Liverpool FC 2016-2017 season review

Gini Wijnaldum opening the scoring in Liverpool's 3-0 win over Middlesbrough to secure 4th place
In the beginning of the season, I was cautiously optimistic of our chances this season. Is it finally going to be our season, finally this year? I honestly didn’t have high expectations looking at our new signings. I’ve heard of Sadio Mane but Wjlnadium? Matip? Grujic? Karius? Did Klopp asked for a sofa and was given a lamp shade ala Benitez? Still I trust Klopp enough to give him the chance and the benefit of the doubt. After all he’s know to transform virtually nobodies to superstars in his time at Dortmund and it is not his style to sign established and usually overpriced players.

We started the season strong, beating Arsenal 4-3 away and Coutinho with his now trademark curling free kick. A few games and gegenpressing wins later, Liverpool was on top of the league again for the first time in what it felt like years. Although we dropped a few spot towards Christmas, Liverpool actually looked like they were challenging for the title instead of just the usual top four. And then come new year, African Nation’s cup and injuries to key players. Needless to say things started to go downhill from there. Sadio Mane properly justified his hefty price tag with an amazing return of goals in the first few months of wearing the Red jersey. Therefore it is completely understandable that there were a cause for concern when he left to join the Senagalese national team for the African Nation’s cup in January. We already lost a good centreback in Sakho for his disciplinary issues and then there’s the Matip saga where he already declared his refusal to play for the Cameroonian national team but they took it up with FIFA causing Klopp to drop him for a few games out of uncertainty and fear of breaking the rules. In the end Matip was cleared to play but it was already too late by then and the damage done because the Reds defence was leaking like a strainer in his absence. We had Lucas as centreback FFS.

As the January transfer window opens and Liverpool plagued with injury crisis, one would have expected Klopp to strengthen the squad and sign somebody right? It was the most logical thing to do. But Klopp argued that the January transfer window is a hard time to find good and suitable players for his squad and even if there are potential targets, a) They will be very costly and b) Their clubs will be hesitant to release their best player halfway through the season. Which sounds fair to me but I still thought one or two marquee signing could have helped our season tremendously towards the end. After such a promising start to the season, The Reds totally capitulated in January losing and drawing a succession of games including defeats in the FA Cup and EFL Cup semi final. We didn’t get another 3 points until the second week of February. Forget about challenging for the title, Liverpool looked to miss the top four if things didn’t improve soon.

As luck would have it, key players started to recover from injuries, Sadio Mane returned and a run of good results against the top 6 proved adequate to halt our slide into mid-table obscurity. Coupled with our good form in the first half of the season, Liverpool did enough to scrap into the top four on the last match of the season beating Middlesbrough 3-0 at home. So was our season a failure or an improvement? I’d say it’s a somewhere in between. Just when I thought it would really be our season this year, we totally crumbled midway thorugh. Fortunately we recovered just in time to salvage something towards the end. In Kopp's first full season in charge of Liverpool, a top four finish and quite possibly Champions League football is indeed an improvement over last season where we won absolutely nothing and finished in 7th. Had we not had so many injuries and absence of key players, we could have been a genuine title-challenger this season. That said, we did develop the habit of losing points and also games altogether to teams near the bottom when we should really be winning them. Compare that to our excellent result versus the top 6 teams, it’s one of those great mysteries of the universe.

Players-wise I would say Mane, Wijnaldum and Matip had been three of our best signings of the season. Countinho continued to impress with his skill and goal-scoring prowess, leading the club's goal-scoring chart with 14 goals in all competition. Adam Lallana and Emre Can proved to be a reliable and consistent performers in key matches. Daniel Sturridge however is an enigma. There's no denying his skills and ability when he's fit but unfortunately that's looking more like an exception than the norm in the past 2 seasons. If he leaves or Klopp sells him I would not protest but should he stay on for next season, he'd be a decent squad player considering his fragile fitness. We should be seeing the last of Moreno and Sakho at the club.

Now that we’ve secured top four, I can’t hardly wait for August to come. New season and quite probably exciting new signings tempted by Klopp and the Champions League. Already talks of £100-£200 million transfer kitty being bandied about and a list of world class players waiting to be signed. Right now I’m taking every news with a huge grain of salt because until it really happens, they’re just that - rumours. My wish is that Liverpool would sign a few established world class players with Mane’s quality, a 20 goals a season striker and several proven defenders to add depth and quality for the team. We need proper defenders instead of make shift fullbacks and centrebacks like Milner and Lucas. The time for buying youngster and waiting to develop them is over. We’ve got to be competing with the big clubs in the transfer department if we’re ever going to win anything. That said, I’m pretty optimistic for next season. Hopefully, Liverpool FC and Jurgen Klopp would have learned something from this season’s mistakes and build on a serious title-challenging contender because you know, next year is our season! YNWA.