Football News: Liverpool Season Review

 

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Liverpool Season Review
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Liverpool Season Review

A very up and down season for Liverpool, despite them spending almost all of it in the top 4. It started off strongly, the team playing some great attacking football, though defensively struggling, though there was the odd, and I do mean odd, defeat to teams they should have been rolling over. Then it all went pear shapped, as usual, when the players suddenly realised how well they were playing, that there were in with a shout at the title and it all, as usual, went to their head. There were the usual suspects mouthing off to the press about what they were going to do, while their performances slipped from the level they were at to begin the season.

More silly defeats came, as the team went through whole periods where they completely forgot how to defend, and slipped up against the lower half teams. The end of the season saw something click and, though it was not as exciting or attacking as the first part of the season, the last 4 matches saw a defensively responsible team working together to pick up results and four clean sheets in a row to end the season. This was not a season to remember, no trophies and a 4th placed finish, but it was a step forward over the previous season.

However, this has to go down as a season of under-achievement from a team lacking in the mental strength needed to grind out results against the lower half teams. Their performances against the other top 7 sides showed the quality is there, however they were not lifting themselves in the same way for those outside of the top 7 and paid the price with some silly defeats. All a long way from the glory days of the 70s and 80s when the next game was always the most important and talk of the title was banned around Anfield. Everything was about winning the next game and geared towards doing so, whether the opposition was Manchester City or Yeovil Town, the focus was the same. Total.

Now it is a case of a good win or two and the papers are full of Liverpool players talking about a title challenge, completely forgetting about the need to beat relegation battlers like Swansea City and Hull City because they are celebrating good results over the big clubs. Until the attitude within the club is changed, it will always be about struggling to get top 4, rather than fighting for the title.



Jurgen Klopp

Not a vintage season for the German, despite improving on the previous season's finish, he had it in his hands to do so much more, but was unable to focus and motivate the players for the games against the lesser sides. There is also a clear problem of slow starts for the team in most games, with the team tending to struggle in the first half. Then there is the defence, at no point during the season did the defence look competent when it came to defending set pieces. There was a general air of panic that went through the team, and the stands, every time the ball was played into the box.

The good thing is that, despite getting in the top 4, there is a lot that Klopp can work on to get more from the team, with plenty of trophies on offer for him to aim at. The bad thing is that there is so much to work on that it is going to be difficult to actually fix any of them. One thing that has been noticeably absent is his use of substitutions to change a game. Just once was he able to make subs that affected a game for the better, that also being the only game he chose to make early subs that I can remember, which might tell you something.

Now his job is to make another step forward next season, remaining competitive for a top four place despite having to cope with European football on top of all the domestic football. This is when we will find out whether Klopp is the world class coach the Germans believe he is or if he is a good coach who got lucky to take over the right team at the right time in Borrussia Dortmund.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Simon Mignolet

Started the season in the team, then lost his place, only to get it back in December as the team's form faltered. It was not until the final few games of the season that he looked anything other than a dodgy keeper liable to let a soft shot through him or flap at a cross that ends up in the net. The last few matches saw him look commanding, almost, certainly more decisive than the ditherer that he had previously been in his career. Instead of shying away from the contact when balls were delivered into the box, he was just concentrating on catching or clearing the ball, even if there were a crowd of players.

It is a shame that the change did not happen sooner in the season, because Mignolet suddenly looked every inch the Premier League keeper and bred confidence in a defence that had been extremely shakey up until then. For most of the season he had been the shakiest part of that shakey defence.

Marks out of 10: 3


Loris Karius

The German keeper arrived in a blaze of publicity as the answer to Liverpool's goalkeeping woes, only to break his hand in preseason and miss the start of the season. When he finally got his chance in the first team, following a run of poor performances by Mignolet, he looked like a player lacking in confidence and a couple of errors led to him being dropped, as the fans got on his back. Despite this, his record when in goal was actually good, suffering just one defeat in his 10 Premier League appearances.

Marks out of 10: 3



Joel Matip

Arrived at Liverpool on a Bosman free, after he ran down his contract at Schalke 04. The centre back initially slotted in effortlessly, looking like the calming influence needed in the Liverpool defence, working well with Karius behind him. Then an injury took him out of the side for a while, by the time he returned Liverpool's form had gone, Karius had been dropped and Mane was away at the AFCON. The team looked a shadow of the one that had been lighting up the league and Matip's defending, instead of just his ballplaying abilities, were put to the test. A test that found him wanting, as he struggled with the same Achille's heel as the rest of the team, an inability to cope with basic set piece defending.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Dejan Lovren

On his day, Lovren is a dominating centre half who smothers his opponent, giving him no space and marking him out of the game. Most of the time it is not his day and his attempts to smother an opponent manifest in rash tackles and attempts to nip in ahead of a forward to try to get a ball that is not there to take. Incredibly inconsistent because of his inability to change his game depending on the forward he is facing, Lovren also has problems with niggling injuries forcing him to miss the odd game here and there, making it difficult for him to build a partnership.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Joe Gomez

Recovering from a long term injury, last season anything was a bonus as the young defender just needed to get back to playing football at any kind of level. The 3 FA Cup matches gave him the chance to get 90minutes of competitive football under his belt.

Marks out of 10: 3



Ragnar Klavan

Estonia's captain was more surprised than anyone when he got told Liverpool were interested in signing him to be a back up. Klavan was brought in as a replacement for Mamadhou Sakho and to provide cover for the defence. However he ended up playing a large number of games due to the injury problems of the first choice pairing Lovren and Matip. At times he looked a solid defender, but he struggled badly against pace.

Marks out of 10: 4


Alberto Moreno

It was not a season the former Sevilla man will look back on with any fondness, as his overly attacking style and rashness in the tackles saw him dropped from the first team to be replaced by a midfielder playing out of position. Despite this, Moreno never moaned or caused any problems, he just worked harder in training and showed a great attitude. It is just a shame that is not mirrored in his performances!

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Nathaniel Clyne

Playing for a team in which the fullbacks are expected to get forward as much as possible, it is worrying that a player who played in every league game, bar one, managed just 2 assists. That tells you a lot about why Klopp has been keen to replace Clyne, despite the right back being a reliable player who can usually stay fit. However his weakness in defence is not made up for by his attacking prowess, which is just as weak.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Trent Alexander-Arnold

The teenager made his breakthrough during the season, impressing most in his appearances, especially when making his first start at Old Trafford to face Manchester United. He never let anyone down.

Marks out of 10: 6



Emre Can

The German midfielder struggled in the first half of the season as injury hindered his performances on the pitch. Once Can was free of the problem, his performances improved until he became one of the better players in the team during the run in.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Lucas Leiva

Leiva's final season on Merseyside was a mixed bag, some excellent performances were mixed in with some poor ones as he was moving between the centre of defence and centre of midfield.

Marks out of 10: 5


Kevin Stewart

Was given a few early season league sub appearances and some cup matches to show what he can do, but never did enough to hold down a place. It was little surprise he was sold to Hull City in the summer.

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Jordan Henderson

I think the problem with Henderson is that people do not really appreciate what he does, as his work is mostly off the ball, the parts of the game that do not show up in YouTube compilations or MOTD highlights. It was only when his season ended early that the vast majority of Liverpool fans began to appreciate what he does. The Liverpool midfield was easy to bypass with him in the team, once he had gone, it almost became invisible defensively, as teams just went through it like it was not there.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Georginio Wijnaldum

Wijnaldum was somewhat of an impulse buy, as newly relegated Newcastle United desperately searched for clubs to take some players off their hands to reduce the wage bill, the Dutch midfielder was offered to Liverpool. Klopp took a chance and it worked out well enough. Wijnaldum was a regular in the team, popped up with some important goals and weighed in with a fair few assists as well. Of the central midfield trio, he was the one given license to get further forward and was usually quietly effective, though very rarely did anything outstanding.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


James Milner

Milner was the emergency response to Liverpool's left back woes and did well enough to keep his place all season. While never ideal in the role, especially not for a team playing with such an emphasis on fullbacks to provide attacking width, Milner just knuckled down and got on with it. He did stifle a number of attacking moves, as his insistence on cutting back on to his right foot before putting the ball in killed the momentum of moves. Overall though, he did very well and it was only towards the end of the season that teams began to exploit him defensively.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Marko Grujic

The youngster only managed a handful of sub appearances as injury blighted his season.

Marks out of 10: 0


Connor Randall

Got just one half of FA Cup football all season.

Marks out of 10: 0


Philippe Coutinho

While the Brazilian is not the most popular player amongst Liverpool fans currently, after handing in a transfer request in the hopes of pushing through a move to Barcelona, it must be remembered just how well he played last season to get them interested in signing him. The team struggled while he was out injured and Coutinho got off his sickbed to help the team out at Stoke City, along with Firmino, completely turning the game on its head after his introduction. 13 league goals is not to be sniffed at either, there are a lot of strikers around who would love to be able to say they notched 13 Premier League goals in one season.

Marks out of 10: 8.5


Adam Lallana

Lallana is a player who usually annoys me, with his constant needless Cruyff turns and pirouettes, twenty extra touches than needed before passing etc, he slows down attacks far too much and counters usually break down at his feet. Though there has never been any doubt about his ability on the ball and his ability to influence the game when on the ball, it was just a question of him dwelling on the ball and destroying Klopp's style of fast break football. Last season Lallana started the season finally understanding the role he needs to play, there was still the lovely fast feet, odd pirouette and Cruyff turn, but he was releasing the ball early.

Unfortunately that all vanished and he returned to the old Lallana in the second half of the season, just about the same time another old Lallana failing surfaced, mouthing off to the press. His tendency to tell all and sundry what he and the team will do, only to then fall flat on their faces at the likes of Bournemouth and Hull City, is, quite frankly, embarrassing. As has been often said, players should do their talking on the pitch and talk about what they have achieved, not what they will do. One thing is sure, both sides of Lallana were still involved in everything Liverpool did. He is the key to the press defensively, chasing everywhere and everything, offensively the ball usually goes through him at some point in every attack.

Marks out of 10: 7


Ovie Ejaria

A couple of short sub appearances in the Prem and a handful of cup games were enough for Ejaria to show he is a tidy footballer, very much in the Arsenal mould, as he came from their academy. However, he showed little in the way of signs of being anywhere near ready to be a regular in the Premier League.

Marks out of 10: 2


Sadio Mane

Liverpool's now (almost) traditional summer buy from Southampton last summer was Mane and he proved to be the best of the lot, so far. His pace, trickery and eye for a goal transformed the team and created a real threat on the counter. Liverpool looked a completely different team with him on their right flank, as he sparkled until he went away to AFCON. He returned to a totally different team, struggling for form, confidence and with injuries disrupting its rhythm. His return did improve things, until a knee injury ended his season at the beginning of April.

Marks out of 10: 8.5


Sheyi Ojo

The young winger has missed a lot of time out with a back problem, but he was able to get a start in the 3rd Round FA Cup match, though only a sub appearance in the replay. Not at his best last season and needed the loan he has been given this season to get back to where he should be.

Marks out of 10: -1


Ben Woodburn

The youngster made a name for himself, bursting onto the scene at such a young age and scoring a goal in the EFL Cup. Managed to get himself into the FA Cup starting line up and a start in the Premier League, as well as a few sub appearances. There were a lot of promising signs for the future from the teenager.

Marks out of 10: 6


Harry Wilson

Wilson had looked to be on his way out of Anfield, after struggling to live up to earlier promise, when he burst into the Welsh squad while barely out of nappies. Last season his performances in the reserve side brought him back into the mix for the first team and he was rewarded with a sub appearance in the FA Cup.

Marks out of 10: 2


Roberto Firmino

Firmino plays the central striker role in what has become known as a false 9 position. While nominally up front, he is often deeper looking to create chances for others, particularly the wide forwards. His job often involved dragging the centre backs higher up the pitch to leave space in behind for the pace of Mane. That he did well, extremely well, with skill to beat his man or just to hold onto the ball. Firmino was also an extremely effective first line of defence, chasing and harrying everywhere. His weakness is his goals tally, though 11 goals in 35 Premier League games stands comparison with anyone playing a similar secondary striker role.

Marks out of 10: 8


Daniel Sturridge

It is a familiar story with Sturridge, injuries blighted his season once more.

Marks out of 10: 1


Danny Ings

Maybe it is a Dan thing? All I know is that Dans Sturridge and Ings have had careers blighted by serious injuries over the last couple of seasons. Ings was just recovering from one serious knee problem, managed a couple of sub appearances in the EFL Cup, only to suffer another serious knee injury requiring an operation.

Marks out of 10: 1


Divock Origi

It is not quite happening for Origi at the moment, in and out of the side, sometimes looking like a genuine world class player of the future, other times looking like a headless chicken. Origi is still learning how to use his power, pace and skill together for best effect and it shows. At one point he went on a run of four league games in a row where he netter, but then struggled after that to get things going.

Marks out of 10: 4.5

Written by Tris Burke

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