Predicting Liverpool’s 2017/18 Season – #FM17

Liverpool secured a Champions League qualification place after finishing fourth in the Premier League last season; securing a place in Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2014.

Jurgen Klopp’s men started the season in blistering form and were hot on the heels of Chelsea in the Premier League title race during October, but their momentum stopped following some poor results in the new year.

However, the Reds managed to salvage fourth place to secure European football at Anfield next year.

Using the power of Football Manager 17, we simulated the 2017/18 season to see how Liverpool will fare next campaign…

SIGNINGS

Liverpool have brought in three players already this summer – Mohamed Salah from Roma, Andrew Robertson from Hull and Dominic Solanke from Chelsea.

Andre Wisdom, Kevin Stewart and Lucas Leiva have all departed the club with more departures expected.

The Reds have actively pursued Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk this summer with the player reportedly keen on forcing through a move to Merseyside and Klopp was able to secure his signature for £65m on our simulation; the last transfer of the summer window.

In January, Robertson departed the club bound for Stoke on loan as Liverpool spent £20m to bring in Bayern Munich left-back, Juan Bernat as well as Andreas Samaris from Benfica for £10m.

A host of players left the club on loan with Marko Grujic, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander Arnold joining Robertson and Solanke out of the club on a temporary basis.

TACTICS

Unsurprisingly, Klopp stuck to his favoured 4-3-3 system which he has utilised at both Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.

Simon Mignolet was given the nod in between the sticks, restricting Loris Karius to cup appearances.

Nathaniel Clyne remained as the regular right-back, and Alberto Moreno’s pre-season form gave him a second chance at left-back. Injuries hampered Joel Matip’s season meaning Van Dijk partnered Dejan Lovren in the heart of the defence.

Liverpool’s midfield was heavily rotated, but James Milner, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson were the preferred trio in the engine room.

Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane operated from the wing with Roberto Firmino leading the line – Salah being used in a rotation system with Daniel Sturridge.

TOP PLAYERS

Liverpool’s biggest problem under Klopp’s leadership has been defending.

Scoring goals has not been an issue for the Reds but keeping them out has become a real problem area that needed addressing in the summer window – hence the addition of Van Dijk.

The Dutchman justified his huge price tag in his first season, averaging a 7.63 rating over 43 appearances which was the highest in the squad – scoring one goal and registering four assists.

His performances earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, and he was widely recognised as the league’s best defender for the season.

Clyne also averaged a high average rating of 7.35, securing his place as the first-choice right-back and forcing Alexander-Arnold to leave on loan in search of first-team football.

Lallana enjoyed a superb season in the centre of midfield, continuing his impressive form under Klopp, scoring 12 and assisting 13.

Firmino ended the season as the club’s top goal scorer with 20 strikes followed by Coutinho (13), Lallana (12) and Mane (10).

FLOP PLAYERS

It was a season to forget for Georginio Wijnaldum, who struggled to retain his place in the first-team with Lallana in such exceptional form; he started just 14 games all season with the lowest average rating in the squad.

Emre Can also struggled for regular game time and had attracted the attention of Juventus in the summer window after making just 11 appearances.

Sturridge is expected to leave the club, starting just three games with a further 25 appearances from the bench. The England international scored four goals but couldn’t displace Firmino as the club’s first-choice forward.

Another player who failed to make a big impression in his first season was Salah. The Egyptian winger was eased into life back in England but was mostly restricted to substitute appearances.

RESULTS

Again, Liverpool started the season in excellent form and took an early lead at the top of the Premier League before their momentum began to slow down again. Nevertheless, they managed to stay in the top four for the entire season.

Liverpool finished in fourth again, securing Champions League football but ultimately falling short of expectations. All seven of their losses came on the road, all coming to sides who finished lower than seventh.

In Europe, Liverpool progressed as group runners-up alongside Borussia Dortmund as they knocked out Red Bull Salzburg and Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side. Their second place finish proved costly as they drew Juventus in the first knockout stage.

A 1-1 draw at Anfield in the first-leg was a respectable result to take to Turin, but a late Paulo Dybala goal secured 1-0 win for the Italian side and sent Klopp’s men crashing out of the competition.

There was a further disappointment in the domestic cups as they were knocked out in the third round of both the FA Cup and EFL Cup by Swansea and West Ham respectively.

CONCLUSION

A fourth place finish doesn’t look too bad on the face of things for the Reds. Arsenal pipped Tottenham to the title on goal difference with Liverpool finishing just eight points off the top of the table, and nine points clear of fifth placed Stoke.

Finishing above the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, who invested huge amounts of money into their squads, must be considered as a success and a platform for growth.

Progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League was an improvement on Liverpool’s last foray in Europe where they failed to get out of the group stage, but they will get another chance next season.

Performance in the domestic cups was also underwhelming but securing Champions League football for the second successive season softens the blow.

Where do you think Liverpool will finish in the Premier League next season?

Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 – Visit my blog The Beautiful Game for more

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