The 2017/18 season was one which ultimately ended in disappointment, but was a rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills that few will forget.
The season started with a game which showed that the new attacking trio were capable of scoring the goals to challenge the best teams, but the three goals conceded against Watford also proved that the defensive frailties hadn’t been eradicated. A late equaliser for Marco Silva’s side left a bad taste in the mouth after Jurgen Klopp had seen his side come back from behind to lead. It was two points thrown away.
The Reds had to show more defensive quality to get past Hoffenheim over two legs to ensure safe passage into the group stage of the Champions League. A deserved 2-1 away win was capped off with a fine free-kick goal by teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold. It was followed up with a 3-0 home win with the Bundesliga side swept away early on. The draw which followed offered a very winnable group, with Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor as opponents.
After failing to land Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton after accusations of foul play, Klopp opted to play the waiting game and not sign a centre-back. It was to prove the right choice. Despite the recent arrival of Andy Robertson from Hull City, Alberto Moreno was back in the side at left-back. He went about trying to convince that he could actually defend as well as provide an attacking threat down the left. His improvements helped his cause with a lot of fans until a meltdown at old side Sevilla helped them to draw the game after being 3-0 down at half-time. He was gradually phased out after that, with the Scotland international going on to prove an absolute bargain.
Dejan Lovren did himself few favours in the 4-1 loss against Spurs in October, where he was withdrawn after half an hour or so. It would prove the catalyst for the Croatian to make a big improvement and go a long way to cementing a place alongside Van Dijk in the defence, after the Dutchman arrived in a world record £75m deal. The statistics improved a lot following his new year arrival and he netted a late winner in the 2-1 win over Everton in the FA Cup third round. A disappointing home defeat against later relegated West Brom in the fourth round ended the cup run, however.
The League Cup, newly named the Carabao Cup, failed to yield a run. A much changed side, including Danny Ward for his only appearance of the season, were beaten 2-0 at Leicester City. It was the first door closed in the chase for a maiden trophy for Klopp during his tenure.
Philippe Coutinho had returned to the side after making a transfer request, and missing the start of the campaign thanks to a back injury, and made telling contributions in several games. His professionalism soon evaporated after the 5-0 win over West Brom on Boxing Day as another phantom injury saw him sidelined when the January transfer window opened. He would get his wish and headed to the Camp Nou in a deal worth a reported £145m. Klopp decided not to sign a replacement and the decision was met with disappointment from a lot of fans. It was to prove the right decision as a galvanised side went on to hammer Porto 5-0 in the first leg of the last sixteen Champions League tie. A 0-0 stalemate at Anfield followed to see Liverpool through to the last eight. A mouthwatering all-English tie against Manchester City was teed up in the quarter finals. It wasn’t the draw either club wanted, but City had just seen their unbeaten Premier League run ended with a thrilling 4-3 loss at Anfield. They wouldn’t get so close in the first leg.
After a slow start, Summer signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went from strength to strength and won over any doubters with consistently improving performances. Goals in the 4-3 and 3-0 wins over City were highlights for the former Arsenal man, along with his well taken strike against West Ham. The injury he suffered against Roma in the 5-2 first leg semi-final win cruelly ended his campaign. He faces a battle back to fitness now and will get plenty of support in doing it.
The return leg in Italy had looked comfortable in the main as Sadio Mane, who scored in every round of the competition, and a rare Georiginio Wijnaldum away goal put the Reds 2-1 up. Roma rallied to win the leg 4-2, but the Reds edged it 7-6 on aggregate. It was to prove an emotional tie for Mohamed Salah, who had left them to move to Anfield during preseason. He scored twice in the first leg, but had a relatively quiet return to the Stadio Olimpico.
The Egypt international had returned to the Premier League with the aim of proving that he was good enough to succeed after a disappointing spell with Chelsea. He more than showed the doubters that he was able to do so after breaking the goal scoring record by hitting the net 32 times to win the golden boot. He also managed to add 12 more goals in Europe to take his overall tally to 44. He will be hoping to continue that form to help his side win a trophy next season after being forced off injured in the 3-1 loss against Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
Pre-season betting had seen Liverpool listed as third favourites to win the Premier League with most bookmakers, and whilst most fans wouldn’t have been confident there were certainly hopes that the club could push on from their fourth placed finish the previous campaign. The best betting sites in UK have Liverpool listed as second favourites to win next season’s Premier League, behind Champions Manchester City at 11/2. The betting seems to show punters having a fair bit of faith in Salah to recreate his 17/18 form and finish top goalscorer again, but at 9/2 he is still quite a way off favourite Harry Kane – who is listed at 2/1.
It was a disappointing end to the season, but it is worth remembering how well the Reds did to get to the final in the first place, and it is time to look to the next campaign. Klopp will be looking to push the club on from a second successive fourth placed finish, and has already been busy securing new arrivals – a deal for Naby Keita having already been struck last summer and moving quickly to snap up Fabinho ahead of competitors. Salah will no doubt be on every defender’s watchlist next season, and it will be interesting to see if he can live up to the feats of this campaign.
In terms of new signings it appears Klopp is still in the market for a goalkeeper and another attacking player at least, with a selection of names being bandied about. Emre Can still seems to be the only player of value to the first team that is on his way out of the club, so the remainder of the squad should be kept together. This season showed that with all players fit & playing well the Liverpool are a match for any team in the world under Klopp, but it also showed how much we were lacking in options beyond our first XI. Two more quality signings without losing any further players, and the Reds will be looking very strong for the new campaign.