Liverpool had a fine 2017/18 season. They finished in the top 4 of the Premier League in successive seasons for the first time since 2008 and were able to put together a Champions League run scoring 40 goals and making it to the Final before losing to Real Madrid 3-1. Mohamed Salah lit up the league scoring 32 goals in the league- the most in a 38-game Premier League season. He also scored over 10 goals in Liverpool’s run to the Final. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino also had career best seasons and the addition of Virgil Van Dijk in January helped stabilize a leaking defence. However, the Final highlighted the issues they still have with a midfield lacking in dynamism and the lack of depth in attack in Salah’s absence. Loris Karius also made two errors leading to goals underlining the need for a commanding goalkepeer. So can they build on the season they had? The answer seems to be yes.
In the Premier League era, Liverpool have had teams that have come close to winning the Premier League most notably the 2008/09 season where they lost twice but finished four points behind Manchester United. The 2013/14 season was their closest as a Steven Gerrard slip and a defence which conceded 50 goals stopped them from getting a league title that’s eluded them since 1990.
Traditionally, Liverpool’s transfer strategy is not one that is held in high esteem missing out on the likes of Willian, Nemanja Vidic, Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Gylfi Sigurdsson. That’s not to mention the unsuccessful signings they have made in recent years with Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke, Paul Konchesky which have not done the Merseyside club any good in their standing as one of the top sides in Europe. From being on the brink of bankruptcy under George Gillett and Tom Hicks back in 2010, Liverpool is now in a strong position under the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) and have been smart in their transfer dealings since Jurgen Klopp was appointed in October 2015 with Sporting Director Michael Edwards and Chief Scout Barry Hunter.
Since the German was appointed, Liverpool have become better and while he may not have the trophies to back it up, Liverpool have exceeded expectations and have continued to build on their past campaigns. Aside from Loris Karius, there hasn’t really been a bad signing by Klopp under Liverpool. Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum were good squad signings, Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah were signings that had doubts but are now key players, and they have managed to beat top clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Manchester United to sign Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita and Fabinho. Players at Anfield have also improved and brought a new lease of life from Roberto Firmino who was one of Brendan Rodgers’ last signings to Jordan Henderson who polarises opinion among Liverpool supporters while James Milner who seems to have bettered with age and Dejan Lovren who was one of Liverpool’s worst signings in 2014 has evolved to a commanding centre back.
Liverpool have also been smart in their sales milking out other clubs for players who didn’t cut it. Receiving 30 million pounds for Christian Benteke, 25 million pounds for Mamadou Sakho, 12 million pounds for Joe Allen, etc. Despite losing Philippe Coutinho, they managed to squeeze out 142 million pounds from Barcelona which they still have left.
The question now will be if Klopp can deliver silverware at Anfield. He has taken Liverpool to three Finals already- the Europa League Final, Carabao Cup Final and the Champions League Final. Klopp has a poor record in Finals winning just one- the German Cup Final in 2012. He now has to take them from exceeding expectations to winning silverware. It is also smart that many of the signings he has made are fairly young between the age of 23 to 27 with Ragnar Klavan his oldest signing at 31. So it’s a team that can challenge for years to come rather than signing very players who would see it as a stepping stone to bigger things.
With a spine of Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino, it’s the best Liverpool spine since Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres. With the wide players of Robertson, Salah, Mane and Alexander-Arnold, they have the team that can challenge in all fronts this season especially the league were Manchester City have been dominant. Can Klopp finally deliver on his promise?