Friday, June 11, 2021

Premier League Season in Review: Liverpool

A once lost season for Liverpool was recovered over the course of a five-match winning streak to end the season which enabled the Reds to qualify for next season’s Champions League. The club’s third-place finish can be judged a moderate success given the devastating injuries the team encountered during their title defense. Center back Virgil van Dijk, the heart of Liverpool’s defense, went down with a knee injury in only the fifth game of the season against cross town rival Everton. Van Dijk was lost for the season and the back line was further impacted by injuries to center backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip and mid-season acquisition Ozan Kabak. Midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson would spend time at center back and incur injuries of their own. Make-shift line-ups began to take their toll as the calendar turned and 2021 began with a 12-game stretch marked by seven of the season’s nine losses, including five consecutive home losses for the first time in the club’s history. After losing to ultimately relegated Fulham on March 7, Liverpool was eighth in the table and even manager Jurgen Klopp admitted Champions League was likely impossible. Showing their class however, Liverpool went undefeated in the next ten matches which included their season ending five-win run which moved them from sixth to third in the table as a young and inexperienced center back pairing of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams performed under intense pressure. While much focus was placed on this season’s defensive injury problems, the front three for Liverpool also seemed less cohesive than in years past. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah did not combine on a goal until Salah assisted on Mane’s goal against Southampton on May 8th. Mane’s 11 league goals were six fewer than his prior season output while fellow forward Bobby Firmino failed to reach double figure goal production for a second consecutive campaign. Mohamed Salah, however, continued his outstanding play, striking for 22 goals, just one behind Harry Kane for the league lead.

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