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The Difference Between Liverpool in the Past and The Present

Image Commercially Licensed From Unsplash 

By Daniel Finch

The Liverpool “rebuild” seems to be in full swing during the 2023/24 Premier League season. This year, supposedly a rebuilding after a fairly dismal campaign last time, has turned into an unforeseen title charge. But why is that? What about this Liverpool team makes them different from even the greatest of the Klopp era?

Well, let’s start with midfield stability and rotation. The 2018-19 iteration of this Liverpool squad was probably considered the best team of the Klopp Era. Liverpool won the Champions League and came within John Stones’s toe of winning the Premier League, finishing with 97 points (the highest to never win). 

The mainstays were Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and Fabinho, where we’ll start. As great as those three were in the Liverpool system, only Wijnaldum carried any forward threat, and he rarely showed it with Liverpool. The Midfield was an engine of pressing and covering the ground, constantly nipping at the opposition’s heels. Henderson developed an excellent passing range, and Fabinho certainly moved the ball along, but the front three and marauding fullbacks provided most, if not all, of the attacking play. 

Despite having attack-minded players to spell the regulars in Alex Oxelaide-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, they were often injured and never got enough first-team runs to really link up with Salah, Firmino, or Mane. Vice Captain James Milner offered more of the same, a steadfast determination and definitive skill, but not a true attacking fluency.

Now, fast forward to this season. After failing on the transfers for Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, as well as moonshot Jude Bellingham, Liverpool “settled” for Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis MacAllister, Wataru Endo, and Ryan Gravenberch.  With Endo being the only true “holding” or “defensive” midfielder, this rebuild was supposed to leave Liverpool weak in the center of the park. Instead, it has had an immediate impact the other way.  With more fluency and ball playing by their skillful midfielders, Liverpool have been able to unlock an attacking avenue previously closed.

Dominik Szoboszlai offers the ground coverage of a Henderson with the skill of a Coutinho. What a marvelous signing of a player who might look just as comfortable on the right wing as in the tight situations when dropped between the center backs. MacAllister, who has mainly been enlisted in the “Fabinho” system, brings much more passing range than the Brazilian despite not quite having the defensive talent. Bringing Trent Alexander-Arnold into the Midfield has allowed for a more flowing attack and a more inside-to-out approach. But when their midfielders are out due to injury or international duty, the “backups” have stepped up.

Endo took some time to get his feet on the ground but now has started to contribute, even getting himself into useful attacking positions. Both the youngsters Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliot have stepped their games up. At this point, Jones might be the most skilled Liverpool player on the ball, displaying tricks, flicks, and real confidence. He will become an integral first-team pick with a little work on the final product.  

Meanwhile, Harvey Elliot has provided a lift off the bench on multiple occasions, with the ability to strike the ball from anywhere and bring instant energy to the game.  Let us not forget Ryan Gravenberch, a mercurial player who can create something out of nothing and has become a vital substitution when creativity is needed.

If you have been lucky enough to follow this year’s iteration of the Liverpool rebuild, it has been pretty magical. It’s incredible that almost all the players mentioned aren’t even in the prime of their athletic windows. The growth potential of this team, built on the foundation of a stern and brilliantly creative midfield, is unlimited.

Published by: Aly Cinco

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