With Jurgen Klopp under fire after a string of poor results, was the club better or worse off when they came so close to the title just three years ago?
Liverpool Football Club have undeniably transformed since they almost won the league in 2013, with the new manager taking his time to acquire the exact squad he needs to win trophies. They are certainly no longer title-challengers this season, and so is it a case of the wrong set of players, or is it something deeper?
Brendan Rodgers almost led the club to an historic first league title since 1990. Many fans believed that after an outstanding season in which they came so close to victory, that they would push on and start to reclaim the success that they once had. This certainly wasn’t the case however, and now Champions League qualification even looks out of sight, an unthinkable feat under the much-loved Klopp.
Through analyzing the 2013 squad, and evaluating how much Liverpool have progressed since then, this highly frustrating situation for fans may become clearer. From a 2nd place finish three years ago, to being on the brink of another season without top European football, how has the squad moved on since then?
To begin with, incredibly only seven players from 2013 are still at the club. Of those seven, two are on loan at other clubs, while the likes of Daniel Sturridge now occupies the bench week in week out this season. His 21 league goals made sure they out-scored their opposition three years ago, while the now fringe player Jon Flanagan was equally instrumental at the back. This proves that Klopp has very much instilled his own beliefs in the club and brought in his own players, suggesting that perhaps Brendan Rodgers had assembled a better equipped squad. Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling were both outstanding performers that season, and so losing these players and Captain Steven Gerrard really has taken its toll on Liverpool. It suggests that such dramatic changes in a once close-knit squad can indeed have a huge impact, especially if suitable replacements are not found.
Some may say it genuinely was impossible to replace Suarez and Gerrard, and this has had a knock-on effect even after just a small number of years. But Klopp is adamant by not bringing in players in January that he has who he needs to be successful.
Klopp’s side now may also seem stronger on paper than the side of 2013, but perhaps Suarez was that good that he brought the best out of those around him. He has shown his quality time and time again at Barcelona, but it wasn’t the case where the team relied solely on him for goals.
Letting valuable players go may also have cost Liverpool in the long-term. Take Andy Carroll for example, who like many others including surprise performer Victor Moses at Chelsea and perhaps even Joe Allen at Stoke, have reignited their careers away from Anfield. It’s a strange thought, but maybe these players could arguably have put the club in a better position this season.
The average ages of both squads could also be considered. An average age of 27.84 in 2013 conveys a certain degree of stability, and perhaps a very strong blend of youth and experience. Compare that with the average of 24.3 this season, resulting in possibly a lack of both footballing and Premier League experience.
The goals scored may also be a factor. An incredible 101 goals were scored in the 2013/14 season by Liverpool, with 50 conceded. Defensive problems, including goalkeeping errors, were an issue back then and seemingly still are now. It might solely be a lack of goals this season, and the creativity is definitely there in the likes of Coutinho, so an in-and-out striker looks to be the main problem.
These statistics may be only a small matter and may be insignificant due to the wide range of factors affecting football, but they may actually play a part. Of course other clubs may have strengthened since 2013, and football has progressed massively in that short space of time.
These are now seen as worrying times for such an historic and well-established club, and it could be that the players really aren’t cut out for what lies ahead of them. Klopp must decide, and decide soon, whether or not he is satisfied with the players he has at his disposal as he aims to win trophies at Liverpool for many years to come.