Max Morland explores Liverpool’s 2016/17 and the implications of not partaking in any European competitions.
The disappointment of Liverpool’s awful defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League final and the Reds’ sub-standard 8th place finish in the Premier League means Jürgen Klopp’s team will not have a place in any European competition next season. This rules out any chance of long trips to obscure cities across Europe, or any “magical” nights at Anfield, of which there were many last season. Despite this, the lack of European fixtures could also positively impact the club enormously, and I illustrate three ways it could do this.
Last season, Liverpool played an incredible 63 matches in total, surpassing any other team in Europe’s top 5 leagues. This was mainly due to the Reds fantastic results in the Europa League, and League Cup, both of which unfortunately ended in final defeats. However, next season, without any European competition, Jürgen Klopp can look forward to a minimum of six fewer fixtures, although this number was more than doubled last season over the course of the Europa League.
In particular, a period in January saw Liverpool play 5 fixtures in 15 days, including the FA Cup tie against Exeter, and the League Cup semi-final against Stoke. This was also a time which saw no less than 11 players injured within just 6 matches, which, along with the other players’ tiredness, had a negative impact on the results with the Reds winning none of their first five games in January.
Furthermore, the decreased number of fixtures may lead to a more consistent team, and therefore increase the focus of the players. Last season, Liverpool travelled a total of 12,964 miles just for the Europa League, or which could have lead to fatigue among the squad. As a result, Klopp was fully justified in rotating his squad more frequently as the season progressed. This may have led to a lack of focus among the players, who were unsure when they would be playing, and in what competition. This may have contributed largely to Liverpool’s dip in form around the times when fixtures were congested.
Consequently, the fewer miles travelled and midweek matches means that Klopp, who is known for being a ‘hands-on’ manager, will be able to spend more time on the training ground with his players, and be able to prepare in a more in-depth manner for every match, which will hopefully result in a more convincing challenge for higher league positions next season.
To provide evidence for the positive impacts of a lack of European matches, look no further than Liverpool’s strongest season in the last 6 years. The 2013/14 campaign saw the Reds finish in second place in the League, but were not successful in the cup competitions (knocked out in the second round of the League Cup, and the fifth round of the FA Cup). In addition, they did not take part in any European competition.
If Klopp is able to unlock the potential of this side, as well as build upon the defence, which has been as fragile as Vincent Kompany’s muscles in the last 3 years, we may be able to witness Liverpool competing in the upper places in the league next season.