This has been a difficult season for Liverpool fans. Having come so close to winning the quadruple last time out, it is no surprise that most of us went into the campaign expecting the Reds to challenge for the title again. Whilst those that love to moan about transfers will have told you that they saw the collapse coming, the shock at the way in which the wheels have well and truly fallen off for us this year shows that that isn’t true. Yes, we all wanted a midfielder in the summer and we definitely thought we needed one in January, but we literally nearly completed football last year so it isn’t outrageous that everyone, including the management team, felt that we were primed to go again. Our fall from grace has been swift and yesterday’s first-half was a neat encapsulation of everything that has happened for us so far this season. We looked poor going forward, whilst we were a calamity at the back. Neither of those things would’ve been said about the Reds in previous seasons under this manager, nor would a lack of belief in our ability.
FiveThirtyEight’s xG database contains over 34,800 matches. There are only 66 examples of a team having a higher xG than Liverpool had today. pic.twitter.com/8fPWj0GFKr
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) April 9, 2023
Yet all three of those things have been on display throughout the campaign. For Jürgen Klopp, it has been puzzling to figure out how we’ve fallen quite so far from grace. We were chasing four trophies, now we’re not going to get top four. It is bizarre to say the least. If the first-half was everything that is wrong with Liverpool this season, the second was a neat reminder of the qualities that we do still possess. We pinned Arsenal back, limiting their chances whilst asking questions of them time and again. We showed remarkable spirit after falling two goals behind, which isn’t something that we’ve seen very often this season. More often than not, this side has lost its head completely when it’s faced even the most minor amount of adversity. That we were able to regroup and not only get ourselves back in the game but actually deserve to win it shows that we’re not as far off from competing as it might have felt at times during the campaign. We still have a huge rebuild to do in the summer, but get it right and we’ll be back at the top once more.
Arsenal Are Proof That Anything’s Possible
Arsenal arrived at Anfield yesterday as league leaders. For the first half an hour or so, they showed us exactly why. The Gunners were sensational, being reminiscent of the way that Liverpool once played under Jürgen Klopp. Quite how much that was them being excellent and us being atrocious is difficult to tell, largely because we’ve been so far off the pace at times this season that it just seemed to be a continuation of the new normal. Regardless, they were very, very good. When they went 2-0 up it felt like the score could be anything. The title was very much in their hands, even if they went on to lose the game at the Etihad. We clawed our way back into the match, though, and should’ve won it in the end, meaning that the title is now back in the hands of City if they win their home match against the Gunners. Regardless, it is a two-horse race that Liverpool are not a part of, with many Reds thinking that we need a complete overhaul in the summer in order to be able to compete. However, Arsenal show that that isn’t really the case.
It’s nice to get those reminders from Liverpool every now and then. You’re never as far away as you think. Terrible season, but one window is still all you need.
— Josh Williams (@DistanceCovered) April 9, 2023
Since they last finished in the top four in 2016, the Gunners have finished 5th, 6th, 5th, 8th, 8th and 5th. They haven’t broken 80 points once and didn’t even get to the 70 point mark in any of their last three campaigns. Whilst Liverpool have been going toe-to-toe with 115 Charges FC, Arsenal have been struggling to make any sort of impact on the Premier League and have often finished behind their fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur. When they wracked up 69 points last season and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round, no one was tipping them as title contenders. Here they are, though, turning up to Anfield at the top of the table and knowing that they are a better team than us last season. They didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when they had a poor season last year, despite the fact that there were some fans who wanted Arteta out of a job. What they did do was invest and invest wisely. More than £300 million spent has seen them able to compete, which is something that the Liverpool owners should bear in mind.
We Don’t Need A Complete Overhaul
The temptation when your team isn’t doing well is to want to burn everything to the ground. Certainly for Liverpool supporters that idea appeals. There are many that would want to see everyone kicked out on their ear so that we can start again, but I’m not really sure how much of a healthy approach to anything that is. These players that nearly won every trophy there was to win last season haven’t become atrocious overnight, never to recover. Instead, there is a good argument that they are just mentally and physically exhausted. I include the manager in that, given the fact that he has had his worst season in terms of decision-making since he arrived at Anfield. Rather than a complete overhaul of every aspect of the club, however, I think minor tweaks will see us heading in the right direction. First things first, getting in some midfielders who can run and don’t have the miles in their legs that Jordan Henderson and Fabinho Tavares have will be a good start. Add to that a defender at the level of Ibrahima Konaté and we’ll be much better placed.
So often this season Liverpool have crumbled in the face of adversity. Refreshing to see them absorb set backs today and fight their way back into the game rather than rolling over and accepting their fate. If only they could channel that kind of resilience more consistently.
— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) April 9, 2023
Roberto Firmino has been a brilliant servant to the football club and I’ll be really sad when he leaves in the summer. The Brazilian has been the best representative of Jürgen Klopp’s football that we could’ve asked for and I will always think on him fondly. I think it is the right time for him to go, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t feel sad about his departure. What it means, though, is that there is another berth for a forward in the squad. With Caoimhin Kelleher almost certain to depart, we should be looking at a reserve goalkeeper, two defenders, three midfielders and a forward during the summer window. That is a lot of turnover, but bringing them in will allow us to play in a manner more in line with what we’ve come to expect from a Jürgen Klopp team, whilst shifting the likes of Jordan Henderson down into the James Milner role whilst Milner himself heads off for pastures new. What we’ve seen from Arsenal this season is that you’re never as far off the pace as you think you are. Now Liverpool need to dust themselves off and go again.