Liverpool’s 2016-17 season was baffling for neutrals and agonizing for supporters; How did one of the world’s best managers and most talented attacks manage to go unbeaten against the best teams in the Premier League yet lose six matches to non-traditional powers?
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How could the Reds score three or more goals on 12 occasions but not manage a single marker over 180 minutes of the League Cup semifinals against Southampton?
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There’s pressure on Jurgen Klopp, he of the tremendous tactical and motivational reputation, to find the answers to those questions and flip the script this season.
Best, worst case scenarios – The best scenario is pretty easy; The Reds don’t have the depth right now to compete for a quadruple or anything historically lofty, but on a match-by-match basis they can hang with any team in the Premier League or UEFA Champions League. Winning one is not out of the question, and scooping a pair of trophies from their four competitions is probably their ceiling.*
*This assumes the Reds don’t add Virgil Van Dijk, Naby Keita, and/or a number of other big name targets.
The worst case scenario is Klopp’s fire burns his players, whose defensive depth fails the test of a congested schedule and falls in all four pursuits and also manages to finish short of the Top Four. A season in the Europa League then hampers their 2018-19 preparations and life begins, probably with a new manager.
Best possible XI is…
Milner — Matip — Lovren — Clyne
Henderson — Can
Salah — Coutinho — Mane
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— 4th place in Premier League
— League Cup semifinalists
— FA Cup fourth round loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers
Star player: Sadio Mane — Philippe Coutinho is better, but as long as his future remains in even minimal doubt, let’s wax about another player. Mane arrived from Southampton with a bit of hype, probably not as much as he deserved, and totally delivered when healthy. The Senegalese 25-year-old scored 13 goals and added 8 assists in his first year at Anfield, one that stuttered thanks to the Africa Cup of Nations and was stopped early by a knee injury. His star could rise even higher this season.
Coaches’ Corner: Jurgen Klopp — The German is claiming Liverpool can win the Premier League. In order to do that, he’ll have to overcome a penchant for losing to lesser lights in both England and his previous stint at Borussia Dortmund. The fiery players’ manager and tactician oversaw a team that the casual viewer would figure won the league based solely on performances against top sides, but falling short against lower half sides (Crystal Palace, Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Hull City, Leicester City) cannot be the name of the game again this season.
PST predicts: Depending on additions before the August transfer window closes, a prolonged European run will test the Reds defense and depth in ways last season did not. The ceiling is high for the Reds, who could win any competition or fall flat. It’s a massive year for Klopp, who needs a trophy of some sort. We predict he’ll get one via the FA or League Cup.