Liverpool climb to the top of the league: After a sizable drop-off in the 2022/23 season, finishing 5th on the table, and RO16 exit in the Champions League, Liverpool made some moves in the transfer window at the end of the season. Cut to 16 games into the 2023/24 season, against all odds, Liverpool climbed to the top of the league.
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After a sizable drop-off in the 2022/23 season, finishing 5th on the table, and RO16 exit in the Champions League, Liverpool made some moves in the transfer window at the end of the season. Cut to 16 games into the 2023/24 season, against all odds, Liverpool climbed to the top of the league.
Early Kick-off Frustration
Since Klopp arrived at Anfield in 2015, Liverpool has played a record 38 early kick offs, and post international breaks has played in 16 early kick-offs, 9 more than any other team. In the recent post-match interview, when Marcus Buckland joked about this, saying it’s Klopp’s “favourite kick-off time”, Klopp very bluntly replied that it is ignorant and disrespectful of Marcus to say so.
Despite such a congested line of fixtures, Liverpool’s climb to the top of the league is praiseworthy. The challenges of injuries, competitiveness and mental pressure by the fans, and media is always high for a club like Liverpool.
4 Red Cards in 9 Games
Red cards awarded in a match irrespective of the magnitude of the game or what the situation is, always have a major influence on the match.
The 2023/24 season has already seen 31 red cards in 140 games this season, surpassing the 30 red cards issued in all of 2022/23 in the 380 games. Liverpool had received 4 red cards in their first 9 games in the Premier League, 2 being in the same match vs a high-flying Tottenham Hotspurs. The match which they controversially, and now safe to say undeservingly lost, being their only loss in the league so far.
Ever since the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League in 2019/20, it has always been a subject of debate for players, managers, pundits, critics, and fans all over the world. In a contact sport such as football, decisions have always been deemed to be controversial and circumstantial. However, the Tottenham vs Liverpool match at the Tottenham Hotspurs stadium has been the most blatantly controversial decision to date in the Premier League.
What exactly happened?
Joe Gomez takes a throw-in and puts a leaping ball into Salah who holds off Hotspurs centre-back Van De Ven and feeds a through ball to Luis Diaz who finishes it off wonderfully into the bottom left corner. An elite finish by one of the best wingers in the league. The on-field decision is given offside, and when the VAR checks it, the officials deem it to be onside, however, they assume that the on-field decision was given as a goal and make the call to carry on the game.
It is only a few moments later they realize the blunder they have made, thus costing Liverpool massively. PGMOL, the governing body responsible for this issued an apology and have taken Darren England, one of the VAR referees, off all Liverpool Games.
In 16 games, that remains the only match Liverpool lost, despite having played Manchester City at the Etihad, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Newcastle at St. James’ Park. Amidst the offside controversy, it is easy to forget the controversial red card to Diogo Jota as well, whose first yellow was unfairly given, resulting in a 2nd yellow later in the game that proved to be decisive. All in all, it was highly possible that Liverpool could have won the game at Spurs and be 4 points clear at the table.
The comeback kings
Liverpool have shown signs of vulnerability with their leaky defensive setup wherein they have conceded first in 8 of their 16 games and only lost once in that controversial game vs Spurs. Winning 4 games and drawing 3 of those. The resistance they have shown to turn up and save the day has been key in their success this season, resulting in them being at the top of the table.
They have scored 12 goals in 16 games after the 80th minute this season, clearly showcasing the hunger and mental fortitude of the players and the manager. This never-give-up attitude that Jurgen Klopp had instilled ever since having arrived at the Kop is well and truly back, and Liverpool’s tag of “mentality monsters” is finally here to stay.
The Dawn of a New Era
The primary creative and attacking output of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp have been through his fullbacks which is the sole reason for them racking up assists like those of attacking midfielders. Long-time servicemen Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been extremely consistent while going forward. In every game, we see darting crosses and over-the-top through balls sprayed onto Liverpool’s highly energetic forwards, while the midfield work more off the ball, collecting second balls, and pressing high to win possession and catch the opponent off guard.
However, towards the end of 2022/23 Henderson and Fabinho left the club, and the bittersweet Naby Keita saga came to an end. Klopp revamped the midfield with Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch in the summer window, while Coady Gakpo was already signed in January 2023.
Klopp tweaked his attacking structure, following the template of De Zerbi’s Brighton and Guardiola’s Manchester City. Focusing more on controlling the midfield with players capable of conducting the play, winning the midfield battles, both creatively and physically as the game in this day and age demands. Szoboszlai being an extremely creative and versatile player while also having a good shot in him, Gravenberch driving the ball forward and Mac Allister mediating centrally.
There are moments when Szoboszlai moves out on the flanks as Trent regularly tucks into the inverted fullback position delivering defence splitting passes or cross-field long balls as and when he identifies spaces to exploit. The versatility of Klopp’s midfield not only adds more to the creativity but adds multiple flavours and dimensions to his attack where he can set his team up in numerous ways making them even more lethal and unpredictable.
It is to note, that this is essentially a transition season for Liverpool, adapting to a fairly distinctive template and altogether a new attack, with Mohamed Salah being the only consistent name in the attackers list. And somehow, they are on top in the 2023/24 season despite the Premier League being at its most competitive in years with Arsenal and Manchester City as title contenders and Spurs, Aston Villa, and Newcastle making sure to keep them on toes.
Liverpool have faced a lot of problems of all kinds, yet, against all odds, managed to not only be in the race but have climbed to the top of the table.