2017 the review
Well 2017 is over and as a result I’ve decided to look back on 2017 as a whole and see how Liverpool have fared and how far we have come in the last 12 months.
I think it’s fair to say the year started on a bad note for the Reds as January only saw Liverpool win one game out of a possible nine and even that was a FA Cup replay at Plymouth. One thing we learnt in that month is that the team that was scoring for fun at the back end of 2016, before Sadio Mane went to the African cup of Nations, was average at the best without the Senegalese forward in the team. Mane was so vital to the way Liverpool played last season and this became evident once you taken him out of the team, Liverpool struggled in January and went from being title contenders to battling for a top four finish within four weeks; it was a dire start to the year.
Mane came back in February just in time for the visit of Tottenham, and boy did we need him. Not only did he banged himself two goals in a 2-0 win for the Reds, but Liverpool were back on song from an attacking point of view, it’s amazing what a little bit of pace and power upfront dose to a team. The Tottenham game was significant in more than one way, it was also Henderson’s last game of the season as a hip injury wouldn’t allow him taking any further part until July. For me that period was very significant as seeing Liverpool without Henderson in the team was when I made my mind up that the guy wasn’t fit enough to play for Liverpool; at least for the first team anyway. The Liverpool midfield seemed to operate smoother without him, with Emre Can stepping in to that deep midfield role he showed us he could play in that position far better than Henderson. The winning goal against Burnley in March at Anfield where he picks the ball up and drove forward before unleashing a 20 yard shot into the bottom corner demonstrated how Can has the ability to pick the game up by the scruff of the neck and influence it in a positive way, something Henderson hadn’t done previously.
April Fools’ Day proved to be both bitter and sweet for the Reds, a brilliant 3-1 Derby day win was spoilt by the devastating news that Sadio Mane would be out for the rest of the season after picking up a knock in the game, Liverpool were left with the prospect of trying to qualify for the Champions League without the main and most influential player, they would also have to try and do something that they had not done in the entire season and that was win a game without Mane, it was going to be a hard end to the campaign. Despite the bad news Liverpool were able to change their style of play and grind out narrow victories especially away against Stoke and West Brom. However our home form dipped massively, a draw at home with Bournemouth was met by a disappointing defeat at Anfield against Palace which meant Liverpool were going into May needing other teams to slip up. Luckily they did and on the 1st May we travelled to Watford where we witnessed the goal of the season and probably the year. Emre Can’s overhead kick had us all jumping with delight as he wrote himself into Liverpool folk law.
A frustrating 0-0 draw against Southampton at Anfield meant that Liverpool needed a maximum six points out of the last two games, West Ham away wasn’t a problem at all as the Reds ran riot at the London Stadium demolishing the Hammers 4-0. The game is also saw Coutinho introduced to a new role in centre midfield where he was able to dictate the game, Klopp hinted that he may use the Brazilian in this role for the following season. So we went into the last day knowing that a win against Middleborough at Anfield would give us Champions League football, however this is Liverpool and we all know that the team likes to make us fans sweat a little. After seeing Man City and Arsenal take an early lead in their two respective games, fans began to feel the nerves as it took Liverpool until injury time in the first half to finally make the break through, Wijnaldum sending the Anfield crowds crazy. Two more goals in the second half by Coutinho and Lallana meant that Liverpool where there, we had finally made it back into the Champions League after a three-year exit.
Then came the madness of the summer and as the window opened the rumour mill went into overdrive, we were being linked with every player you can think of but the three names that seem to be on clubs Wish List were, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Djik . The Salah deal proved to be the most straightforward with the Egyptian international costing the Reds £34.3 million, Then there was Keita for a club record £66 million, although fans would have to wait until next season to see him in a red shirt. Van Dijk was much more complicated; arguably Klopp’s number one target, as the club desperately needed a commanding centre-back, FSG messed up big time with the Dutchmen and after a summer of waiting the deal never happened and fans were left with a very disappointing taste in their mouths at the end of deadline day, oh well, there’s always January. There were some other positives to take out of the window, Liverpool brought Alex Oxlade-Chemberlain for £35 million, also Andy Robertson and Dominic Solanke were brought in. Probably most importantly we were able to keep Coutinho out of the clutches of Barcelona even though the Brazilian handed in a transfer request.
So Liverpool went into the season looking good and despite a disappointing draw away at Watford on the opening weekend, where Mignolet and the back four where questioned again, back to back wins against Crystal Palace and Arsenal had Liverpool off and running. As well as that qualification into the Champions League was secured at the expense of Hoffenheim, where a star was born, Trent Alexander Arnold’s free kick got fans talking and his battle with Joe Gomez for the right-back position has been one of the topics of the season, all this meant that Liverpool fans were optimistic at the end of August. September however was a very different story, losing 5-0 away at Man City was just the beginning of what proved to be very frustrating next six weeks for the Reds. We only managed one win in September which was away to Leicester as our leaky defiance was exposed again and again, Van Dijk’s name was called for more and more by supporters. It wasn’t until mid-October that we got our next Premier League win, a 3-0 home victory against Huddersfield proved to be a massive relief for Liverpool supporters and Klopp. Since then the team have gone straight to strength banging in the goals and tightening up at the back, Salah has been a revelation, 21 goals before Christmas he’s the first Liverpool player since Ian Rush in 1986 to do this, there has been a couple of disappointments along the way, the Arsenal game on Friday again raised question marks regarding some players, especially Mignolet. However Liverpool are back up into the top four and out of their group and into the last 16 of the Champions League, so on the whole we have been moving in the right direction over the last couple of months.
So what of 2018? What can we expect from this Liverpool team? Personally I think it could be a very exciting year for all of us. Liverpool are still in two cup competitions, one of them being the Champions League, now I don’t want to make any prediction about Liverpool and how far we can go in Europe this season but all I’m saying is with Salah banging in the goals if we can so our defiance out, get Van Dijk in January, no team is going to enjoy coming to Anfield no matter who they are, especially if it’s in a second leg of a Champions League tie and Liverpool are still in the game. I think there are still a couple of issues within the team that I would like to see solved next year. Number one; we need to make a decision on who our number one goalkeeper is, whether that is one of the three keepers we have at the club or whether we go out in the summer and buy a world-class keeper for £50 million, either way I would like to see this issue resolved as it’s been going on far too long. Secondly, the Henderson issue needs to be sorted desperately, he is now into his third season as Liverpool captain and I have not seen any indication that he is ready to lead this Liverpool team into a title challenge. I’ve already had my say on this issue in a previous article, but in the last week Didi Hamann has come out and said that he feels Liverpool should sell Henderson as is not having the impact on the team that he needs to as captain. Personally I wouldn’t go as far as selling him but I do think he needs to be stripped of the captaincy and I think his role within the team needs to be examined because at the minute he is only playing good enough to be a squad player and not a first-team regular.
Let’s hope that 2018 can prove to be very successful for Liverpool and we can build a platform to turn his team into title challengers. Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday
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Article by Imraan Adam