After a season in which they took the Premier League title race to the final day, amassed 97 points, twice rattled off nine-match winning streaks and lost only once, it came as no surprise that Liverpool had four players in the PFA Team of the Season, as well as the Player of the Season in Virgil van Dijk. Jürgen Klopp has assembled a formidable squad at Anfield since taking charge in October 2015, with the Reds having the league’s tightest defence as a consequence of his transfer activity.
I take a look at Liverpool’s squad from the 2018/19 season, power ranking each of the 19 players to have featured in five games or more since the opening day against West Ham back in August, awarding each of them marks out of 10 for their performances in that time.
It takes a very special player to make a transfer fee of £75 million look like a bargain, but that is what the Dutch captain has achieved in his season and a half at Anfield. Van Dijk is a player who made very difficult defensive tasks look routinely easy and raised the level of those around him, bringing assurance to the backline. He also chipped in with his share of goals, netting four in the Premier League. He is a deserving recipient of the Player of the Season award.
2. Andrew Robertson (9.8)
Eyebrows were definitely raised when the Scottish left-back joined from relegated Hull for £8 million two years ago, but nobody would claim now that Robertson is out of place at a club of Liverpool’s stature. Like Alberto Moreno, he is quite adept at bombing up the left flank, providing 11 assists during the season. Unlike Moreno, he also understands the defensive aspect of the game. It would not be stretching it to suggest that the Scotland captain is the best player in the world in his position at this moment in time.
3. Sadio Mané (9.5)
He spent last season in the shadow of Mohamed Salah but this year Mané was the pick of Liverpool’s iconic front three. He and the Egyptian were the league’s joint top scorers on 22 goals (along with another African in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) and the Senegal maestro even overcame a barren streak in front of goal during the autumn to emerge as the Reds’ most consistent striker. He ended up 11.7 millimetres away from scoring a goal at Manchester City that, had the clubs’ other results during the season remained the same, would have been pivotal in Liverpool winning the league by two points.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold (9.5)
It is baffling to think that the English right-back is only 20, given how instrumental a presence he has carved for himself in Liverpool’s line-up. He is still prone to the occasional moment of defensive absent-mindedness, but has matured hugely from last season and proved a vital attacking weapon for the Reds, supplying 13 assists. His deliveries from set pieces and open play were usually superb; he already looks like the best distributor of a ball for Liverpool since the days of Xabi Alonso.
5. Alisson Becker (9)
Not since peak Pepe Reina (pre-2010) have Liverpool had a genuinely top-class goalkeeper, but the Brazilian number one wasted little time in justifying his £57 million fee. He made a series of crucial saves, not least in the Merseyside derby win at Anfield, that earned the Reds vital points and inspired confidence in the players in front of him. Hopefully, he will learn to stop taking liberties with the ball at his feet, having been punished dearly for his casual nature in possession at Leicester early in the season. A clean sheet haul of 21 out of 38 speaks volumes of his impact.
6. Mohamed Salah (9)
It says a lot about the standards that Salah set for himself last season that he could go and score 22 goals, the joint-most in the league, and be considered in some quarters to have been a disappointment this term. He did endure a rocky patch from February into April when he went nine games without scoring, but his classy goals of a differing nature against Southampton and Chelsea in the latter weeks of the season showed that he is among the world’s best. He did display selfish tendencies at times, though, eschewing chances to pass to better-placed team-mates when goalscoring opportunities arose.
7. Georginio Wijnaldum (8.5)
The Dutchman got one major monkey off his back early in the season when he scored at Wembley against Tottenham, his first away goal in the Premier League after more than three years in England. Wijnaldum was a bundle of energy for the Reds during the campaign, with 21 interceptions during the season and a tackle success rate of 67.5%. He also ended the season with a fine passing success rate of 91.1%. For me, he edges it as Liverpool’s best midfielder during 2018/19.
8. Jordan Henderson (8.5)
You will never get consensus among Liverpool fans about the club’s captain. Some argue vehemently that he does not impact games; others insist that his presence is sorely missed when not on the field. Turning 29 next month, Henderson is at that age where he should be stepping up and leading by example and, to his credit, he enjoyed his most consistent season for the Reds since joining in 2011. He will always have some doubters, but he surely won over a fair few Kopites who previously would have been very sceptical of the skipper.
The Brazilian was often assigned with the thankless task of dropping deep to get the best out of Salah and Mané, which curtailed his penalty box impact to some extent. However, he still chipped in with 12 goals, including a superb hat-trick in the 5-1 hammering of Arsenal. Also, Firmino dutifully got on with his deeper role, covering plenty of territory and playing a largely unsung part in Liverpool’s attack, although there were some games where his impact was minimal.
10. Fabinho (8)
The Brazilian took time to settle in his first season at Anfield but, from December onwards, he grew to be an integral member of the Liverpool line-up. Tigerish in the tackle without being reckless, he scrapped his way through matches and happily got on with the unglamorous side of the game. He ended the Premier League season with 28 interceptions and a passing success rate of 85.3%.
11. James Milner (7.5)
The veteran lived up to his reputation as a tireless workhorse during 2018/19, even if it became apparent in some games that he no longer has the legs for playing a string of 90-minute matches. He excelled as Liverpool’s penalty taker, scoring four times from the spot, including crucial spot kicks in tense away trips to Fulham and Cardiff. He will probably be phased out of the team gradually from this summer onwards, but he remains an invaluable member of the squad.
12. Joël Matip (7.5)
The Cameroon international was entrusted to step into the breach left by Joe Gomez after the England youngster’s injury in December and he answered the call commendably. With the towering presence of van Dijk alongside him, Matip looked a far more assured player than in his first two years at Liverpool and he put in several big performances in key games later in the season. Klopp faces an interesting decision as to whether he or Gomez will be van Dijk’s first-choice centre-back partner when the new season begins.
13. Naby Keïta (7)
We had known for several months that he would be pitching up at Liverpool last August and, after an excellent debut against West Ham, Kopites were excited at the prospect of what Keïta would bring. He couldn’t quite build on that opening performance, though, and after a string of ineffective performances midway through the campaign, some questioned whether he was already destined to become an expensive flop. However, he produced some strong performances towards the end of the season and had the honour of scoring the club’s quickest ever Premier League goal 15 seconds into the 5-0 win over Huddersfield. A decent if unspectacular first year at Anfield, but there are signs of better things to come from him.
14. Divock Origi (7)
Now 24, another season has gone by where the Belgian struggled to become a regular first-team presence at Anfield. However, what he lacked in regularity, he more than made up for in effectiveness, with his last-gasp winners against Everton and Newcastle sure to live in the memory. Origi had to bide his time for most of the season, but when asked to step up for the injured Firmino in recent weeks, he made a significant impact. Can that purple patch kickstart his hitherto slow Liverpool career or will he go down as nothing more than a respected cult figure who came good on occasion?
15. Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5)
The Swiss international seemed like a real coup from Stoke last summer and showed flashes of his off-the-cuff genius at times during the season. His two goals off the bench in the 3-1 win over Manchester United ensured that he will always be fondly remembered by the Kop. Unfortunately, that December day was as good as it got for Shaqiri this season. He barely featured in the second half of the season amid suggestions of a falling out with Klopp, although he provided one of the moments of the year with his pinpoint free-kick from which Origi scored the late winner at Newcastle recently.
16. Joe Gomez (6.5)
The young defender was blossoming into a fine player alongside van Dijk before an unfortunate injury at Burnley in early December ruled him out for almost all the rest of the season. That lengthy layoff gave Matip the chance to establish himself in the team so Gomez will need to battle to regain his place when pre-season begins in July. If he can forge his way back into the team and rediscover the form he showed throughout 2018, he won’t be long putting the frustrations of this season behind him.
17. Dejan Lovren (6)
After five years at Anfield, the Croatian continues to polarise opinion among supporters. Some reckon he is an easy target when cheap goals are conceded; others maintain he should have been shipped off elsewhere a long time ago. While not as error-prone as in previous seasons, moments such as the misjudgment which facilitated Newcastle’s first goal against the Reds at St James’ Park showed why Lovren still struggles to hold down much affection among Kopites. At this point, it looks like he’ll either have to be content to play a backup role at Anfield or try his luck elsewhere.
18. Daniel Sturridge (5.5)
Sturridge would have known that he was unlikely to displace the settled front three this season, although he hit a hot streak early in the season and provided a stunning late equaliser against former club Chelsea. He was unable to maintain that form, however, and he has become an increasingly peripheral figure at Anfield this term. Even when given his chance, in most games he has failed to make an impact. He will be 30 in September and it would be no surprise if he seeks pastures new over the next few months.
19. Adam Lallana (5)
As a long-time admirer of the 31-year-old, it pains me to put him at the bottom of this list. However, even Lallana’s most staunch backers are now forced to admit that his best days are in the past, the injury which kept him out of almost all of 2017/18 scuppering his career. He produced an outstanding performance in the 4-2 win at Burnley in March as a surprise starter, but only five starts all season indicate that, in two years, he has gone from one of Liverpool’s stars to a bit-part player. I fear that we have seen the last of him in red after five years at Anfield.
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