As the Premier League gears up for a return to normalcy, we equip you with an in-depth view of everything about Liverpool and their season so far.
When you think of the most successful English clubs of all time, Liverpool are right up there in the topmost echelon, having won countless trophies over the course of their storied history. The Premier League era, however, has been one that has seen them become perennial underachievers, slipping away from the title picture for the better part of nearly the last three decades.
The Reds have finished runners-up on a few occasions, only to slip up at crucial junctures in each of the seasons wherein they were contenders. The Premier League title, though, has constantly eluded the Merseyside giants, with their last top-flight title coming way back in 1990.
To add salt to their wounds, they blew an 18-7 lead at the start of the Premier League era, as Sir Alex Ferguson threw them “off their perch” and established bitter rivals Manchester United as the most successful English team in terms of league success.
During this period, Liverpool have mainly beefed up their trophy count in cup competitions, twice winning the FA Cup while also lifting the League Cup on four instances. However, the last time they were successful in a cup campaign was at the start of last decade, winning the 2011/12 League Cup.
The one major positive over the last 30 years or so, though, has been the fact that they have extended their record of being the most successful English club in Europe. Liverpool have won the UEFA Champions League two times while also taking home the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) in 2002.
The second of their Champions League triumphs not only took their tally to six (the next best, to their delight, are Manchester United), it also seems to have woken the Reds up from their slumber. Jurgen Klopp’s methods are finally bearing fruit, with his men showing beyond doubt that they are a force to be reckoned with. More on that in the coming section.
Liverpool’s 2019/20 Season So Far…
Liverpool came into the season with a lot of hope and optimism. After all, the last two campaigns had seen them progress considerably. They had become top four regulars in the Premier League, coming within a point of the title last term; and after falling at the last hurdle in the Champions League two seasons ago, they became European champions for the sixth time in their history nearly one year ago.
The Reds knew that in order to have a chance of being title contenders at the very least, they had to maintain their levels. And, Jurgen Klopp’s men were on the money pretty much from the get-go; so much so that till date, they have failed to win just two of the 29 matches they have played. That is, in one word, insanity.
Till the end of February, Liverpool had not even been beaten once in the Premier League, with the only other time they were denied all three points being the 1-1 draw with Manchester United back in October. That is not all, for the Merseyside giants have been perched atop the table every week since the end of Gameweek 2, a span of 10 months.
Over the course of their Premier League campaign, they have beaten every single team currently playing in the competition. Furthermore, Liverpool are in the midst of a scintillating unbeaten run at Anfield, having not lost a home game in the Premier League in over three years. There is also a barrage of other records that they can still easily break by the time the season ends.
Sure, as many might argue, they might have had their fair share of luck along the way. However, in many instances, they have also made their own luck, with the sheer brilliance of some of their top class players pulling them through several times.
Having said that, the Premier League remains the only major trophy Liverpool are going to win this season, although they have also lifted the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup this term.
The Reds have been eliminated from both cup competitions. The defence of their Champions League crown has also been ended, with Atletico Madrid booting them out in the Round of 16. But really, if you ask Liverpool fans, most would just be happy with the elusive, long-sought Premier League glory.
The Manager: Jurgen Klopp
He is one of the most popular managers in the Premier League, but also one of the most ridiculed ones. He has a penchant for saying the right things at the right times, but can also make the lamest of excuses for his side on the odd occasion. Wherever one stands on their opinion of Jurgen Klopp, there is no denying his influence on the game.
Klopp arrived at Liverpool following a hugely successful stint with Borussia Dortmund, with whom he had famously broken Bayern Munich’s stronghold of the Bundesliga. His time at Dortmund had also seen him oversee a memorable run to the Champions League final in the 2012/13 season.
His record in the finals of cup competition since became a subject of intense scrutiny and trolling, especially after Liverpool lost in the deciding games in the Europa League (2015/16) and the Champions League (2017/18). Monikers like “passion merchant” have been thrown around to mock him for a lack of major honours in his CV.
Klopp, though, finally got the monkey off his back after delivering the Champions League title last season and it looks like since then, he has been wielding a magic wand. After all, he is set to become the first-ever Liverpool manager to oversee a Premier League title-winning campaign, having fallen desperately short of doing so last season (despite accumulating a whopping 97 points).
Not to mention trophies like the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World that have been won this season as well. Without a shadow of a doubt, Klopp will be remembered quite fondly long after he decides to call time on his spell at Anfield – Liverpool fans would hope there is still plenty of time for that.
Tactics & Style of Play
Jurgen Klopp’s style of play is one that does not necessarily need a lot of introduction. After all, the Liverpool boss has been the proponent of the concept that is Gegenpressing. But, what exactly is Gegenpressing?
In simple terms, it is the process of harrying the opponents as high up the pitch as possible instead of falling back to regroup when the team loses the ball, in order to regain possession. The idea is to not let the opposition settle into a rhythm and nipping the transition in the bud. In the process, the team also creates scoring opportunities for itself, opening up holes in the final third.
In Klopp’s own words, “The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable.”
The key component of the system in Klopp’s side is Roberto Firmino, who boasts of tremendous work-rate and passing acumen. The former quality helps the Brazilian execute the counterpress effectively along with his teammates, while the former comes in handy when he drops deep during the offensive phase of the game.
It is during this offensive phase that Firmino tends to drop deep, not just to connect midfield with attack but also pull central defenders off their lines. This works perfectly for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who pounce on the space that opens up around the opponents’ box.
Another crucial part of Klopp’s attacking tactics involve the full-backs, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who are given the freedom to charge forward and provide the bulk of the creativity in the final third with their pinpoint deliveries. Therefore, it is no wonder that the duo are always right up there in the assists leaderboard.
As for the midfielders, they hold the key in creating overloads both on and off the ball, occupying the half spaces to cut off passing options while enabling smooth and quick transitions when they have possession of the ball. The role of the defensive midfielder is also crucial, as he covers the spaces behind the advancing full-back.
Finally, Virgil van Dijk’s prowess on the ball helps during the build-up play, with the Dutchman often venturing into the opposition half with the ball. All in all, it is a system that suits Klopp’s charges to a T, allowing the full-backs time on the ball while taking the pressure off the midfielders and giving Mane and Salah time and space to do what they do best.
Careful and smart recruitment has been the key for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. The German manager did not get it right from the very first moment, although things have been falling in place since the summer of 2017.
Mohamed Salah was the first of the players whose arrival galvanized Liverpool, transforming them into a force to be reckoned with. Salah’s signing completed the Reds’ attack, with the Egyptian complementing Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and then-Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho superbly. Coutinho has since left, but Liverpool do not look the poorer for his absence.
The next game changing move was bringing in Virgil van Dijk after a long and controversial pursuit that saw the Northwest giants sour relations with Southampton. In the end, it has borne the sweetest of fruits, with the Dutchman completely revamping a defensive unit that, before him, had always been vulnerable, irrespective of the opponents.
The arrival of van Dijk has definitively enabled Liverpool to have the best defence in the Premier League, although it was the signing of Alisson Becker which helped complete this long and arduous transition. The Brazilian has Adrian as his backup.
Meanwhile, van Dijk is partnered by one of Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, neither of whom have managed to nail down a place as a regular for one reason or another. Out wide, there has been no looking past Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold for the longest time and for good reason, with the duo forming one of the best full-back pairings in the world.
In midfield, the team revolves around Liverpool’s inspirational captain Jordan Henderson. Fabinho is the resident defensive midfielder while the tireless Georginio Wijnaldum is another important member of Klopp’s squad.
The Reds’ boss has loads of quality when it comes to backups in midfield, with the likes of James Milner, Adam Lallana, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all playing their part in the team’s success this season. Finally, the fallback options in attack are Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri and miracle man Divock Origi, whose inkling for match/season-defining goals is well documented.
Marquee Player: Jordan Henderson
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane get the goals that make all the difference in the final third. Virgil van Dijk has transformed the side, nearly all on his own, while Alisson Becker is the goalkeeping extraordinaire between the sticks. But, as has been plainly evident this season, no player is as important for Liverpool as their captain, Jordan Henderson.
In fact, such has been Henderson’s impact this season that for a long time, he has been tipped to be crowned the Premier League Player of the Year. To think he was nearly sold off to Fulham for a deal to get Clint Dempsey to Anfield.
Henderson has had to scratch and claw his way to the top every step of the way during his Liverpool career. Now that he is there, there is no looking past the English international, who has well and truly become the Reds’ Captain Fantastic under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp.
Capable of playing as a defensive midfielder just as adeptly as he does as a box-to-box midfielder (his record in the absence of Fabinho this season speaks for himself), Henderson’s versatility is a major asset for Klopp. His numbers are quite solid as well, with the 29-year-old completing 2 of every 3 tackles he attempts while also laying on one key pass every game.
More importantly, he barely loses the ball cheaply, being dispossessed just 0.2 times in a game this season. A haul of 3 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League has also been vital for Liverpool, with Henderson contributing to some important goals over the course of the season.
But, Henderson’s impact just does not end on the pitch. Outside the game, he has been the model citizen, leading the Players Together initiative, which has helped raise millions for frontline NHS workers. A true inspiration and the beating heart of the Liverpool side… Soon the Premier League Player of the Year?
One To Watch Out For: Curtis Jones
Over the years, Liverpool have had some phenomenal players breaking through the academy and into the first-team. In the Premier League era alone, the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen have not only established themselves as bonafide stars, but also club legends in their own rights.
Most recently, Trent Alexander-Arnold has gone on to cement a place for himself for both club and country, with the youngster seen as one of the brightest prospects in the country. With such big names to follow, the pressure is naturally high on every player who hopes to establish himself in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. And Curtis Jones is someone who has shown just the signs so far.
Having made his first-team debut last season, Jones has kicked on in the ongoing campaign, taking little time to make an impression. The teenager has already scored a couple of vital goals in the FA Cup, making 8 appearances in all competitions so far. And his prospects only seem to be improving.
That he was entrusted with the responsibility of becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever captain, despite the fact that he was leading a heavily weakened team, in itself shows just how much Jones is rated within the club.
While it has been mooted that midfield is one area that Liverpool should invest in, Jones can just as easily be the solution that the Reds are seeking. With Adam Lallana set to leave once the season ends and Naby Keita’s future being uncertain, there is at least one spot opening up.
Judging by the impact he has made in a short space of time, Jones deserves to be given a chance, solely for his ability to score goals from midfield (one rare area where Liverpool are lacking) if nothing else. With an eye for a pass going along with his shooting prowess, Jones is a talent who can be successfully moulded into a world beater, if given enough game time.
Liverpool are going to win the Premier League title, plain and simple. Unless something dramatic happens in the remaining nine gameweeks, the Reds are going to lift the Premier League trophy for the very first time, with the triumph likely to be sealed before this month even ends.
Their club might not be winning a quadruple, or a treble, or even a double. But, Liverpool fans will surely be content with just the Premier League glory after all the “null and void” talks during a long and excruciating three-month break for them, and after a long, long time without a league title.
A huge weight is set to be lifted off the shoulders of everyone associated with the club, but with plenty of records yet to be broken, Jurgen Klopp surely will find a way to keep his men motivated well into the final weeks of the season. Pity, they won’t be able to celebrate with the fans after all the wait. Nevertheless, Liverpool no longer have to wait for next year to be their year. Their time is now.