Expectations are always high at the beginning of the season. This was especially so after Klopp had led Liverpool to the League and Europa cup finals in the 2015/16 season.
The omens also looked good. At the beginning of the 1987/88 season Liverpool played Arsenal away on the opening day and just like that year there was a delay. This time it was due to the completion of the new main stand rather than a collapsed sewer under the Kop. Nevertheless it could be seen as a positive omen.
Being a season ticket holder in the new main stand it certainly lived up to expectations. Although high up the view was excellent especially as the seat is on the half way line. It gave the advantage of being able to see better the teams shape and build up than my previous seat in the Kop. There was also the novelty of leg room and the acoustics of the stand was spot on as the noise can carry when the fans are in full voice.
Without European football for that season it was wondered whether the benefit of playing no mid-week games would have the same effect as it did for the 2013/14 season. Liverpool of course narrowly missing out on the league to Manchester City. Certainly Liverpool got off to a flier beating Arsenal 4-3 a dramatic game whilst the first home game of the season a 5.30pm kickoff against Leicester saw the champions thrashed 4-1.
The football was a game of intense high pressing with teams unable to cope against Liverpool’s attack. Mane the new signing from Southampton looked scintillating in attack whilst the likes of Lallana and Firmino came on in leaps and bounds. Previously they had been inconsistent and only showed flashes of what they could do achieve. This season they were not only consistent but players that Liverpool relied on.
A brief surge to the top made fans dream but unlike the 87/88 team the defence and overall quality was not as good and consistent that it needs to be. With injuries to key players at certain points in the season and Mane unavailable due to the African cup of nations there was not the depth in squad to cover. Furthermore the opposition had learnt to stifle Liverpool by playing deep, restricting space and making use of Liverpool’s vulnerability at set-pieces to score. The bench also offered no real options in terms of changing things tactically on the pitch.
Indeed Liverpool’s record against the other top six clubs was impressive. Mainly because with the likes of Spurs and Arsenal who were more open benefitted Liverpool who with their pressing game were able to exploit the spaces left open.
The realistic hope of course was that Liverpool would win one of the domestic trophies and finish within the top four. Liverpool disappointingly were beaten 2-1 at home against Wolves in the fourth round of the FA cup. It appeared that Klopp had overestimated the quality of the overall squad as they struggled to get the better of the Championship side. In the league cup Southampton beat Liverpool 2-0 over both legs which just left the pursuit for a top four spot.
Despite a few stumbles Liverpool managed to make it over the line although if they had not dropped points against the likes of Southampton, Palace, and Bournemouth they may have just finished third and avoid the Champions league qualifier.
Nevertheless for a fourth placed finish it was still achieved with a high points total of seventy-six that would have won Liverpool the league twenty years ago. Although not spectacular it is an improvement in the league. Prior to the season you would expect Liverpool to finish between fourth and six if you were judging on what was spent.
There have been highlights namely the back to back wins against Arsenal, beating Leicester, and Everton. Then of course there is Emre Can’s spectacular goal against Watford.
Mane has deservedly won the Liverpool player of the year and has been sorely missed when he has been absent. It is also worth noting that Simon Mignolet has improved significantly this season after temporally being dislodged by Karius. Unless a keeper of the quality of Pepe Reina becomes available then a goalkeeper is no longer the priority that it once was last year.
The only negatives this season from me has been the atmosphere at games. It is unfortunately one of the changing facets of football that the ordinary fan is being priced out. There are more corporate tickets and with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal it is more being seen at the event rather than love for the team or even the sport.
When you have the likes of two middle-aged men in front of you more intent on showing each other pictures on their mobiles than watching Liverpool play Manchester City it is going to affect the atmosphere. Then there is the panic if Liverpool are not one up within ten minutes that shows up the sense of entitlement some fans feel. Silly comments are thrown about before going down to get a pint five minutes before half time and then sodding off in the 85th minute.
Of course you want Liverpool to win but there has to be a sense of realism. This after all is not 1984 even if the outside world seems to portray Orwell’s dystopian novel. Getting behind the team is crucial and again can help the team to snatch a result. The sound of seats slamming as Palace scored the second rather than the sound of Liverpool fans roaring the team to grab an equalizer in the last ten minutes is galling.
Unbelievably there were a few idiots that booed after the draw against Southampton. Was it frustrating? Of course it was but the team had given everything and it just didn’t happen on the day. We had a limited squad with a lack of options on the bench. You can only do so much and Klopp has got the best out of the team.
For next season and certainly with European football the squad does have to be strengthened. The defence certainly needs to be improved. At times they seem shaky and certainly at set pieces seem more vulnerable in conceding a goal. The team does need to learn to defend as it breeds that confidence with a solid defence. A centre-half and left back are certainly required.
Another midfielder preferably someone with a bit of pace and guile, and another forward have to be priorities. Besides this we also need more options to choose from the bench especially when it is difficult breaking teams down.
I am certainly not expecting a marquee signing as this isn’t the way the Fenway group do business but I certainly expect some activity as the defence and size of the squad were issues that became apparent during the season.
This season has seen Liverpool move in the right direction. If they can keep hold of Coutinho and get Emre Can to extend his contract then it will be beneficial. Can of course holds divisive opinions but I would say that he does has the ability to be one of the top midfielders in the game. Critics seem to forget that he is only young. He can at times be sloppy but he never hides and always tries to make the correct pass or make something happen. If Can leaves Liverpool I certainly don’t want to regret watching his talent benefit another club.
With European football back and hopefully champions league it will be an exciting season which will hopefully see Liverpool win a trophy. Above all though I want to enjoy the thrill that the likes of last season’s Europa cup run, the title tilt of 2013/14 and certainly wouldn’t say no to a similar season in the Champions league of 2004/05.
Football can be frustrating and bring despair. At times you question your own sanity watching a dull 0-0 on a cold January night but games like Istanbul and last season’s game against Dortmund make it all worth while. Sometimes you have to suffer a bit of misery to appreciate the joy. That is after all what football is to the majority of supporters.
Above all though I just want to enjoy watching the mighty reds and hopefully experience another rollercoaster journey that Liverpool are good at doing.
The countdown begins to the 2017/18 season!