Why Liverpool May Be a Force to Be Reckoned with Again

Liverpool's first 15 minutes vs. AC Milan in the Champions League were a terrifying reminder of the heights Klopp's men reached not so long ago.

Liverpool became a sort of forgotten team this summer. While Manchester City chased Jack Grealish for obscene money, Manchester United swooped in to pick up Raphaël Varane, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Chelsea broke the bank for Romelu Lukaku, Liverpool’s one big splash was Ibrahima Konaté — a 22-year-old central defender from RB Leipzig.

A quality purchase for sure, but nowhere near the type of profile to consistently put Liverpool in the headlines.

Although news mentions are inconsequential to determining the quality of a football team, it appears that the hype their rivals have generated have placed Liverpool outside the title contender discussion among many a fan. Even if the Reds are highlighted, it’s likely not done so with the certainty that they’re clearly ahead of United (they are) or possibly level with or above Chelsea.

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On the face of it, this seems reasonable; Liverpool finished third in both the real table and xG table last season behind both Manchester clubs. When accounting for Chelsea’s upgrade in attack and their Champions League victory (and adjusting for a “Lampard tax”) in comparison to Liverpool’s relative lack of squad improvement, basic logic says that Chelsea should move into the top three conversation.

Not so fast. I think we forget just how good Liverpool were in 2020 at full health. Wait, forget “full health.” They were still damn good even at “reasonable” health.

In fact, Jürgen Klopp’s men were top on Christmas Day after losing Virgil van Dijk in October and Joe Gomez in November — their two starting center-backs.

It wasn’t until Joël Matip went down in late January that Liverpool really started to fall off and they ended up with only the sixth best defensive xG in the league, holding back an offense that was barely behind City on underlying numbers (Liverpool also had finishing woes).

It seems ridiculously simple, but with all three defenders having returned along with the Konaté signing, Liverpool have technically solved the primary issues that plagued them in the prior campaign, which might just make them the second best team — or even the best — in the league.

That analysis is perhaps a bit shallow. Liverpool also encountered other issues in their fall from grace in 2021.

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