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Liverpool - Rebuilding Glory

January 2nd, 2019

Prime Soccer Development

Liverpool Football Club. Historically speaking, LFC was once a giant in the world of football. With the second most trophies of any English side, Liverpool once reigned unmatched in the footballing world. That success, however, came to a halt after their Champions League victory in 2005. Since then Liverpool has failed to win any significant trophies, despite an impressive season under Brendan Rogers in 2013 that saw Liverpool let their hopes of a Premier League title slip away in the final games of the season. The struggles of Liverpool have been a roller coaster ride of emotions in the past 10 years, with signs of improvements followed by agonizing let downs. This leads us to the newest era of the club, that began with the appointment of Jurgen Klopp as the head coach in 2015. Klopp made a name for himself leading the German side, Borussia Dortmund, to a Bundesliga title and several impressive runs in the Champions league. His era has certainly brought some hope and excitement with it.

Klopp has seen his Liverpool side improve steadily from season to season, with a Europa League and Champions League final both so nearly giving the city of Liverpool a major trophy they so desperately need. Despite those disappointments, the improvement in the team has been clear. Now in the 2018-2019 season, Liverpool seem to have hit a new peak that is truly astonishing. After 3 years of patient building and improving, it seems as though Klopp has truly put together one of the strongest teams in Europe. But what is it that has led to their success and dominance, and what changes were made along the way to finally lead to a team that has a great chance of winning a Premier League trophy?

The first, and arguably most obvious answer to this question, is the defensive improvements made in the last year. In the 2017-2018 season, Liverpool was known to have one of the deadliest attacks in Europe, but their defense was highly suspect and prevented the team from achieving any trophies. It was the clear Achilles heel of LFC, and the club made a point of fixing it. The first major improvement in this regard was the signing of central defender, Virgil Van Dijk. Many scoffed when Liverpool spent a record 75 million pounds, but he has been well worth the price tag. Van Dijk has shown his worth this season, being at the helm of the best defensive side in the Premier League, only conceding 8 goals in 20 games so far. His athletic ability, technique on the ball, and ability to communicate and organize his team are all world class. He has won 121 duels, 84 aerial duels, holds a 76% tackle success rate and has completed 1,555 passes. Not only that, be he also seems to improve everybody around him on the pitch, giving a great deal of confidence to his teammates. It seems there is nothing the Dutchman cannot do, and he has been a huge catalyst for Liverpool’s success thus far. Along with VVD, the emergence of Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all helped bolster this Liverpool defense into a true force. The other main issue that was seen with Liverpool’s squad in the previous years, was their lack of a world-class goalkeeper. This issue was solved with the signing of the Brazilian Alisson, from Roma FC, who has proven to be a significant upgrade at the position. The addition of Alisson has not only given the club more stability defensively but has also enabled them to play out of the back far more. Alisson is known to be fantastic with his feet, and despite a mistake or two, has shown his quality on the ball thus far. With this shiny new back line, Liverpool has been able to solve many of the defensive woes from previous seasons.

It is not however, only the change in personnel that has led to this success. There has been a shift in the playing style of Liverpool, that has led to a much more mature and less chaotic side. Last year, Liverpool would play a chaotic, high-press game, for 90 minutes without stopping. This “heavy metal football” as Klopp called it, did lead to incredibly exciting games and a plethora of goals. However, it also left the team exposed and it was often seen that leads were given away far too cheaply. This season, the high-pressure football is still employed, but Liverpool have been much smarter with their use of the press and have shown far greater patience on and off the ball. They now look to pressure and win the ball if they can, but they are also regularly seen building up play out of the back, possessing the ball and slowly breaking teams down. This shift in playing style, has transformed Liverpool from the fast-paced, chaotic team that left fans on the edge of their seat for entire games, to a mature, controlled side that can attack with incredible pace on the counter, but can also keep the ball and break down teams that elect to sit in and park the bus. We have even seen Liverpool bunker down and defend a 1-0 lead when needed, which was never an option a year ago. A true sign of a championship side.

Only time will tell if this Liverpool side truly have what it takes to win some much-needed silverware. The steady improvement under Jurgen Klopp has been obvious, and the level they are now playing at is certainly special - Liverpool's best ever start to a Premier League campaign. Manchester City and Tottenham will be hot on their tail, and any slip up will be a huge blow. When you sit at the top, no mistakes go unpunished.

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