Liverpool battled long and hard in the 2017-18 season. But, which three deals impacted the Reds the most? The Hard Tackle takes a closer look.
The 2017-18 season was quite a memorable one for Liverpool, even though they were unable to win a single trophy. Instead, the campaign was all about the tremendous progress that the Reds made under Jurgen Klopp, transforming not just into regular faces in the top four picture, but also as Champions League contenders.
Playing a major role over the course of a long, winding season were the players who were signed by Klopp last summer and in January, while some players who left the gates of Anfield left some sort of an impact in their wake as well.
The Hard Tackle takes a look at the three deals that impacted Liverpool the most over the course of the 2017-18 season. Here are the ins and/or outs that had the most major impact on the Reds’ campaign.
Jose Enrique, Aly Cissokho, Andrea Dossena, Paul Konchesky. These are just some of the names that were part of the mess that had been the left-back slot for Liverpool over the last decade or so. One could perhaps even add Alberto Moreno to the list, with the Spaniard being too erratic for his own good.
As a result, versatile veteran James Milner had to be deployed as a makeshift left-back for pretty much the entire the 2016-17 season. But, if Liverpool had to move forward and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned, they just couldn’t have continued with Milner, and Klopp duly addressed the elephant in the room, finally.
Andrew Robertson was bought last summer from relegated Hull City, and the Scot wasn’t too inspiring a signing to begin with. That Moreno kept him out of the starting lineup for the first few months of the season only increased the doubts for some. But, Robertson bided his time and grabbed his chance by both hands when it finally came his way.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back, and has made the left-back slot his own. Liverpool now finally have a player who can not just attack well and pose a threat in the final third, which in Robertson’s case is quite deadly, but also someone who can hold his own against the best of attacking players.
The true testament to his defensive abilities and awareness is the moment in the Champions League final when he stopped Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring a near-certain goal by coming off his position and making a last-ditch tackle. With his best years still ahead of him, Liverpool have certainly struck gold in Robertson.
Virgil van Dijk
Up until the start of the season, defence had been the true Achilles heel for Liverpool, not just under Jurgen Klopp, but pretty much since Jamie Carragher departed in 2013. Joel Matip had failed to provide any reprieve whatsoever, while Ragnar Klavan was only seen as a backup option at best.
Dejan Lovren, too, didn’t inspire much confidence since joining Liverpool from Southampton in 2014. A catastrophic outing against Tottenham at Wembley was evidence enough as to how error prone the Croat was. Therefore, it didn’t really come as a surprise when Liverpool broke the bank to sign Virgil van Dijk in January.
Coming to Anfield as the most expensive defender of all time, van Dijk definitely had a huge load on his shoulders, and after initial hiccups he shone through at the back for the Reds. In fact, his impact has been so pronounced that Liverpool boasted the best defensive record in the last five months of the season.
Quite a surprise, but the Reds conceded just six goals following van Dijk’s arrival, with the Dutchman organising a backline that had been helter skelter up until January for the most part. Van Dijk’s presence has also seen Lovren regain confidence and become a colossal figure at the back.
There surely is some more work to be done, but van Dijk’s signing was definitely a step in the right direction. One can only wonder how much more impact will the defender create after playing an entire pre-season before the forthcoming campaign. Not to mention, his leadership abilities make him a candidate to be a future captain.
Saving the best for last, is the signing of the season. When Liverpool paid around £35 million to sign Mohamed Salah, there was a lot of excitement among the Reds’ fanbase, with a tinge of skepticism attached to it as well. After all, here was a player, who just couldn’t get going at Chelsea.
But, Salah showed that he was perhaps, unfairly discarded at Stamford Bridge and that he had come a long, long way since then, with the Egyptian now a player reborn after his AS Roma spell. But, even after his initial free-scoring start to the season, very few would have been able to predict the kind of impact he would create for the rest of the season.
Salah became the single most pivotal player for the Reds, with his importance not just centred around the bagful of goals that he scored. Sure, he never really stopped scoring goals at will, either in the Premier League or in Europe, but his presence on the field instilled a sense of confidence that no player since one Luis Suarez could bring.
The same was evident when he was forced off the field with a shoulder injury in the Champions League final last month, with his absence shattering all the belief that the players and fans had of them beating defending champions Real Madrid. No one can really fill the huge void that he leaves in his wake.
His creativity also meant that Liverpool never really missed Philippe Coutinho upon his move to Barcelona, even though the Brazilian had become such a key figure at Anfield. And what a fantastic way to cap off his first season back in England, than with the Golden Boot that silenced all his nay sayers.
If he can now continue the same form next season, Salah might just have found the key for Liverpool to win the Premier League title for the very first time.