After the game at the weekend I wanted to look back to the first time Jürgen Klopp faced Bournemouth as Liverpool manager in a League cup clash in October 2015 and look at how our squad has improved since the first time Klopp faced the Cherries and how could it improve in the future.
The starting XI for the league cup clash was:
Bogdan, Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Randall, Allen, Brannagan, Teixiera, Ibe, Firmino, Origi
Substitutes: Fulton, Skrtel, Moreno, Lucas, Lallana, Coutinho, Sinclair
Last weekend’s Starting XI:
Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Substitutes: Mignolet, Milner, Moreno, Klavan, Ings, Solanke, Woodburn
I know that the game in 2015 was a cup match and he was bound to put a weakened side out and a few players would have been rested or injured for that game too but if you look at the improvements we have made within the squad it is outstanding.
At the time Alberto Moreno was out first choice left-back with hardly any competition, hence the reason Clyne played left-back in the cup game, and now we have fan favourite Andy Robertson who is more than likely one of the first names on the team sheet for Klopp this season. Moreno is still at the club and had a good start to the season meaning Robertson couldn’t get a game but an injury made him miss a few games and gave the Scottish international the opportunity to impress Klopp, which he did, and challenge for the number one spot.
You’ve also got to look at the other defenders we had that season, the only players remaining in the current squad are Moreno, Clyne and Lovren, we also had Joe Gomez that season but he didn’t feature in that game. Since his first win he has brought in Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and has allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to push his way into the squad and challenge for the number one right-back position.
At the time we also had the ‘next big star’ in Brad Smith who was trying to push his way into the squad at left-back. He made 5 appearances for Liverpool and impressed in some of those matches which got fans excited but he was sold in 2016 to Bournemouth for round £4 million. Since joining the club he has only made five appearances and has struggled to find his place in the side. He did not feature in the game at the weekend despite being on the bench and has yet to make an impact to the team or hold down a starting place.
We have also made major improvements to the centre back positions with the arrival of Van Dijk and Matip. During that season our centre back options were Lovren, Skrtel, Sakho and Toure, not the best choices. Dejan Lovren is still standing and has put in some great performances over the last few matches and has seemed to partner well with Virgil Van Dijk, the arrival of the Dutch defender got every Liverpool fan excited and with a £75 million price tag on his back they were hoping he would live up to expectations, and he certainly has.
Van Dijk has started 14 games since joining in January and has kept 9 clean sheets, with the Reds winning 10 of those games. He is clearly a great presence in central defence, he is organised, has good leadership skills, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and gives the team and fans a lot of confidence. Klopp has made some great signings since becoming manager with Andy Robertson, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk all joining the club so it will be interesting to see what type of business he does this summer.
Our midfield that game was made up of Joe Allen, Cameron Brannagan, Joao Carlos Teixiera and Jordon Ibe. All three of those youngster where also labelled ‘the next best thing’ and ‘Liverpool’s future stars’, none of them remain at the club.
Cameron Brannagan had been at Liverpool since 2001 and had progressed through the ranks, he left the club in search for regular first team football and signed for Oxford United in January of this year for an undisclosed fee.
Joao Carlos Teixiera was also another exciting prospect, he signed for Liverpool in 2012 from Sporting CP. He only made two appearances for the club having been out on loan at Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion, he played in central midfield during the cup game vs Bournemouth and nearly scored an incredible back-heel goal, the shot was blocked and it fell to Nathaniel Clyne who smashed it into the net. Liverpool fans were excited with the prospect of Teixiera but he failed to make his mark in the squad and signed for Porto in 2016.
Jordon Ibe signed for the Reds in 2012 from Wycombe Wanderers. He impressed at academy level and made his debut for Liverpool in the final game of the season and assisted Philipe Coutinho for his goal. He made his second Premier League appearance as a 76th minute substitute in a 5-1 home win against Arsenal. He went out on loan to Birmingham City and Derby County and impressed for both of those clubs. He made 41 appearances for Liverpool in his 4 years at the club but left for Bournemouth in 2016 for £15 million as he wanted more first team football. During the game at the weekend he didn’t really threaten the defence nor did he set up any chances for his teammates, he was later subbed off by Eddie Howe and received a nice round of applause from both sets of fans.
Looking at that midfield compared to the one we have now, it is crazy to think that this game was only 3 years ago. Instead of Jordon Ibe we now have Sadio Mane and Mo Salah on the wing, instead of Conor Randall we have Trent Alexander-Arnold and replacing Clyne in the left-back positionwe have Andy Robertson. You also look at the rise of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, bought in the summer for £40 million, I don’t think Liverpool fans (or Arsenal fans) expected him to be this good. He didn’t impress much at the start of the season but over the last 2/3 months he has started putting in the performances we want to see from him, from driving the midfield forward to picking out passes to assist the front three to scoring screamers in Champions league quarter-finals, he has done it all in recent games and being only 24 fans are starting to appreciate and look forward to the type of player he can become in the future.
You’ve also got to point out the improvement of those players who did feature in that game. That season Roberto Firmino scored 10 Premier League goals in 31 appearances during the 2015/16 season, he has 15 in 33 Premier league appearances and a total of 25 in all competitions with a possible seven more games to play. He has also won more tackles (62) than Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi (61) this season which shows how determined he is to win the ball back for the team and help out in defence.
It is crazy to think that the squad could improve the way it has and if someone would have told us after that game that in 3-years-time you will be appearing in a Champions League semi-final against Roma with Mo Salah on 40 goals in a single season, we would have told them they were dreaming.
Hats off to Klopp who has given the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold the opportunity to make his mark on the squad and the fact that a Liverpool academy player and a £8 million signing from Hull City where playing in a Champions League Quarter-Final against Manchester City is crazy and it will be exciting to see how they progress in the future. It is also exciting the choice of players he has, if he can’t play Mo Salah then he can move Mane over to the right and play Firmino on the left with Ings up front or if he keeps Firmino up front he can play Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left/right. We have been struck with injuries over the last few weeks but the midfield options are also unbelievable and competition for places is why I think we have performed so well this season, everyone wants to play in this team so when they do get the opportunity they go all out because they want to impress the manager so they can be starting the next game.
It also crucial that we point out the fact that Naby Keita will be joining the squad next season and adding to the endless midfield options. We have also been linked with a number of talented individuals that could strengthen our team even more and have us challenging for every piece of silverware next season.
Article by Lauren Black – @LaurenBlack9
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