Oddspedia published this statistic today showing that Liverpool not only played the most matches last year but also won the most matches. Out of 60 games in the calendar year, Liverpool won an astonishing 43. The closest rival was Liverpool’s Champions League Final opponent, Real Madrid, who played 7 fewer matches and won 6 fewer. Last years league winners, Manchester City, played just one more game than Madrid and won 37 as well.
One loss and one draw into 2023 has given many of Liverpool’s detractors the ground to suggest that they are past their prime. It is important to remind ourselves of the astonishing ground covered, pun intended, by this Liverpool squad this past year.
In the 2021/22 season, beginning from January 2022; Liverpool played 19 Premier League ties, 6 in the FA Cup, 3 in the Carabao Cup, and 7 in the Champions League. They drew 3, won 16 of their Premier League matches, and won all 9 of their Cup ties, dropping 0 points and hoisting 2 trophies in the process. The only dropped points and losses in the second half of the 2021/22 season were 2 losses in the Champions League, a home game against Inter, and the final of course.
Even after an extremely long season, the next competitive tie for Liverpool was the Community Shield, which they won 3-2 against Manchester City. This left Liverpool as winners of 3 out of 5 possible trophies for the calendar year.
However, we would soon see the effects of having played every possible match of the previous season, a feat no other team came close to last year, and an aging core of the team.
During this 2022/23 season, ending with December 2022, Liverpool played 16 premier league games, winning 8, drawing 3, and losing 5. Klopp’s men drew and lost their 2 games in the Carabao Cup. In the Champions League, they bounced back from a matchday 1 loss against Napoli to win their remaining 5 ties.
There is a clear difference in form as they were unbeaten in 33 out of 35 ties in the second half of last season, and in the first half of this season, they are unbeaten in only 18 out of 25 matches.
They have lost a quarter more of their matches this season, and as mentioned earlier, I believe it is due to the fatigue not only from last season but the past 7 years under Klopp and his team. Klopp has proven that when he has players that carry out his vision, they are nigh unbeatable and the best team in the world.
However in the past few years, whether due to Klopp’s unwavering trust in his current squad or to FSG’s unwillingness to invest in the squad without selling first or both, Liverpool have failed to inject the much-needed energy and stamina required to successfully employ a gegenpressing style of play. The core of Liverpool’s squad has aged, and they are not able to consistently maintain a high press, hold a high line, and get back in transition to be as successful as they have been before.
Klopp and FSG have proven from previous transfers that they identify which players they want and will get their business done efficiently. Liverpool now have an excellent backup for Firmino and Salah, in Carvalho, Elliott, Gakpo, Jota, Diaz, and Nunez. All of whom are under the age of 27, keeping with FSG’s motto of bringing in young players to be developed at the club.
The back line will need some reinforcing in the next few transfer windows as Matip is aging, and Gomez and Konate can be world-class on their day but still show their naivete with brash and mistimed decision-making. With Van Dijk as the only consistently world-class option at the position, the injury sustained against Brentford might validate the transfer rumors Liverpool looking into the very promising Croatian centre-back Joško Gvardiol.
Where Liverpool need the most help is in midfield. Since the 2016/17 season, Liverpool brought in Wjnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Keita, Thiago, and Arthur as senior midfield options meant to play in the starting XI. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita, and Arthur have barely featured for Liverpool since signing, Wjnaldum has not been replaced since he was allowed to leave on a free transfer, and Fabinho and Thiago along with Henderson and Milner are part of an aging midfield that relies too heavily on youngsters like Elliott and Carvalho to make key contributions.
With Ox, Keita, Arthur, and Milner most likely departing by the end of this season, midfield additions are vital to Liverpool’s success this year. We have already heard the rumors linking Liverpool to every midfielder available under the sun, from Amrabat, Caicedo, Bellingham to recent rumors regarding Thuram from Nice and Kone of Monchengaldbach. While we know Liverpool’s recruitment team will do their due diligence on the type of player and their character, time is very much of the essence and key signings in this crucial position may make or break this year. If FSG and Klopp can possibly secure the signing of 2 midfielders this winter transfer window, then there is still hope Liverpool can ensure a top 4 finish.