If you didn’t already know, Jack Hallows loves stats and he’s got a number of them for you to prove that Liverpool have progressed heavily under Jürgen Klopp in 2016/17.
We all remember this time last year. Jürgen Klopp put all of his eggs into the Europa League basket and our league campaign certainly ended with a sad whimper rather than an exciting bang. We finished eighth on just 60 points, losing games to Southampton and Swansea while also drawing with Newcastle and Manchester City in the final months of the season. No such mistakes this time round.
The Reds lost just one of their final 12 game run in, taking an impressive 27 points from 36 available to seal a fourth-placed finish. Our total points tally of 76 was a superb improvement on last campaign, seeing us end the season 16 points better off with an average of exactly two points per game.
Last season the Reds struggled, for the most part, to put the ball in the back of the net until things started to click in mid-January. Much of Jürgen Klopp’s early tenure was filled with 1-0 wins, 1-1 draws and very cagey results. There was the odd outlier – the 3-0 against Chelsea, the 6-1 over Southampton and the 4-1 over Manchester City – but it wasn’t until the winter that we really saw what Klopp’s Liverpool was going to be about.
This season, however, we saw it from the get-go. The Reds put four past Arsenal on the opening day and since then haven’t looked back. Their tally of 78 league goals means the Reds finished with 15 more goals this season than they did last time round – coincidence that Mané ended the season on 13? – and for much of the season, they were the league’s top scorers.
Labelled the ‘great entertainers’ by many pundits and fans alike this season, Klopp’s men only failed to find the back of the net on five occasions this season and only Manchester United and Southampton could prevent them from scoring at Anfield. During the first half of the season especially, the Reds seemed to just walk all over any team that dared to try and go toe-to-toe with them. Arsenal, Leicester, Stoke, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Crystal Palace were all hit for four, Hull shipped five and Watford were even dispatched for six.
What’s most impressive about the Reds goalscoring feats, however, is that they were able to share them around. While the attacking trident of Firmino, Mané and Coutinho scored almost half of the Reds goals this season – 37 combined – a total of eight players finished with five or more strikes in the league this season and incredibly, of the XI who started on the final day against Middlesbrough only Nathaniel Clyne finished the season without a goal.
The new formation certainly leant itself to the Reds new goalscoring freedom. The starting positions of the midfield players, combined with the movement of the front three and the willingness to get forward of the full backs allowed Klopp’s men to overload opposition penalty areas and create chances aplenty. Seven players finished with a total of four or more assists – Roberto Firmino was top with 11, followed by Wijnaldum with 9 – while nine players created 30 or more total chances.
A rocky start but a solid end
“Improvements? In the defence? Shut up no there weren’t!”
That’s where you are wrong, my friend!
Despite a fairly poor start to the season defensively in which the Reds didn’t keep a single clean sheet in their opening seven games, there are a lot of positives to look back on when it comes to our defence. Firstly, the Reds conceded 42 goals this season – eight less than during our last campaign – with James Milner playing left back and a constant stream of injuries to our central defenders.
Klopp stressed constantly throughout the season that our defence wasn’t a problem and that while we seemed to often concede consolation goals, we weren’t giving teams a plethora of chances like we had been doing for much of the 2015/16 campaign.
Opposition sides were being reduced to one or two good chances per game and we’d just been getting unlucky that they were putting them away more frequently than not. Looking back on it, there is a certain air of truth in this – especially when you look at the final two thirds of the season. In fact, Liverpool and Spurs were the only teams in the top six not to lose a game by three goals all season.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the return of Simon Mignolet to the starting XI that the defence really started to solidify. The Belgian was replaced by Loris Karius for the Hull game and the German kept his place right through until December despite a number of high-profile errors and managed to keep three clean sheets in nine appearances. When Mignolet returned for the Middlesbrough away game, however, he was a different animal.
The Belgian held his place for the remaining 23 games of the season and managed an impressive nine shutouts over that time and his saves against the likes of Manchester United, Stoke, West Brom and Arsenal earned the Reds vital points while a penalty stop late on against Chelsea did his newfound reputation no harm. He finished the season with nine clean sheets from 29 appearances – the Reds managed 12 overall, one better than last season.
Room for further improvement?
So as you can see, the wheels of progress are very much turning at Liverpool Football Club so far during Klopp’s reign. Of course, a trophy would be nice but that time will undoubtedly come. If Klopp can be smart this summer and use the draw of Champions League and the extra funding likely to be handed his way to sign players of proven quality who fit his system and buy into his ideology then I am extremely confident that this side will break the drought next season.
The bar has been set, expectations for this season have been met and it’s only onwards and upwards from here. Our rivals will undoubtedly strengthen in the summer but for once, we’re in a position where we can truly compete with the biggest clubs in Europe for players of the highest calibre. Progress is most certainly being made and Liverpool Football Club is truly back on the rise.