the season will be expected. TheReds areexppected to be in the market for a left-back and a striker.
Vijay & Pushan Naik
It's good to see Liverpool back in the UEFA Champions League and hopefully Jurgen Klopp will help the Reds to lift the trophy 6th time.
The one word to describe Liverpool's season for me would be a rollercoaster. Unbeaten against other top six sides but defeats to teams in the lower half of table totally damaged the title challenge. Not to mention injuries to key players at a wrong time but in the end Champions League football, next season will be a cheerful thing.
Published: Sun Jun 11, 2017 08:14 PM IST