Back in January, Liverpool allowed one it’s most prized assets, Phillipe Coutinho, to leave the club. At the time, fans wouldn’t have been laughed at if they were worried, going into the business end of the season. However, the Reds kicked on, and as a collective reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2007.
Mo Salah received plenty of plaudits for his performances last season, and rightfully so, but even with the Egyptian star leading the line, the Reds have finally formed a team, and are no longer reliant on just one player for a moment of brilliance to earn them a win.
During last season’s Champions League campaign, all of the fabled front three reached 10 goals, and the team as a whole broke the record for the most goals in a Champions League campaign.
Still, though, there were plenty of eyebrows raised when Jürgen Klopp allowed Coutinho to leave halfway through the season.
That’s because it’s not the first time Liverpool have lost their star player recently, in the last 20 years particularly, the Reds have had their prized assets taken away just as they reached their peaks. The likes of Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Luis Suarez all come to mind.
After selling the above players, the Reds managed a better position in the league just once, Mascherano finished seventh in his last season and the Reds managed sixth the following.
In Alonso’s last season the Reds finished just four points off the title, only a year later they had dropped to seventh. When Fernando Torres left in January 2011 the Reds were sixth, and the following season had dropped to eighth. With Luis Suarez, the Reds came closer to the title than they have in my lifetime and again dropped down to sixth.
However, Coutinho’s departure represented a change in fortune for the Reds. This time, they sold a key player and somehow improved. They secured a top-four finish for the second season in a row and made it to the Champions League final.
Klopp said it perfectly back in March, Liverpool are less predictable following Coutinho’s departure. When the little magician was on the field, everything went through him, and when he had an off day – the whole team felt it.
The end of last season and the beginning of this one show just how far the Reds have come.
Now, opponents must find a way to keep a deadly front three of Mané, Firmino and Salah quiet – as well as the supporting cast in midfield and fullback. Rather than focusing their energy on one focal point.
It would seem that the days are gone where Liverpool rely on one player. Firmino hasn’t looked usual sharp, energetic self in the first four games, Salah isn’t wreaking as much terror as he did at the end of last season, only Sadio Mané has really looked anywhere near his best.
The same can be said of the midfield, there have been moments of individual brilliance – but over the four games, none of them were consistent in their performances.
The largest signs of improvement have come from the other end of the pitch, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have formed a formidable partnership at the heart of defence, the fullbacks continue to improve game on game, and Alisson has proved to be a breath of fresh air in goal – even with his terrifying Cruyff turns.
In games that the Reds might have dropped points in last season (Brighton, Palace and Leicester proving to be the most difficult), they have managed to come away with three points in each.
Klopp has got his side playing as a unit, winning three points in games where they might not deserve them – one of the main factors that separates a good side, from a great one.
With Tottenham next up, the Reds are about to face their toughest challenge of the season, one which could prove to be a catalyst for them to kick on this season.
Klopp will hope each player is playing to the best of their ability at Wembley, but even if they aren’t, he has made them good enough to grind out results against anyone.