Liverpool’s end to the Premier League season was not quite what supporters had dreamed it would be back in September, when the postponed season got underway.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lowered the curtain for a turbulent year with a 2-0 final day win at Crystal Palace to secure next season’s Champions League football with a third place finish.
But the Reds started the season as defensive runaway champions after a 30-year wait for the league title, hoping to keep the crown for their supporters – who were unable to see them lift the Premier League trophy live last season due to the pandemic rules. .
Liverpool players celebrate on the last day of the season as they hit a top four finish
Liverpool were 13 points behind Leicester City with just 10 games to play before returning to third place. Image of SofaScore
In mid-March, not only were Liverpool’s title expectations looking, but their chances of competing in next season’s Champions League also looked dead in the water.
With only 10 games to go, they entered the home game with Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 points behind Leicester City with a game in hand after the Foxes’ thumping 5-0 victory over Sheffield United the previous day.
At this point the Foxes were looking for a spot in the top four, with either Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton or Tottenham Hotspur joining them.
Not only were teams like Thomas Tuchel’s Blues and the Hammers flying, but Liverpool were also on a tailspin, losing six of their previous seven games.
But the Reds rallied and put down an unbeaten streak of 10 games – they won eight games – to allow them to sneak back into the top four and maintain their place among the European elite. Sportsmail watches Klopp flip the shape of his side.
Jurgen Klopp led his squad to an unbeaten run of 10 games, consisting of eight wins
Liverpool have picked up more points in the past 10 games than any other team in the Premier League. Image provided by SofaScore
A winning defensive combo
Liverpool’s season already looked like it was wobbling when first-choice center-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez were ruled out for the season at the start of the season.
With the likes of Joel Matip and other emergency options as a center-back, including Jordan Henderson and Fabinho also picking up injuries, Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis went from unfortunate to downright ridiculous.
Ozan Kabak was loaned out mid-season and after a shaky start, he steadily improved as Liverpool got back to winning.
But the real standout performers were Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips. Neither had played a single Premier League game for the Reds before the season started.
Phillips is currently on an eight-game Premier League win with the Reds, with the most recent five pairing alongside 20-year-old Williams. With Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip to return, it gives Klopp at least five reliable center-backs to start next season.
Nat Phillips (left) stands with center-back Rhys Williams applauding Liverpool fans after the 2-0 final day of the season’s win at Crystal Palace
Linking Thiago to Fabinho
Liverpool’s main summer purchase was Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara, but typical of the Reds campaign, he missed much of the first half of the season due to a knee injury.
He didn’t return until January, when the Reds began plunging from title contenders to mediocrity in the center of the table in March. During this period, however, the Reds had also missed Fabinho due to a knee injury.
Only after the 1-0 victory over Wolves did the duo regularly play together in midfield. Both have been in attendance since the 10-game unbeaten run – and in midfield, they’ve won all eight games. Fabinho was forced to fall back in the defense for the draw against Leeds United and Newcastle United.
Jurgen Klopp’s big headache on his way to next season is how he manages to force Jordan Henderson back into the mix without upsetting the already impressive Thiago and Fabinho axis.
Late in the campaign, Thiago and Fabinho formed an excellent midfield partnership
The versatility of Diogo Jota
Diogo Jota’s arrival from Wolverhampton Wanderers over the summer was meant to keep Liverpool’s first three on their toes, but he soon found himself replacing an insecure Roberto Firmino in the first half of the season.
Then, like most of his teammates, he sustained an injury in the middle third of the campaign, taking him out of 15 games in a series in which the Reds had only five wins in the league.
His first start on his return was the shocking 1-0 defeat to Fulham at Anfield. But since then he has scored the winner on his return to Molineux, scored twice from the bench at Arsenal and was also on target in the 4-2 win over Manchester Untied.
A foot injury kept him out for two games in the run, but he played center-forward, left and right of the attack, as well as a supportive forward – his versatility has been crucial in keeping Liverpool’s forwards fit and he will have. next season to play a big role for Klopp again.
Diogo Jota proved an excellent forward as he celebrates scoring at Manchester United
LIVERPOOL’S 10-MATCH RUN
March 15: Wolves (A) 1-0
April 3: Arsenal (A) 3-0
April 10: Aston Villa (H) 2-1
April 19: Leeds United (A) 1-1
April 24: Newcastle United (H) 1-1
May 8: Southampton (H) 2-0
May 13: Manchester United (A) 4-2
May 16: West Bromwich Albion (A) 2-1
May 19: Burnley (A) 3-0
May 23: Crystal Palace (H) 2-0
Front three clicks again
The trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will forever be remembered as one of Liverpool’s greatest attacking units.
But their form hasn’t been consistent this season, and while they didn’t have the same serious injuries as their teammates, the constant football since last summer seemed like it was starting to take its toll.
However, they were also not helped by a restless team behind them, with the constant change of starting XIs due to an injury did nothing to build a good relationship with an ever-changing midfield.
But in the end it all worked out. While Salah just missed Harry Kane’s Golden Boot, he scored five times in his last eight games, while Mane contributed eight goals in the 10-game comeback period.
Even Firmino found a boom at the end of the season, ensuring that Liverpool won the last five games with the same number of goals, including finding the net twice at Manchester Untied.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane (10), Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah (11) found late form
Alexander-Arnold’s Return to Form
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s season had been a struggle until March, but he was shocked when he was dropped from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the most recent World Cup qualifiers.
Whether by accident or an actual wake-up call, Southgate’s decision seems to have benefited the right back and the Reds at the end of the campaign.
Since his failure in England he has created four assists, which is more than he had in the first 28 games of the campaign, and is returning to his best form.
It may still not be enough to get his place back in England once Gareth Southgate has transferred his Euro 2020 squad to the last 26, but the Reds will see that as an advantage too, as their star fullback can then have the summer off. to have. freshly ready for a title load next installment.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form improved after he was dropped from the England team in March
… and a little bit of Lady Luck!
Sometimes things have to fall for you, too, and without two bizarre elements beyond a manager’s control, the Reds may have just lagged behind in their four main pursuits.
The first concerned the timing of their trip to Manchester United. The first meeting in early May was postponed due to unbelievable protests from United fans, rescheduling the game to just two days after United last played.
Although the Red Devils had tried to rest as many key stars as possible, the preparation for the clash with Liverpool was far from ideal and they were soundly beaten 4-2. Admittedly, Leicester had also taken advantage of this by beating a weakened United team two days earlier, but who needs to know how a defeat at Old Trafford would have affected Liverpool in the run-up to the last three games.
The first of these was West Brom, which was where most of the fortune took place. If a goalkeeper goes for a corner kick, this is the last roll of the dice. Every now and then you throw a double six and while Alisson nodded a corner to seal an incredible 2-1 stoppage time win, Liverpool earned three big points on their way to fourth place.
Alisson scored an incredible late winner for Liverpool in a clash at West Bromwich Albion