It’s cliche I know but a year in football is a long time. If you compared December 2015 and December 2016 they’re almost unrecognisable.
After the Boxing Day fixtures in 2015 Liverpool were in 8th position with 27 points and a -1 goal difference. Watford and Crystal Palace where both ahead of the Reds and Everton were just a single point behind. Going into the game against Stoke City on the 27th December Liverpool are 2nd in the league with 37 points and a +21 goal difference. We’re 10 points and 22 goals better off this time around with a game in hand. Klopp’s worked wonders in a short space of time.
2017 is just around the corner and with that in mind many start to reminisce about the highs and the lows of the previous year. So I decided to do the same with Liverpool. I’ve taken on the thankless challenge of naming, in my opinion at least, Liverpool’s team of 2016. I don’t expect everybody to agree and I’m going to do my best to leave agendas at the door and judge solely on playing performances.
I’d love to go with Loris Karius here but given the fact he’s played just the ten matches, and in the majority he had very little to do, it’s hard to have him as a starter in my team of the year. So, by default instead of form, the winner is Simon Mignolet. A win is a win at the end of the day so the Belgian should take it.
Again, the options here are limited. Nathaniel Clyne played the majority of games and while he’s not been a standout performer he’s not been atrocious either. Solid and reliable is never a bad thing. He pips Connor Randall, John Flanagan and Trent Alexander Arnold to a starting role at right-back.
Let the games begin.
Joel Matip claims a place as the starting right sided centre-back despite only being at the club for six months and having just featured in twelve Premier League matches. He ousts Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel to the position in what was possibly the easiest decision I’ve had to make. Who to partner him though? It’d be easy to go with Dejan Lovren here, wouldn’t it? The Croatian has been the one constant throughout the year and he’s improved under Jurgen Klopp. But, and like I said I’m leaving my agenda at the door and judging this on performances, he does have an error in him in what feels like every other game. It’s hard to look past that. Mamadou Sakho gets my vote at left centre-back. The Frenchman impressed when Klopp arrived and was instrumental in Liverpool’s run to the Europa League final putting in a MOTM performance against United at Old Trafford. I know his inclusion will rub people up the wrong way given he’s now nothing more than a memory.
Alberto Moreno vs James Milner. I’ve been vocal in my support for Moreno but if I pick Sakho and Moreno in the same team there will probably be hits taken out on me and it would definitely be agenda driven on my part. On a serious note though, Milner is playing in a foreign position but he’s having an influence on the team and that can’t be ignored.
Three from Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and Lucas. As much as I’m a fan of Wijnaldum I’m going to go with Henderson, Can and Lallana. Henderson has adapted to life in a new deeper role well, he’s the hub of Liverpool’s title challenge and although he has limitations there they aren’t an issue yet as he’s masking them. Emre Can gets the nod after impressing in different roles. He was the deepest midfielder last year and at times was a one man midfield. This year he’s played a more advanced role and he’s chipping in with goals as well as having an impact on the press. Adam Lallana is a player reborn under Klopp. He went from frustrating to devastating.
This is really difficult. Big Div impressed last season and then he’s scored some big goals for the Reds in the absence of Philippe Coutinho but is that enough? Daniel Sturridge showed his class last season and scored goals against United, Villarreal and Sevilla in the Europa League. He’s yet to fire this season so that goes against him. Firmino, Coutinho and Mane have been a revelation as a trio in attack and have all played a huge role in Liverpool being where they are in the league.