1. Sadio Mané was a bargain
When Jurgen Klopp decided to make Sadio Mané the club’s third most expensive signing in history for approximately £30m last summer, many Liverpool fans balked at the fee, believing it to be excessive for the quality of player being brought in. Fast forward 11 months and the fans’ views have changed drastically, with the Senegalese international being voted Player of the Season and many feeling he is irreplaceable in the Liverpool team.
The notion that Mané brings something unique to the Liverpool squad was never more apparent than during his absence in January due to Senegal’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Having made a blistering start to his career for the club with a string of explosive performances including a sensational solo strike against Arsenal on the opening day and a last gasp winner against Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Liverpool toiled without their star man at the start of 2017. After a run of just one win from nine games in January, The Reds crashed out of both cup competitions and saw any hopes of a title challenge fade away.
Mané’s return from AFCON saw him score twice in a first half blitz of Tottenham at Anfield, as well as notching in games against Arsenal and Everton that kept Liverpool in contention for Champions League football next season before an injury in the derby ended the forward’s campaign. Whilst Liverpool’s battle for a top four place this term has certainly been a team effort, it is safe to say that the club would be far less likely to have returned to Europe’s premier competition without the performances of the former Southampton man. Ask any Liverpool fan now and they will tell you that Sadio Mané was worth every last penny of his £30m price tag.
2. Liverpool don’t need a new Goalkeeper
On 24 May 2016, Liverpool completed the signing of Loris Karius from Mainz for £4.7m. At the time many expected the German to be Jurgen Klopp‘s immediate first choice goalkeeper thus ending Simon Mignolet’s time between the sticks at Anfield.
An injury to Karius in pre-season allowed the Belgian to start the first five Premier League games of the season and attempt to stake a claim for his first team place. Whilst he failed to keep a single clean sheet in that time, he could hardly be blamed for any of the goals that the team conceded during that run. Klopp took the opportunity to instate Karius at the earliest juncture in the 6-1 defeat of Hull City at Anfield in September but the former Mainz stopper failed to impress in subsequent appearances and after a number of high profile errors was dropped in December.
Since Mignolet’s return to the first team he has maintained his best form to date in a Liverpool shirt keeping a clean sheet in each of the last four games of the season and putting in a man of the match performance in the crucial 2-1 win away at Stoke in April that kept The Reds’ top four hopes alive.
The former Sunderland man’s resurgence in 2017 has put to bed doubts that many Liverpool fans had in January over the club’s goalkeeper situation when some Reds were calling for the signing of England international Joe Hart. Here are some words from Torino president Urbano Cairo on Hart’s recent loan spell in Serie A: “We probably didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international… but he did some good things, too.”
Liverpool would be well advised to steer clear of that one then.
3. Henderson’s injuries are becoming a concern
When Jordan Henderson was confirmed as Steven Gerrard’s successor as Liverpool captain in June 2015, as with many decisions made by then manager Brendan Rodgers, fans’ opinions were divided on the matter. Some believed that the grit and determination displayed by the former Sunderland man meant he was a good fit as captain, whilst others felt that he did not show enough quality on the pitch to deserve the promotion in stature at the club.
Since taking over the armband at Anfield and despite a change in manager, Henderson has excelled in his duties as captain. On and off the pitch he has led the team with authority, even adapting to a new deeper midfield role under Jurgen Klopp. The one slight on the 26-year-old’s time as captain has been that he simply hasn’t been available for selection enough in the past two seasons. Henderson missed the majority of Liverpool’s thrilling run to the 2016 Europa League final with a recurring heel injury, with the club even going so far as to send him to a specialist in America in order to try and find a solution.
This season the captain’s campaign was cut short again after an impressive start, when a seemingly innocuous foot injury suffered in training after the 2-0 win against Tottenham in February failed to heal in time for him to return to the pitch before the end of the season.
It is extremely unlikely that Jurgen Klopp will choose to replace Henderson as captain this summer, however it is becoming increasingly clear that Liverpool can not rely on their captain to be available throughout an entire campaign and that his place in the starting line-up may no longer be automatic.
4. Liverpool can compete with the best
Whilst Liverpool have been at times frustratingly below their best against the so-called lesser sides in the division this season, their record against the teams competing at the top end of the table has been nothing short of exemplary. Unbeaten against their top six peers, The Reds have recorded victories against Tottenham and Manchester City at home, beaten eventual champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and completed an impressive league double over Arsenal for the first time since the 1999/2000 season.
It has been Liverpool’s performances against these teams that has greater highlighted how poor The Reds have been against the sides lower down the league. A criticism that has been levelled at the players is that they can only turn it on for the big matches and can not match that attitude and commitment across a full league season. It goes without saying that Liverpool will need to improve their consistency if they are to better their fourth place finish in the league next season however their habit of saving their best performances for the big occasion bodes well for their ventures in the Champions League next term.
5. The new home kit is boss
Just look at it. Beauty.