Liverpool ended their season in eighth which meant the Reds missed out on a place in Europe after losing the Europa League final to Sevilla. Jurgen Klopp inherited Brendan Rodgers’ squad back in December and also led his new side to the Capital One Cup final only to be beaten by Manchester City on penalties.
After another mid-table finish, eyes are firmly set on the future and building for next season with the luxury of having no European football to interrupt our Premier League preparations; as Klopp prepares for his assault on the top four.
Transfer activity has been quiet of late but the Reds have secured the services of Joel Matip, Marko Grujic and Loris Karius with the signing of Piotr Zielinski also likely to happen.
Using the power of Football Manager 16, we simulated the 16/17 season in order to see how the redmen would fare in the German’s second season…
It would seem Euro 2016 hurt Liverpool’s transfer plans as Klopp did not add one player to his squad during the summer transfer window. Long-term transfer target, Mario Gotze, chose to fight for his place in Munich whilst Borussia Monchengladbach would not allow Mahmoud Dahoud to leave the club.
Klopp allowed many players to leave the club on loan in order to gain first-team experience. Cameron Brannagan departed for a season with Doncaster whilst Sheffield United completed temporary deals for Brad Smith, Kevin Stewart and Jordan Williams. Surprisingly, Divock Origi was allowed to leave the club on loan to Wolfsburg as Klopp utilised his other forward options.
Liverpool chose to splash the cash in the January transfer window and a lack of European football was no object for big-name signings. Under the noses of domestic rivals and European heavyweights, Klopp managed to convince talented defender, Aymeric Laporte, to join in a deal worth £35.5m. Brazilian winger, Felipe Anderson, joined from Lazio for around £25m whilst Liverpool also paid £9.5m for the services of Dutch left-back, Jetro Willems, from PSV.
The only notable departure in the January transfer window as Mario Balotelli who finally left the club after a dismal two years with the club. Remarkably, Liverpool were able to recoup the transfer fee paid to AC Milan as Real Madrid stumped up £14m to bring the Italian to the Bernabeu.
Despite favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation in his first season with Liverpool, Klopp reverted to a more conventional 4-4-1-1 which proved an astute tactical decision.
Added competition between the sticks in the form of Karius prompted a huge turn in form from Simon Mignolet. The German had to settle for backup goalkeeper as the former Sunderland shot-stopper was in impressive form all season; keeping 15 Premier League clean sheets.
Liverpool’s impressive defensive record was due to the improvements made to their back-line. Nathaniel Clyne kept his place at right-back and Laporte slotted seamlessly next to Mamadou Sakho in the heart of defence. Injuries to Willems meant Alberto Moreno operated from left-back.
James Milner was moved to the right of midfield with Philippe Coutinho on the opposite side. In a surprising turn of events, Emre Can was restricted to substitute appearances from the bench due to the form of Joe Allen who impressed alongside Jordan Henderson in the engine room.
Roberto Firmino was deployed just behind Daniel Sturridge who was the preferred lone striker following a return to full fitness.
Many players stood out during Klopp’s second season at Anfield. Firmino ended as the season’s top scorer with 13 goals in 40 appearances from a centre forward position. Sturridge was able to add 11 goals in 25 appearances whilst Coutinho netted 9 goals with Milner bagging another 8.
The majority of Liverpool’s good performances were built on a solid defence. The £35m to bring Laporte was proved money well spent as the Spaniard ended the season with the highest average rating of 7.51. His defensive partner Sakho also excelled with an average rating of 7.40 over the course of the season.
It was a season to remember for Liverpool youngster, Taiwo Awoniyi. Despite being signed as a relative unknown, the Nigerian forward impressed for the Under 21s following a loan spell in Germany. He scored 30 goals in 40 appearances meaning a call-up to the senior squad could be on the cards for next campaign.
It was also a season to forget for a number of Liverpool’s squad members. Despite playing a crucial role in Liverpool’s Europa League campaign last season and becoming one of Klopp’s best performers, Dejan Lovren only made one appearance all season leading to speculation of a move to Borussia Dortmund.
Liverpool were also unable to offload Luis Alberto meaning the Spanish forward had to settle for a season with the U21s. Jordon Ibe also failed to register a single appearance for the senior side with the Reds prepared to listen to offers for the young English winger.
Injuries disrupted Danny Ings’ seasons whilst new signings Anderson and Willems also struggled for fitness which restricted their appearance total.
With no European football, the Reds were focused on securing a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League. With fewer games to play, Liverpool soared and managed to secure fourth place in the Premier League by finishing 12 points above Tottenham in fifth. The Reds finished seven points away from Arsenal who ran out eventual winners.
Despite securing a return to Europe, Liverpool failed to perform in the domestic cups. The Reds paid the price for resting first-team players as they crashed out in the Capital One Cup in the quarter-final at the hands of Manchester City. Klopp could only guide his side to the sixth round of the FA Cup before being beaten by Stoke City.
Liverpool were finally able to secure a return to Europe’s elite competition at the expense of performances in the cup. However, the Reds will now benefit from attracting the biggest names in the world and the improved finances of playing in the Champions League. With Klopp at the helm, the next challenge will be to keep Liverpool at the top of English football.
Do you think Liverpool will return to the top four next season?