2020/21 in Review – Liverpool
After injuries made a title defence nigh on impossible, Liverpool rallied to secure Champions League football for 2021/22. Calum Muldoon takes a look back at the latest season at Anfield.
It is safe to say this season has not been a breeze for Liverpool or their fans. With the club not even sure if they would be in the top four right up to the final game of the season, this has been a nail biter of a campaign for the Merseyside club. Having suffered from woeful injury problems, with three centre backs being ruled out for the season, Liverpool have clearly struggled. The absence of Virgil van Dijk impacted the team’s performance more than it should have, with the Dutchman suffering a serious ACL injury back in October and has not stepped foot onto the pitch since. Liverpool were sitting in 5th place at the time of the van Dijk injury, with a potential title defence still on the cards.
However, disaster struck at the end of January. This Liverpool side were limping into a home draw with Burnley, with numerous high-profile players out injured. Regardless, they were still expected to cruise to a victory against Sean Dyche’s men. However, this would not be the case, as a late Ashley Barnes penalty ended Liverpool’s historic 68 game unbeaten run at home in a 1-0 defeat. This would not be the end of Liverpool’s problems, as couple of days later, Liverpool were humbled by eventual champions Manchester City in a 4-1 defeat at Anfield, before going on to lose to local rivals Everton just two weeks later, in their first home defeat to the Toffees since 1999. In total, Liverpool lost a record six home games in a row. While they did recover some momentum towards the end of the season, that torrid run doomed any chance of a title defence from Jürgen Klopp’s side.
Of course, you cannot speak about Liverpool’s 2020/21 season without discussing their involvement in the European Super League. It is safe to say that the idea made them a difficult team to like at the end of April. Allegedly being one of the most eager of all English clubs to go forward with the plans, fans argued that the club had lost their main message thanks to the owners. The message “Built by Shanks, broke by Yanks” started to circulate and after the overwhelming pressure from the club’s fans, Liverpool and the rest of the “Big Six” backed down.
Overall, Liverpool’s season has not gone to plan. While a place in the Champions League was seized in the last game, Liverpool never truly shone. They crashed out of the Champions League in the quarter finals and both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup in the fourth round. A third place finish appears impressive on paper but in reality, they finished 17 points behind City and only scraped that place thanks to both Leicester and Chelsea losing their last game of the season so if I was to score their performance over the last 8 months, I would give them a 6/10.
Player of the Season – Mohamed Salah
Picking an outstanding player from a mediocre side is arguably more difficult than highlighting a standout in an awful team. With no one player carrying their teammates, it makes picking a player much more difficult. For honourable mentions I have to mention Liverpool’s goalkeeper, Allison. The Brazilian has made a number of key saves this season and even scored the goal that more or less saved the Anfield side’s hopes of Champions League football and became the first ever Liverpool goalkeeper to score a goal. Another honourable mention is Fabinho. The defensive midfielder gave the Liverpool backline some hope and even slotted into centre back before Christmas. In fact, every game he has played in since Christmas, Liverpool have gone on to win, which just shows how impactful he has been to the squad this season.
However, the Player of the Season in my books has to go to Mohamad Salah. He has been the only player in this Liverpool side that stayed in relatively good form for the entire season. While the Egyptian has been sloppy on the final ball at times, he slotted 31 goals away in all competitions in a team who, for an entire month, only scored four goals. Salah also has six assists this season; the fifth most in the Liverpool squad. His 22 league goals only just fell short of the Golden Boot, which was awarded to Harry Kane with 23 goals. It is clear just how important Salah is to this Liverpool side, as even when the team are not at their best, he has this natural ability to find the back of the net.
Young Player of the Season – Rhys Williams
A young player that stood out in my eyes was Rhys Williams. The 20-year-old defied the odds and actually played a considerable number of games at centre back for The Reds and even played in a Champions League match. Forming a strong partnership with Nat Phillips, he showed plenty of promise throughout the season with the pressure of living up to the reputation that his fellow Liverpool centre backs have.
Having spent last season at sixth tier Kidderminster Harriers, it makes his arrival into the Liverpool first team for 19 games even more impressive. So, I do not think there is a better player in that Liverpool side that could take the title of Young Player of the Season.
Underperformer of the Season – Konstantinos Tsimakis
Konstantinos Tsimikas will take this title easily. While there have been numerous let downs across the season, perhaps the costliest one has been Tsimikas, who arrived at Anfield in September for £12 million from Olympiakos and was expected to be a breakout star and potentially even challenge Andy Robertson for that left back position. Alas, he has only played seven minutes in 2021 and has all together underperformed for The Reds since arriving at Anfield. Being the Underperformer of the Season amongst several underperformers just shows what a flop he has been.
Signing of the Season – Diogo Jota
With a £41 million price tag on your head, the pressure was on for Diogo Jota. Coming from Wolves, fans expected him to be good but not to the level that he reached playing in that Liverpool side. In 19 games, he scored 9 goals and averaged 3.72 shots per game, which was better than Salah.
Jota was injured in December and missed two and a half months of football. In those months, Liverpool had their collapse. This just shows how important Jota was to Liverpool and his absence made a real impact to The Reds’ attack. Liverpool only won five league games in that time and experienced their worst home record in their history. It could be argued that Jota’s presence upfront could have turned their fate in several of the games.
Goal/Moment of the Season – Alisson’s Header vs West Brom
I had to combine these two categories because this goal massively changed Liverpool’s season for the better. The circumstances behind this goal are phenomenal. In mid-May, Liverpool were tied with West Brom at The Hawthorns and it was moments away from full time. Liverpool had a corner which was going to be one of the last kicks of the day. Liverpool ‘keeper Allison decided to move up into the opposition’s box to add extra support, as anything but a win would make securing Champions League football exceptionally difficult.
Trent Alexander-Arnold whips the ball into the box from the corner and Allison leaps to head it into The Baggies’ net and seal the victory in the dying seconds of the game to give The Reds the leg up on their rivals in the Champions League qualification race. Allison became the first Liverpool ‘keeper to score a goal and that moment could not come any sooner. Without that goal, we would not be watching Liverpool in the Champions League next season.
Moment to Forget – Derby Defeat
The lowest point in Liverpool’s season was their 2-0 defeat to Everton at home. Being one of the last games in their poor run of form, this one was the most crushing of all. Losing to their local rivals in such a poor fashion at home but also losing to them for the first time in 11 years. Not only that, but this was also The Toffees’ first win at Anfield since 1999. Fans were sick of seeing Liverpool like this at this point. Not only was the title out of their reach by this point but European football was starting to look like a distant dream.
While Champions League football was seized at the end of the season, this defeat will stick in their mind. All those other losses did not hurt as bad as this one. Sure, losing to Manchester City stung but losing to Everton like that after so many home defeats, would have been the worst blow to Liverpool fans meaning that this would have to be their moment to forget from this season.
Thoughts for Next Season
Liverpool are looking to challenge again next season and I think anyone can see that. Having already signed Ibrahim Konaté from RB Leipzig, Klopp has analysed what needs to be fixed from the errors of this season and I believe they will be in a good position to challenge City for the title.
I can see another midfielder coming into the side this summer, seeing as Georginio Wijnaldum is leaving Anfield this summer for one of Barcelona Paris Saint-Germain. With numerous players going in and out, and Virgil van Dijk and others returning from injury, we should see a much stronger Liverpool side come September.