Liverpool 2018 Review: A year built on immense progress and the looming possibility of ending 29 years of hurt
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Liverpool 2018 Review: A year built on immense progress and the looming possibility of ending 29 years of hurt

Liverpool have undergone a truly breathtaking year of highs and lows, both on and off the pitch. A year that has broken records, shattered hearts and still gives fans hope that 2019 really could be the one to crown off the immense progress made under their irreplaceable German manager 

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Joshua Kerr

2018, a year for Liverpool that has been nullified by the immense progress that has undergone under their record-breaking manager Jürgen Klopp

A 365 day calendar year that started with Ragnar Klavan shattering Burnley hearts at the death in a 2-1 victory at Turf Moor and ended with a five-star performance against Arsenal at Anfield.

It gave us the enthralling highs of reaching the club's first Champions League final in 11 years to the heart-shattering lows of the defeat at the hands of 13-time winners Real Madrid.

Klopp has assembled a squad of guts and steel that has seen the German boss mastermind the Reds record-breaking start to a top-flight season in the club's 126-year illustrious history.

Liverpool could not have ended an extraordinary year any better, sitting seven points clear of all of their title rivals at the summit of the Premier League - remaining the only unbeaten team in the division after 20 matches as well as the prospect of a mouthwatering Champions League last-16 bout with Bayern Munich still to look forward to in 2019.

The Reds have played out 37 league matches over the course of the year, winning 27, drawing seven and losing just three defeats at the hands of Swansea, Manchester United and Chelsea. Klopp's free-flowing attacking assembled juggernaut of a squad have racked up over 84 goals - conceding just 23 in the process.

A record points tally of 88 points represents the clubs best ever points per game ratio in a calendar year - beaten only by 100 club champions Manchester City.

The Reds also extended their unbeaten run at Anfield to 31 games and recorded Klopp's 101st victory as manager in a 5-1 demolition job against Arsenal. 

Results

Their 20 game unbeaten stance in the Premier League is only the third time the club has reached this stage of a season unbeaten and for the first time in 30 years. 

The Reds are currently embarking on their best ever domestic start to a season registering 54 points from a possible 60. They have won 17 of their opening 20 matches - drawing three to Chelsea (away), Manchester City (home) and Arsenal (away). 

It not only marks a historic start in terms of results but also defensive steel. Liverpool's expertly assembled defensive force has kept 12 clean sheets so far in the 2018/19 season and has already levelled the number they kept in the 1989/90 season - the last time the championship was delivered to Anfield.

With 54 points already, the team have already beat the entirety the club managed to register throughout the entirety of the 2011/12 season.

Having just leaked just 8 goals along the way this campaign, this is Liverpool's best ever defensive record at this stage of a season. Klopp's team are on course to beat the club record of 16 goals conceded in 1978/79.

Meanwhile, in the Champions League Liverpool have won eight matches, drawn one and have lost five - including the devastating defeat in Kiev. 

The Reds won every game at their home fortress in Europe bar one - a 0-0 stalemate with Porto.

The major blip in Europes continental competition is the Reds miserable away form. Liverpool have lost five out of their last five matches away from Anfield including all three of their group games - the first time in the club's history.

The jubilation of an injury-time winning goal in the third round of the FA Cup from debutant and club-record signing Virgil van Dijk against local rivals Everton was quickly sunk with a gut-wrenching 3-2 defeat at home to West Brom - their only defeat at Anfield in 2018.

Liverpool were also defeated in their inaugural Carabao Cup match of the campaign after being dumped out of the competition by Chelsea in a 2-1 defeat courtesy of a superb solo late goal from the world-class Eden Hazard

However, it's the Reds domestic form that will undoubtedly define 2018 as Liverpool look to end their 29 year wait for a league title as well as winning their first major piece of silverware since 2012 and only the club's second trophy since 2006.

Best Player

Mohamed Salah edges the award marginally just ahead of arguably Europes finest defender Virgil van Dijk.

With 37 goals scored over the course of 2018, how could the Reds Egyptian King not take home the award?

The unstoppable record-breaking forward netted 21 goals in the second half of the 2017/18 season to take his tally to an astonishing 44 goals for the campaign - the second highest hallmark of goals in the club's history.

Salah took home countless individual accolades including the Premier League Golden Boot with 32 league goals - a record total. The Reds No.11 also dazzled his way to the PFA Player of the Year as well as the Football Writers' Footballer of the Year.

The 26-year-old forward had to endure not only the agony of missing out on silverware in Kiev but, was also forced off with a shoulder injury following a tangling with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos

The Egyptian forward recovered for the World Cup with his beloved national team and took his time to reach the blistering form that set England alight in his astonishing debut season. 

Salah quickly ended murmurs of a 'one season wonder' by getting 16 goals under his belt including 13 goals and seven assists in the league this season to already put himself as the divisions leading scorer - alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the Egyptian already has his sights set on retaining his beloved league Golden Boot.

Most Improved 

Having signed from Hull in 2017 for a fee of £8 million it's fair to say no-one expected much from the unprecedented Andy Robertson

However, after a slow start, the Scottish left-back has fought his way into the Liverpool starting eleven and has emerged as one of the leagues finest full-backs.

Following an injury to Alberto Moreno in December 2017 Robertson was handed his opportunity in the first-team and no-one has looked back since. 

The recently appointed Scotland captain has been ever present in the clubs inspiring route to their first Champions League final in 11 years and has also been one of the standout performers as the Reds sit comfortably at the top of the league table.

A true Kopite and fan favourite, it's no question the 24-year-old is currently one of the finest left-backs in world football let alone the Premier League. 

Arguably one of the clubs finest signing in recent years as spectators and die-hard supporters have thoroughly enjoyed chanting "oh Andy, Andy. Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy Robertson" throughout those ever so special Anfield European nights.

Best Result 

Despite the sheer ecstasy of Divock Origi's 96th-minute derby winner, the performance and result of the year was always destined to be that emphatic 3-0 victory against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final at Anfield in April.

Liverpool completely shell-shocked the English champions and bewildered Pep Guardiola's record-breaking team as the Reds utterly outplayed and out-thought the Citizens in a tactical masterclass from Klopp.

The Merseysiders bewildered City from start to finish and showcased their attacking prowess with a scintillating burst of goals in the opening 30 minutes from Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane that utterly blew the Premier League winners out of the water.

Despite flying out of the blocks to command an authoritative 3-0 lead, Liverpool rallied throughout the remainder of the first-leg to comfortably control proceedings and showcase their discipline and organisation to calm any possibility of the visitors weathering a second-half storm.

Worst Result 

There was the painful 0-0 draw at Goodison as well as the embarrassing display in Serbia as Red Star Belgrade inspired the Champions League's biggest shock of the campaign the beat the Reds 2-0.

However, nothing comes close to the tears and agony sustained in Kiev when Liverpool fell short at the final hurdle in Europes biggest competition - succumbing to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Zinedine Zidane's Madrid as the Frenchman inspired the club's third successive Champions League triumph. 

For half an hour, the Reds were the better side and flew out of the blocks to take the game to the competitions most decorated team. 

The final was effectively over for Liverpool when Ramos cynically dragged Salah down to end the Egyptian's dreams of European glory as well as shatter the hearts of half of Merseyside when the Reds talisman tragically walked off the field effectively drained to tears. 

Momentum suddenly shifted to Madrid and a Loris Karius meltdown gift wrapped the trophy for the Spanish giants as the German keeper imploded to make two utterly calamitous mistakes and send the trophy to Spain rather than Merseyside.

Ramos would have one final say in the contest before lifting his third European cup as Madrid captain as the Spanish international lay a blow to the head of Karius before lofting the trophy high for a third year running. 

Whether it was the effects of concussion or the inadequate depth of Klopp's squad one will never know. One thing is for sure, the German manager has certainly addressed key weaknesses to set the Reds up perfectly for 2019.

What to expect in 2019?

More progress, but ultimately a trophy and preferably THE trophy. Klopp has undoubtedly made strides towards his first piece of silverware as Liverpool manager and the German manager could strive where others have failed. 

It's arguably Liverpool's strongest squad in over a decade and one potentially destined to end 29 years of heartbreak and sheer tragedy. 

Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers all fell short for England's top prize and yet there is a feeling that Klopp can succeed where others have not. 

Even in a history as rich as Liverpool's there have been scarred moments. Look no further than the goalkeeping errors in Kiev, the captain's heart-wrenching slip in 2014; the calamitous title bid that faltered in 2009 or when the Reds became the first team to lose the title on their own pitch when Alan Smith crucified Liverpudlian dreams to snatch the title at Anfield in 1989.

However, Klopp is quickly learning to erase recent traumas with a record-breaking assembled team. The Reds German manager could potentially become the first manager to guide a team towards 90 points and still finish as runners-up. 

And still, there is a belief that this Liverpool team can and may just prevail. Think of some of the small margins that have worked in the Reds favour: Sturridge's last-minute screamer at Stamford Bridge, Alisson's last minute save against Napoli cultivated by the delirium on show with Origi's 96th-minute derby winner.

Omens may not be what they seem and the Reds are truly embarking on something potentially very special. 

On the field, Liverpool are a joy to watch, off it they are quietly assembled under the influence of FSG and Michael Edwards that has inspired shrewd business that has seen the likes of Alisson Becker, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Naby Keita improve this already glistening star-studded squad.

But until then, Liverpool will hope 2019 will be the year they reign supreme. They already have a lengthy lead at the top and there is a growing belief that this team could make history. 

Nothing is won yet, but, this squad seems different to others and that is a testament to the outstanding job Klopp has done since his arrival in 2015. The Reds are truly blessed to have a manager of the German's magnitude and under his tutelage, the sky really is the limit.

Allez, Allez, Allez!

 

 

 

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