Nickname: The Reds
Home Ground: Anfield
- 18 English Premier League Titles
- 7 FA Cup Trophies
- 8 League Cup Trophies
- 5 UEFA Champions League Titles
- 3 UEFA Cup Titles
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool’s 2017/18 season is a tale of two opposites. A story of success in the UEFA Champions League where the Reds have reached the Final, only to lose to Real Madrid, and a story of failure as once again they were not able to keep up in the race for English Premier League title.
It has been full 18 seasons since Liverpool have hoisted the English Premier League Trophy the last time and fans are already whispering about a curse. The Reds have been the giants of English soccer for decades and such a title drought is unnerving, to say the least.
This year, Liverpool are entering the season as one of the main favorites for the Premier League title, as they have managed to keep their core intact and added several players to solder the weak points of their roster.
I have prepared an overview of main Liverpool storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
Liverpool finished the 2017/18 English Premier League Season in the 4th place, once again causing the disappointment of the fan base and the management. The Reds making the UEFA Champions League Final did lessen the blow a bit, but more is expected from the team that should be challenging for titles every single season.
This is not news at Liverpool, who are still living in the shadows of their glory days and keep racking up trophy-less seasons, year after year. The arrival of Jurgen Klopp in 2015 was supposed to remedy that and push Liverpool among the elites. Although the progress is there and Liverpool are more competitive than before, English Premier League glory keeps slipping through their fingers.
Liverpool’s 2017/18 English Premier League season was almost derailed from the start, as the club lost their best player to Barcelona in a blockbuster transfer deal. Concerns about his replacement were justified, as few have expected his replacement Mohamed Salah to have the kind of season he had.
Still, Liverpool’s title chances in the Premier League immediately took a hit, as the Reds managed to win only 3 out of their first 9 games, to go along with 4 draws and 2 losses. Liverpool dropped to 9th place on the table and a large gap was created between them and the league leaders, Manchester City.
Liverpool’s form did improve as the season progressed and the Reds at one point had a 14-game unbeaten streak, with 10 wins and 4 draws. This was enough to propel Liverpool back into top 4 in the Premier League but they never managed to keep that form and get in the mix for the title.
Ultimately it was Liverpool’s record against Big 6 teams that was their downfall in the title race. The Reds have played 10 games against Big 6 teams last season and managed to win only 2 games, along with 4 draws and 4 losses. That just will not cut it, if Liverpool are hoping to be crowned champions.
English Premier League has traditionally been one of the most closely fought club leagues in the world, but the latest trends are actually going in a different direction. For the last 4 seasons, the winner of the English Premier League had on average an 11-point lead over the 2nd place team at the end of the season. This means that there is less room for error during the season.
Once again, the season should not be considered lost, here are a couple highlights:
- Mohamed Salah had a career season with the Reds, winning the Golden Boot and Player of the Year awards in the English Premier League.
- He also led Liverpool’s amazing campaign in the UEFA Champions League, all the way to the Final, where they were defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid.
Key Additions and Departures
Liverpool have finally made it through an offseason without one of their key players leaving the team for greener pastures. The Reds were active in the transfer market, trying to upgrade their roster in order to challenge at two fronts, the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
As I have previously mentioned, Liverpool didn’t really lose much in the offseason. The most notable departure is that of Emre Can, who has left the Reds on a free transfer to Juventus but his departure should not be felt due to the addition of Fabinho.
The only other player of note to leave was the third goalkeeper Danny Ward, who moved to Leicester City for a GBP 14 million transfer fee. Ward was not a part of the rotation at Anfield, so that should not pose a huge issue for Liverpool.
Style of Play
Jurgen Klopp is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the world and a true innovator in modern soccer. His titles with the German giants Borussia Dortmund, development of young players and the demonstration of modern attacking soccer are what makes the German a one-of-a-kind manager.
Since Klopp has arrived at Anfield in 2015, Liverpool have gone out of their way to rebuild their team and create a system that should reap the long-term rewards. First two years with Liverpool have been kind of rough on Klopp and media were starting to circle the wagons about his hiring. Still, the previous season has showcased a new Reds team and what are they capable off in Klopp’s system.
Klopp’s Liverpool mostly lines up in a 4-3-3 formation, which can transform into:
- 4-1-4-1 on some occasions
The attack is headlined by the trio of versatile forwards/wingers in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firimino and Sadio Mane. Liverpool play without a classic No. 9 forward. Roberto Firmino mostly plays as a False Nine.
The three midfielders are tasked in providing support for both the attack and defense. The defensive midfielder plays conservatively, mostly trying to help the center backs or fill the space left behind by fullbacks going forward. The other two midfielders mostly play a box-to-box role, participating in both attacking and defensive moves.
The backline plays very high and relies on fullbacks getting wide and forward as often as possible. Defensively, Liverpool relies on Klopp’s gegenpressing system in order to regain possession. Gegenpressing is a form of pressing where the ball and the player who has the ball are constantly pressed all over the pitch. Often Liverpool will pressure in packs, as several players rotate and press the ball and space around it.
A complementary part to gegenpressing is the lethal pace of the counter-attack that Liverpool employs. By playing without a true No. 9 and emphasizing pace and mobility in the other lines as well, Klopp was able to build a system in which the ball gets forward with amazing speed, as soon as the counter-attack begins.
Most of the teams have trouble keeping up with Liverpool’s pace in the attack since all 3 forwards are excellent in space and can win 1-on-1 duels versus defenders. Of course, this creates some problems in Liverpool’s defense, as they can seem to be quite vulnerable, once the whole team moves forward.
Still, Klopp’s style of play has been met with immense approval from the fan base and the board of directors. Currently, the lack of titles and results is the only thing that is holding Jurgen Klopp’s side to be considered one of the best ones in Europe.
2018/19 English Premier League Season Expectations and Predictions
Liverpool are entering the 2018/19 Premier League Season with high expectation. They have spent more than GBP 180 million on new additions to the squad, expecting a challenge for both the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
On one hand, they have managed to keep the core of their record-breaking offensive trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. They have also revamped their midfield with quality additions of Fabinho and Naby Keita.
On the other hand, the main issue with Liverpool has been their defense. Although they did improve with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk last season, still they have really struggled to keep a clean sheet in the away games. With Dejan Lovren at center back and still unproven Trent Alexander-Arnold at the right back, Liverpool might have trouble keeping up with the best offenses in the Premier League.
Liverpool have been given a favorable opening schedule, as they start the 2018/19 English Premier League campaign at home versus West Ham United, then travel to Crystal Palace and finally hosting Brighton & Hove Albion in the first month of the season. Getting off to a strong start might be of crucial importance for Liverpool.
In the next 8 games, besides others, Liverpool will have to face Tottenham Hotspurs, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. All of those games will be away games, except for the game versus Manchester City.
If the Reds are able to start off strong in the first three months of the season, the schedule will become much more favorable as the league progresses. It is much easier said than done since, at the same time, Liverpool will be competing in the UEFA Champions League.
I always find it very hard to put my trust in Liverpool, as they have delivered so many underwhelming seasons in the last 15 years. Still, I think that Jurgen Klopp finally has the squad he has always wanted and is leading them in the right direction. With the turmoil at Chelsea and Arsenal, I think that Liverpool shouldn’t have trouble placing in the top 4 in the English Premier League.
Manchester City look like the team to beat here, and I just don’t believe that Liverpool have the talent. Manchester United are loaded and seem to have Liverpool’s number under Jose Mourinho. Due to their experience, I would also put them ahead of Liverpool.