Job done! Klopp’s revolution roars on as Liverpool finish with a bang

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Liverpool secured fourth spot with a 3-0 pummelling of Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday to finish 2016/17 the same way they started it - with a bang


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Three goals, a clean sheet, 76 points recorded, fourth spot secured and a 50th victory reached under Jurgen Klopp.

Gini Wijnaldum pounded his chest after lifting the nerves with an expert finish, Philippe Coutinho pointed skyward as he converted another curling free-kick, and the Liverpool manager engaged in his trademark run and leap on the touchline when Adam Lallana buried a break.

Liverpool beat Boro to seal CL return

HD Phil Coutinho

Job done at Anfield - and in style too. The Reds showed off their stunning new home kits for next season as they made their efforts in this one count with a patient then potent pummelling of Middlesbrough.

Fittingly, given Liverpool’s difficulties against deep defences, a strong finish had to be secured by solving that very issue.

The relegated visitors spent much of the encounter with a back six and, bar rare breaks through the lively Patrick Bamford, had neither the ambition nor the desire to be a nuisance in Liverpool’s box. 

Their hindering approach frustrated Klopp’s side and ramped up the anxiety at Anfield, where news of early leads for Manchester City and Arsenal filtered through. 

HD Gini Wijnaldum

However, on the stroke of half-time, when Roberto Firmino flicked the ball to Wijnaldum, the pressure eased and the party started. The Dutchman’s godly first touch was followed by a rising rasper past Brad Guzan at the near post as the stadium erupted and Liverpool came to life after the break. 

Coutinho found the bottom-left corner with another belting direct free-kick to end as the club’s top goalscorer in all competitions before Lallana netted his first of the year to contribute to the festive mood.

GFX Liverpool points total

Only twice in the preceding 10 seasons have Liverpool recorded a higher points total, and only on two occasions in the previous eight have they finished in the top four. 

This crucial step of shifting the club back among Europe’s elite is exactly what Fenway Sports Group envisaged when they plumped for Klopp to succeed Brendan Rodgers. 

It is only the beginning of a process of rejuvenation, though, one which the manager has used to convince Coutinho his immediate future is best served at Anfield despite the persuasions of Barcelona, and has detailed in his pitches to potential signings. 

The German has indicated discussions with players high on the club’s recruitment list have been promising as Liverpool are “a really interesting project. Everybody can see it from outside, the mood is different and a few people are different. But the base is still there – the size and power of this club – and then the perspective. That’s really changed and we feel this in the talks.” 

Last season’s electric run in the Europa League, which included seeing off Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal before suffering defeat in the final to Sevilla, was enough to get Liverpool in conversation with some premier footballers, but not enough to convince them to opt for L4.

GFX Liverpool league finishes

With the Reds bettering Arsenal and Jose Mourinho’s men in an extremely competitive league season, there has been a noticeable change.

“The players are really positive and I felt that this year in comparison to last year,” Klopp revealed. “They saw our way and they saw the football. That’s good.”

He will have highlighted the first half of 2016-17 to them, when the Merseysiders - close to full strength every matchday - were undoubtedly among the most spellbinding teams on the continent. 

The front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Coutinho dovetailed phenomenally as the Reds emerged as early pacesetters. They were at the summit in mid-November, and as the games and injuries began to multiply ahead of the festive break, dropped to Chelsea’s closest challengers heading into the New Year. 

HD Liverpool Firmino Coutinho Lallana Mane

With captain Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho, Mane, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip unavailable at differing and often coinciding stanzas, their fall in 2017 was steeper - with only 10 wins in 24 games across all competitions. 

Liverpool have battled rather than blitzed their way into the Champions League places, which may seem anti-climatic given their stellar start, but it remains a success given the context of recent history, the competitiveness of the campaign as well as the never-ending setbacks they’ve endured.

Who is Liverpool's Player of the Season?

“This is a special season,” Klopp noted prior to Sunday’s finale. “It didn’t happen too often that you need 76 points to be sure of the Champions League and so the players were always ready, ready to bounce back in different situations, ready to accept different situations around the squad. They were always focused. They really deserve it.”

Liverpool’s place atop the 'Big Six' mini-league and their performances in those encounters serve as evidence of what the club is capable of.

Klopp will know their difficulties in breaking down the more obstructive-minded sides - all six of the club's league defeats were suffered against opponents outside the top seven - can be fixed by signing dynamic players like Naby Keita to increase the quality options at his disposal.

HD Bournemouth celebrate v Liverpool

A pedigreed centre-back like Virgil van Dijk or Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is high on the priority list and will help reduce the excessive amount of goals conceded. Matip and Lovren have formed a solid partnership, but it hasn’t been one to rely on given their injuries throughout the season. Bringing in a left-back, a wide forward and a versatile option like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also on the to-do list.

Smart, decisive business was done last summer but the course of this campaign has indicated it wasn’t enough; too often there was too little Klopp could do to effect the game from the bench. 

GFX 50th win LFC Klopp

Another major lesson from 2016/17 is the necessity for balance. Liverpool were attacking juggernauts in the autumn but left themselves too exposed, while a safety-first approach was adopted for much of the run-in, blunting their free-flowing football - it doesn’t have to be one or the other; Klopp needs to meld both elements to make his side more complete.

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The manager is correct in his estimation, though: Liverpool are indeed a really interesting project. The right additions and the refining of their blueprint should keep the club’s curve pointing upwards.

They need to ensure being among the best in the league is the norm not the anomaly, although Klopp’s target will undoubtedly be higher. 

A first full campaign in charge at Anfield for the 49-year-old has offered encouraging development; much more will be expected next season.

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