At this stage of the season last year, Liverpool were floundering. They sat 8th in the Premier League table with an underwhelming 16 points in 12 games. Following a season that came agonizingly close to a quadruple, the squad looked noticeably knackered and sluggish. Our defense looked vulnerable. The midfield was routinely bypassed. A once potent attack felt toothless. This led some to wonder if *gasp* the Klopp era at Anfield could be coming to a close.
Fast forward roughly a year later, these thoughts have certainly been shelved for the time being. An improved and re-energized side now sits 2nd with 27 points in that same 12-game span. Obviously, it’s still quite early. But folks are, in typical fashion, talking about a possible Premier League title challenge. The question is, are these conversations far-fetched? Are Klopp’s men back to challenging the blue half of Manchester for the league crown?
Rebuilding the Foundation
As the saying goes, games are won and lost in the midfield. Historically, Klopp’s Reds always had that combination of steel and industry in the middle of the park. That changed last year though. Club mainstays Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and James Milner looked two steps behind the opposition. This lethargy negated the effectiveness of Klopp’s trademark Gegenpress.
This year, we built almost an entirely new midfield. The additions of Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch, and Wataru Endo brought much-needed legs and drive to the midfield. This ensured the return of heavy metal football to Anfield.
Shoring Up The Back
Probably the most remarkable improvement of Jurgen’s team throughout his best years was on defense. The high-risk nature of his style was effectively managed with effective personnel. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Andy Robertson, and Joel Matip maintained order and solidity.
Last season, Liverpool was so open that nearly every counterattack seemed to produce at least a decent chance for the opposing side. At the time of writing, Liverpool have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League. A more healthy Virgil van Dijk and a continually stellar Alisson anchor that side of the field. We’re looking back to our best. Time will tell if this newfound resistance will last. But so far so good.
If there was a constant among Klopp’s sides throughout his career, it would be the wealth of dangerous attacking options at his disposal. The departures of Sadio Mane to Germany (then Saudi Arabia) and Roberto Firmino to Saudi Arabia ushered in a wave of danger up front.
Mohamed Salah remains the fulcrum of the attack. Despite still being our most consistent goal threat, Mo has improved his all-around game significantly making teams pay for throwing double and triple teams at him on the wing.
Diogo Jota, missing for a decent portion of 2022-23, remains as deadly as ever as a starter or as a sub. Luis Diaz, also injured for the majority of last year, adds unpredictability and dynamism on the left side as well. Cody Gakpo and his multitude of skills present a Swiss-army knife option for Jurgen Klopp. The Dutchman has shown he can play a multitude of attacking roles quite well.
Finally, we have Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan’s raw speed and power can singlehandedly win us a match and put opposing Premier League defenders on edge. It is quite frankly an embarrassment of riches. You’d surely have to put this rotation of attackers amongst the best in Europe.
The Big Question: Can Liverpool Win The Premier League?
All these positives and yet, the question remains. Are we good enough to win the title? Many things are going for us. The Europa League gives us more Sunday fixtures. We have a younger squad to attack them.
However, we’re still against an absolute machine of a club in Manchester City. Their wealth and the strength of their squad are hard to match. Arsenal and Spurs don’t seem to be going away just yet in the Premier League either. I think we’ll be right in there as well.
Outright winning the title? Probably not. But there are positive signs early on. It looks as if new foundations are being set for the next generation. Whatever happens with that generation of Liverpool football, it’s sure to be a fun ride.