How Liverpool Got Their Groove Back
(Note:this was written before Bournemouth match. I’m sorry)
Liverpool sits a point back of the top of the Premier League table. Since the beginning of the season, the Reds have been going back and forth amongst the top four. Yes there was a hiccup against Burnley, but that was in early August. Since then, Liverpool have looked like the best team in the Premier League. Yes, Chelsea sits a top of the table ahead of Liverpool, but. these two clubs have already played and Liveprool handled Chelsea quite handily. What is most shocking about all this is that I don’t think a lot of Liverpool fans were expecting this, especially after what was viewed as a mediocre transfer window initially. Sure Liverpool fans expected a shot at the top 4, but only a few had the confidence to publically say that Liverpool would win the league. This season has been filled with delights and wonderful surprises.
Coming off of the transfer window, it was normal for some Liverpool fans to have concerns. Yes, the moves of Karius and Matip were good, but there were questions raised. Liverpool had missed out in some top targets like Mario Gotze and had to “settle” on the likes of Sadio Mane. Mane was very divisive amongst the supporters as many felt that Mane was overpaid. Mane was a one trick pony who only used his pace and was raw in every other area. Then cult like figure Joe Allen, who had excelled under Klopp, left for Stoke City. He was replaced with Gini Wijnaldum, who for the most part was very unimpressive with Newcastle. Oh and there was the question of what the Reds were going to do with the left back position. On top of all of is arch rivals Manchester United had signed Pogba and Zlatan, who Manchester City spent like madmen as well. So it was normal for Liverpool fans to question if this team would even make a euro competition. It appeared that every other team in the league aphad drastically improved, while Liverpool was unimpressive.
Oh how we(I was one) who criticized the transfer window were wrong. But can you really blame us? After all we had been burned by FSG decisions before(Balotelli, Benteke, etc.) In retrospect, the moves made a lot of sense and fit Klopp’s system perfectly. While Wijnaldum does not fill out a stat sheet, he has proved to be a much needed rock in midfield. He has been the perfect compliment to both Lallana and Henderson, particularly Lallana. Wijnaldum has been creative from midfield, something Liverpool have been lacking. Then there is Karius, the man brought in to replace Simon. While Karius has looked shaky at points since coming over from Mainz, he still has recorded 4 clean sheets in all competitions. Do you know how many Simon has had this year? 0. So Karius has helped right a defense that was a large question mark headed into the year.
Speaking of defense, no one has been a better defender this season than Joel Matip. To say that getting him on a free transfer is an understatement. Liverpool desperately needed a center back given the loss of Kolo Toure, the issue of Sakho, and the uncertainty of Lovern. Matip has offered stability and consistency in what is a vastly improved defense. Then there is Mane, the man many thought was overpaid. Sadio Mane has been the key figure in Liverpool’s offense (6 goals). He has proven to be the third threat along with Firmino and Coutinho. He has opened up defenses. Mane has proven that Liverpool do not need a true striker to be successful.
It is not just the transfers that have caused the Liverpool resurgence, but the players that Klopp inherited. You know the players that many thought were awful under Rodgers? How many times did Liverpool fans get upset with Dejan Lovern before Klopp arrived? The same can be said for Lallana and Henderson. Hell who would have thought that James Milner would be the cure to the left back problem. But that has been the power of Klopp. He has mixed and matched lineups and formations trying to find the combinations that brought out the best in players people were so easy to write off. When Liverpool stayed pat in the January/February window, he said it was “because we have players returning from injury”. It was easy to question why Klopp wouldn’t just overhaul the roster. Again he knew better than most of the fans, that this was a talented team, at did not have the right tactics. Well it appears that that issue has been fixed.
But the biggest reason for Liverpool’s rejuvenation is the 4–3–3 formation. There had been a myth that to be serious contenders for a championship a club needed a 20 + goal scorer. But Liverpool’s 4–3–3 seems to defy that wisdom. Daniel Sturridge, who is presumed to be that top of goal scorer, can not find his way onto the pitch. Instead the attackers are Firmino, Coutinho, and Mane. It is sort of a pick your poison for defenders. Do they attack the ball or do they sit back on the other two. Plus With the likes of Lallana and Wijnaldum crashing down as attacking mids, the defense becomes overwhelmed. This creates mismatches and gaps that has allowed Liverpool to be one of the most proficient attacking teams since league inception.
It appears ladies and gentlemen that Liverpool is back. All it took was adding the cuddly German teddy bear to reach this point. Yes there has been some bumps on the road, but if Liverpool can keep up their good play, especially with no European competitions to worry about, then winning the league is possible.