So last we looked at where Liverpool messed up this season. There wasn’t that much to talk about given the fact that, you know, we’re in a Champions League final and that (I don’t think I’ve mentioned that lately, have I?). Still, like all teams, we aren’t perfect and given our fantastic performances in Europe, we should probably have come a lot closer in the league. This week with the big game on the horizon we are going to be a lot more positive. We are going to look at all the good things we did this season. So sit back, relax, and prepare to indulge yourself in Jurgen Klopp’s Reds…
The excellent business in the summer
Like all good seasons ours started last summer. The pursuit of Mohamed Salah was about to become annoying until we finally coughed up the asking price Roma wanted. I’m sure we’ll all agree now that it was £36.5 million well spent. We almost signed Virgil Van Dijk and ended up pulling out of the deal after Southampton threatened to report us to the Premier League. With two days to spare in the transfer window we also brought in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal for £40 million. On the face of it, it was a terrible deal. That amount of money for a lad who was most likely going to sit on the bench and hardly did anything special at his former club – what was the manager thinking? Well, apparently, he was thinking a lot further ahead than we were. Chamberlain ended up softening the blow of losing Philippe Coutinho in January once he finally settle at the club and has been a superb player for us since. Klopp has hardly put a foot wrong in the transfer market since coming to the Klopp and he got last summer’s window so, so right.
The win over Arsenal
This was exactly what we needed so early in the season. Arsenal were continuing on their downward curve but are by no means a poor team. They came to Anfield played right into our hands without even knowing it. Goals from Mane and Firmino gave us a 2-0 half-time lead but it was the second half that showed the world what we were about. Mohamed Salah’s goal epitomised the lad – pace, electric pace, and unflappable composure in front of goal. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to show that we finally had strength in depth too. It was so much the result but the manner of it which resounded around the country. It was enough to convince Oxlade-Chamberlain to come to Anfield, this being his final game in an Arsenal shirt, and terrified the rest of the league. We would see performances like this time and time again this season but it was the home game against Arsenal which put everyone on notice.
The eventual arrival of Van Dijk
This signing did so much for the club on a number of levels. First of all, the £75 million spent was a huge sum of money for a defender from a mid-table. However, it was a message to the rest of the league – we have the money and we will spend it on the right players. Secondly, Klopp showed that he had a plan that he wasn’t willing to deviate from. He wasn’t going to sign any player to improve us if he had the player in mind. That’s why we waited for Van Dijk when Southampton quashed the deal in the summer. Finally, despite what people had to say about his defensive ability (including me, but let’s not talk about that), Virgil Van Dijk was in fact the man to save this defence. He has brought to this team exactly what was needed – leadership, composure, power and pace. To say that signing Virgil Van Dijk was a masterstroke would probably be an understatement.
The beatings we gave Manchester City
I am at pains here to point out that the beatings I am talking about are in all competitions. The win over City at Anfield proved to everyone that they were beatable and that we have the blueprint to do it. We managed to score more than them, which is a big ask this season, and outworked them to a hard-fought win. However, it was the win over them in the Champions League which will be most damaging for this particular opponent in future encounters. At Anfield, we did exactly what we to them in the league encounter, which was blow them away with a powerful first-half display. The second leg though was what showed everyone we were a force to be reckoned with. After taking a pulverising of our own the first half, we came out in the second period a different team. We were much more composed, much more considered and showed much more class. It was as if we knew we were better than City and all we had to do was give them enough ripe to hang themselves. Our game management has been derided this season but our management of this game was perfect. We knew they had to come at us and we used it against them. In the end the aggregate scoreline flattered Guardiola’s men. They may have won the league but they won’t be looking forward to facing us next season.
The top four…again
This is big and people shouldn’t underestimate how big it is. Without qualifying for the Champions League next season then people would be saying that this season was a complete fluke. It almost never happened and, obviously, we never do things the easy way. It came on the last day but that gave us a chance to show that we can perform under pressure, and the chance to prove that couldn’t have come at a better time. We now have a Champions League final and a place in next seasons competition to tout around to potential transfer targets in the summer, as well as the chance to play alongside one of the greatest players in the world at the moment. Why wouldn’t anyone want to play for Liverpool next season?
The Champions League campaign is an obvious highlight but I don’t need to tell you that. There are plenty of other highlights this season which had positive, underlying messaged which will underpin any success we have next season. Jurgen Klopp has built a magnificent team but it is still a working progress. This team can still improve and that is a scary thought, especially for anyone not associated with this club. We finished the season unbeaten at home in the league and losing only one game in all competitions, the 3-2 defeat to West Brom in the F.A Cup. There is no reason why Jurgen Klopp, given another impeccable summer in the transfer window, cannot take this team to greater heights next time around.