Can Liverpool mount a comeback in 2023/24?

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After the final whistle blew at the Stade De France in May 2022 Jurgen Klopp presented a very confident persona, assuring everyone that his side would be back to the Champions League final in quick time. Given how the Reds’ 2021/22 campaign played out, few would’ve doubted that to be true; the German’s squad were within touching distance of securing a legendary quadruple and managed to push Manchester City all the way in a nail-biting finale to the Premier League. Twelve months on however, that bold prediction had turned into a humiliating tagline. Last season’s performance fell well short of the standards Klopp had set for his squad since arriving at Anfield. A dismal showing in the Premier League was compounded by poor results across Europe and early exits in both domestic cup competitions. A late surge of form ensured Liverpool will be playing European football next season but after such a lacklustre campaign, it serves as little to no consolation. There are several reasons for this downturn but chief among them is a lack of activity in the transfer market. Several big names have departed the club the last couple of seasons without enough quality or quantity coming in to replace them. Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz have all entered the fold in recent years but none managed to ease the burden on Klopp’s shoulders last season. As a result the boss is in the midst of the biggest rebuild of his squad to date, making some big moves this summer to ensure the club avoids repeating their capitulation from last season. But will it be enough to have the Reds compete for the Premier League in 2023/24? 

The first thing worth noting is it’s very unlikely Liverpool will be as poor as they were last season. Top betting sites agree, with Liverpool now at 7/1 to win the Premier League next season just behind Man City and Arsenal. The 2022/23 campaign felt like one gigantic hangover from the previous season as missing out on an unprecedented quadruple proved to take its toll. Liverpool were thought to be the only side capable of seizing the Premier League crown from Pep Guardiola’s grasp but their hopes of challenging for the Premier League title were dashed as early as August. A calamitous start to the league saw the Reds pick up just 16 points from their opening 12 fixtures handing the impetus to City to claim their third Premier League crown. In their first 15 games against bottom-half sides, Liverpool only amassed 23 points. Only five clubs had a worst conversion rate in front of goal and no club had worse duel success. It was an inconsistent mess at times that even had Klopp’s position at the club called into question at certain stages, and yet it still had its moments. Emphatic victories at home over Bournemouth and bitter rivals Manchester United as well as the form at the run-in following some much-needed tactical tweaks reminded everyone what this team is capable of when at its best. While new signings failed to hit the ground running and several long-serving squad members underperformed for long spells last year, the chances of that happening again seem slim at best. 

As for the new recruits this summer, Klopp is heading in the right direction. It is no secret that Liverpool’s midfield is in need of upgrading. The likes of Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta will all have left the club come the start of next season. That combined with Thiago’s long spell out with injury, Fabinho’s sporadic form and Jordan Henderson’s effectiveness last season means that Klopp’s top priority must be sorting out his engine room. The club made a positive start to fixing the midfield with the addition of Argentine World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton. The 24-year-old proved to be one of Robert De Zerbi’s most valuable assets on the south coast last campaign, putting in some stellar performances to help the Seagulls to sixth place and guarantee European football at the Amex for the first time in the club’s history. At £35 million the Argentine is a steal for the calibre of player the club is getting in return, especially given the current climate of inflated prices. What’s more significant however is how well he will slot into Klopp’s new formation. Now that the German has made the switch to help Trent Alexander-Arnold move with a bit more freedom, MacAllister will play the perfect balancing act to allow for that. The Argentine often likes to drop deeper to receive the ball and open up the possibility for an attack and his propensity to do this allows for Trent to move forward down his channel under the new system. The tactical tweak has worked to great effect thus far and MacAllister’s arrival will only enhance its success next season. 

Then there’s the arrival of the highly-sought after Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig. The Hungarian fetched a steep £60 million and with good reason. The 22-year-old is billed as one of the most exciting prospects across Europe and the Reds will be hoping he can realise his full potential during his five years on Merseyside. His 14 goal contributions in Bundesliga last term doesn’t jump off the page but it’s his versatility that makes him another strong addition to bolster Klopp’s midfield next season. He is likely to play either the no.8 or no.10 roles in the German’s side but has also been known to play out on the right-wing for Leipzig. The tactical options this opens up for Klopp is not the only reason why he was signed; he was also highly effective at winning the ball back high up the pitch last season which goes some way towards solving Liverpool’s duel and counter-attack woes from 2022/23. He poses an immense attacking threat too. Across the two seasons since 2021/22 Szoboszlai’s chance-creation numbers are phenomenal with an astounding 161 created, 99 of those coming from open play. This will undoubtedly help Nunez and Gakpo find their rhythm next season but when you combine that with his set-piece expertise and ability to shoot from range, there is no area on the pitch where he will not be effective. All things considered Liverpool have done an excellent job in the transfer market thus far, and while they will still need to add more across other positions, with every signing they make they bridge the gap to City and better position themselves for a more successful 2023/24 campaign. 

Image from: unsplash.com

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