Klopp’s First Full Season At Liverpool Is A Success Despite The Struggles
Before the start of the season, if one told a Liverpool fan that their team would be third in the Premier League table with just 2 games left to play, they would have taken it all day long. After finishing the past two seasons outside the top four positions, a great chance to return to the UEFA Champions League action will be great news for the Reds. However, on reflection over the ongoing campaign, there are quite a few who would feel things could have been so much better.
Liverpool began their first full season under Jurgen Klopp in a sensational way, taking the Premier League by storm with some scintillating performances. The 4-3 win on the opening day against Arsenal set the tone for what was to come for the Merseysiders as they evolved into a fluid attacking machine under the German, scoring goals for fun, blowing teams away with their incisiveness in the final third. By the end of December, they had established themselves as one of the favourites for the title.
But the turn of the year saw Liverpool falter, as Klopp was hit by unavailability to key players due to injuries and international duties (in the case of Sadio Mane). The Reds went on a downslide from then on and haven’t been able to recover completely from that slip. Long-term injuries to captain Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane haven’t helped as the lack of depth in the squad, while the lack of a stable defensive partnership has hurt them badly as well.
Despite their slip-ups, they sit 3rd in the table and are in a strong position to finish in the top four, after Manchester United’s loss to Arsenal last weekend. While the expectations may have risen from the blistering start, which might have led to a certain level of disappointment among the fans, the season, on the whole, has been a success for Klopp and here are three reasons why:
Better Home Record
In every Premier League season since 2002-03, the team with the best home record has gone on to win the title at the end of the season. So, it can be said that home form is a good parameter to judge how a team has fared over the course of the season.
Over the past two seasons, Liverpool haven’t been able to live up to expectations at Anfield. In the 2014-15 season, under Brendan Rodgers, the Reds finished with 35 points at home (W10, D5, L4) whereas last time around they had managed to collect only 32 points (W8, D8, L3). This time, however, Klopp has managed to make his team stronger at Anfield.
Liverpool, this term, have collected 38 points at Anfield from 18 games with 11 wins and 5 draws, with two losses coming against Swansea City and Crystal Palace. And they are favourites to win the final home game of the season, which would take them to 41 points – a much better return than the last campaign.
Record Against The Top Teams
Liverpool’s excellent record against the heavyweights of the Premier League this season has been well documented. And when one takes into consideration their performances against the big teams over the past two years, it paints a much better picture.
In 2014/15, Liverpool managed to hit the top ten sides of the league for just 26 points (8W, 2D, 8L) and followed it up with 24 (6W, 6D, 6L) in the 2015/16 campaign. This time around though, their record makes for a much better reading. The Reds have managed to win 10 games from 18 games against the teams from the upper half of the table and have managed 7 draws, with the only loss coming against 9th placed Leicester City, which totals up to 37 points – that is a great record to have.
Moreover, when you further focus on their record against just the top six teams, Liverpool haven’t lost a single game to any of the teams in the top six and have managed 5 wins and 5 draws – 20 points from a possible 30 against the best that the league has to offer.
Champions-elect Chelsea have managed 16 points (5W, 1D, 4L), Tottenham 12 points (3W, 3D, 3L – will play Manchester United this weekend), Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have 10 points (2W, 4D, 4L) with United having played a game less. Surely, that is a strong reason to feel good about the club’s fortunes and the direction that they are headed in.
Return To European Football
Liverpool are one of the biggest clubs in the world of football, with one of the richest histories at both domestic and continental levels. Five European Cup/Champions League victories, three UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies is some trophy haul.
But for all their past glories, Liverpool have played in the Champions League just once since the 2009/10 season, which was in the 2014-15 campaign under Rodgers, which ended with the team crashing out at the group stages. There was the bitter loss in the Europa League finals in the subsequent campaign, but this season, they have had to make do with no European football at all. But now, they are on the verge of a return to the European football’s premiere event.
Sitting at 3rd place in the table, with 2 games left, they have a great chance of going through. Even if Manchester United or Arsenal manage to surprise and sneak in into the top four in the last week, Liverpool will still have Europa League football. While that is not where Liverpool would want to be, it still marks a good improvement from the previous season.