A Liverpool FC year in review part two: July - December 2018

In this two-parter, Jack Hallows reviews Liverpool Football Club’s 2018, pouring over the highs and the lows before revealing our readers’ favourite goal, win, match and signing. 

The summer of 2018 brought with it another edition of football’s biggest tournament: the World Cup.

The competition was a mixed bag for Liverpool players, with some such as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané suffering heartbreak early in the tournament, while others such as Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren very nearly went all the way.

A summer of change | June/July/August, 2018

During the months of and surrounding the World Cup, Liverpool were doing some major work of their own.

Brazilian midfielder Fabinho joined for £45m in an out-of-the-blue deal straight after the Champions League final heartache, Xherdan Shaqiri was saved from relegated Stoke for a bargain £13m and perhaps most importantly, Alisson Becker was signed for a record breaking fee from AS Roma.

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Add to this trio the highly anticipated arrival of Naby Keïta and the Reds’ business looked to be top draw from the offset.

The quadrant of signings were all prominently in action during the Reds’ pre-season with Alisson and Shaqiri in particular impressing – the Swiss attacker providing perhaps the highlight of the summer with a stunning bicycle kick in the States against Manchester United.

A 5-0 victory over Napoli and a 3-1 win over Torino capped off the summer in the perfect manner just days before the 2018/19 campaign kicked off.

There were positive signs ahead of the fresh Premier League season, the impressive form of Daniel Sturridge a particular stand-out while key players such as Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk were all looking sharp.

The Reds 2018/19 season officially kicked off at 1.30pm on Sunday, August 12th with a home fixture against West Ham United.

Roughly 105 minutes later Merseyside’s ‘better half’ had scored four times without reply, kicking off their season with a resounding win and their first opening day clean sheet under Jürgen Klopp.

This form – especially at the defensive end of the pitch – would carry through the entire month, a 2-0 away victory over Crystal Palace and a 1-0 over Brighton following their opening day three points.

The Reds ended the month with nine points from nine with Sadio Mané (3) and Mohamed Salah (2) very much in the goals.

A conserved, winner’s approach | September, 2018

September was a strange month for Liverpool Football Club.

They played six games in all competitions, winning four, drawing once – away at Stamford Bridge – and losing once. They scored 12 goals, conceded six – their worst defensive month so far this season – but all in all the month was nothing short of a success.

They had three points out of three in the Champions League, had dropped just two in the Premier League and while they were out of the League Cup, nobody was really feeling that upset over it.

Despite all of this, fans were still concerned for some reason.

Jürgen Klopp was being questioned simply because the Reds had taken a mature, win at all cost approach, weren’t scoring five goals every game and Mohamed Salah hadn’t already broken his record Premier League goal tally despite only playing seven games.

Football fans are a funny, reactionary bunch eh?

Manchester City come to town | October, 2018

October was another up and down month.

The Reds won one and lost one in Europe, losing to a last-second goal against Napoli but hammering Red Star Belgrade 4-0 at Anfield.

In the league, the unbeaten run continued with a 1-0 win over Huddersfield, a 4-1 drubbing of Cardiff and most importantly, a home draw with the favourites for the Premier League title: Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s men came to Anfield on October 7th and while many tipped a repeat of one of the fixtures from last season, the 3-0 in the Champions League perhaps? Or even, the 4-3 from January? The reality was very different.

Last seasons’ champions came to shut up shop, looking to learn from past mistakes and tighten up, defending first and hitting the home side on the counter attack.

This was a match full of respect – perhaps too much – on both sides with Liverpool, who admittedly hadn’t quite hit top gear just yet, employing a very similar tactic.

The end result? A 0-0 draw. With all the attacking talent on show – Salah, Aguero, Sterling, Firmino – this was probably the last thing anyone expected but for both sides, it looked a good result. Neither side had taken an advantage but on the other hand, neither had surrendered one.

0-0 after 90 minutes, bring on January 3rd at the Etihad.

Domestic success and a European implosion | November, 2018

Remember, remember the month of November.

Actually, the month of November was a fairly forgettable one for Liverpool Football Club this year.

The Reds did enjoy further domestic success, taking seven points from an available nine, opening the month with a 1-1 draw against Unai Emery’s Arsenal.

However, Klopp’s men struggled in Europe, stumbling to an embarrassing 2-0 loss away in Belgrade and a 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint Germain to go three from three away from home.

Losses that is.

The statistic that came along with the PSG loss was a bizarre one, the Reds having not won a single away fixture in Europe since their 2-1 win over Man City and not having done so on the continent’s mainland since beating Porto 5-0.

It was also the first time ever that Liverpool had lost all three away games in the group stages of the Champions League.

Sandwiched between these two results however were 2-0 home victories over Fulham and successful trips to Vicarage Road, where a potential banana skin was spectacularly avoided with a routine 3-0 win over Watford.

Things may not have been ideal in Europe but Liverpool finished the month having played 13 in the Premier League, won 10 and drawn 3 – a fantastic first third of the Premier League season.

A perfect end to a wonderful year | December, 2018

European qualification, eight wins from eight games, hattricks for Salah and Firmino, a Merseyside derby win, pastings of both Manchester United and Arsenal, 23 goals scored and just 3 goals conceded and most importantly, undefeated in the Premier League and sitting pretty on top of the table by seven points.

Safe to say December was a fitting end to a wonderful year.

The month began with the infamous ‘Origi +6′ Merseyside derby win, with the Belgian’s last-second strike serving as the catalyst for a literal perfect month.

A heavily rotated Liverpool side then travelled to Burnley, overcoming a 1-0 deficit to score three goals of their own and most importantly, take all three points, before Mohamed Salah almost single-handedly demolished Bournemouth by scoring his second Liverpool hat-trick in a 4-0 rout.

The Egyptian’s good form would continue just days later when he scored a blinder to send Liverpool through to the Champions League knockouts at the expense of their opponents on the night, Napoli.

The Reds’ needed either a 1-0 or 3-1 win to move through to the next round and while Alisson Becker’s incredible last minute save to deny Milik stole the headlines – and perhaps rightly so – it was Salah’s goal that made the difference.

The Egyptian bodied Mario Rui with ease, before slaloming his way past Kalidou Koulibaly, giving David Ospina the eyes to throw off his positioning and finally coolly nutmegging the poor Colombian keeper.

1-0 Liverpool.

If the noise and atmosphere at Anfield that night was ferocious, it was only amplified days later when Manchester United came to town.

José Mourinho had lost his last job at Chelsea following a 3-1 loss to Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in their infancy but since then the Portuguese had seemingly ‘figured out’ how to at very least deny the Reds three points.

In four previous meetings between Klopp’s Liverpool and José’s Manchester United, Liverpool had scored just twice, with both prior Anfield fixtures ending in 0-0 draws.

Not this time.

The Reds ran riot over United with Xherdan Shaqiri’s second half double completing a 3-1 victory and once again, a loss to Klopp at that exact scoreline cost Mourinho his job.

Routine 2-0 and 4-0 victories over Wolves and Newcastle followed before the Reds one-upped their heroics against Manchester United when Arsenal visited.

Goals had been the main feature of almost every game played between the two sides since the culmination of football and this fixture was to promise nothing less.

Arsenal did become the first side for the entirety of 2018 to go 1-0 up at Anfield but as Ian Wright put it, Arsenal just “upset” Liverpool.

Roberto Firmino, in particular.

The Brazilian made Arsenal’s defenders look like they were playing blindfolded on ice, scoring his first Liverpool hat-trick with his second goal, in particular, a contender and a half for the Reds’ goal of the season.

The Brazilian’s two goals before half time, alongside a Mo Salah penalty and a wonderful finish for Sadio Mané meant the second half was nothing more than a formality with the home side going into the break 4-1 up.

The final score read 5-1 and saw Liverpool finish the calendar year top of the pile in the Premier League, having dropped just six points in 20 matches and remaining undefeated.

What a year it’s been.

Liverpool’s goal of the year (as voted for by RTK’s writers and readers)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s thunder bastard of a strike VS Manchester City in the Champions League first leg at Anfield.

Liverpool’s win of the year (as voted for by RTK’s writers and readers)

Liverpool 4 – 3 Manchester City.

Another Manchester City related win! The Reds became the first team to beat Guardiola’s men in the 2017/18 season when 15 minutes of madness saw them take a 4-1 lead in the second half of their January fixture at Anfield. The Citizens fought back to make it 4-3 but the home side held on to take all three points.

It meant nothing in the grand scheme of the Premier League for that season but it would be very easy to argue that it was a huge turning point for the events to come during the remainder of the year.

Liverpool’s match of the year (as voted for by RTK’s writers and readers)

Liverpool 5 -2 AS Roma.

I was wondering what would win this one.

The 3-0 and 4-3 wins over City were highly voted for, as was this season’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United but it was the 5-2 home victory over AS Roma that took the gold medal.

The Reds’ attackers – particularly Mohamed Salah – were operating as if from another planet that night, with our Egyptian king ensuring that Alisson conceded more goals in one night visiting Anfield than he did in the entire first half of the Premier League season playing there regularly.

Roma did pull two away goals back late on to ensure some concern over potential squeaky bum time but Salah and Firmino’s doubles, paired with a typical bundling the ball over the line style Sadio Mané strike meant that Liverpool were never in any real doubt of not qualifying for the final.

That Salah opener though… goodness me.

Liverpool’s signing of the year (as voted for by RTK’s writers and readers)

Virgil van Dijk.

Liverpool spending £75m on the former Celtic and Southampton man was met with ridicule back in January 2018 but many would be able to argue that the Dutchman is now worth at least double what FSG shelled out on him.

The Reds no.4 is immense at the hear of our defence, seemingly winning every header, every challenge and every tackle, all while effortlessly spraying 50-yard balls to all parts of the field and organising the defence with ease.

It’s no secret that even if he’s not our most valuable, he’s most certainly the club’s most important player and having him in our back four has been the major driver behind the Reds much improved defensive record.

£75m? Bargain mate.

Shoutout to Alisson Becker as well, he was very nearly the winner of this one.

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