Twelve months ago, Liverpool were on their way to having one of the greatest seasons in football history. The Reds were in contention for every competition they entered at the start of the 2021/2022 season.
Liverpool were neck-and-neck with Manchester City in a thrilling title race that went all the way. They were also on their way to the Champions League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals.
While they fell short at the last hurdle in the Premier League and Champions League, Liverpool won the Carabao Cup and FA Cup to end a fantastic season on a high.
Yet just six months on, Liverpool look like a shadow of the team that chased a quadruple last season. The Reds are already out of the title race this season, with half the games left to play.
They are also ten points out of bottom place in the Champions League, meaning they face an uphill battle to play Europe’s elites next season.
Currently, Liverpool’s hopes of winning the silver medal and qualifying for Europe are based on the Champions League and the FA Cup, but considering the way they have played so far, it will be difficult for them to win both competitions.
The FSG model no longer works
So what is the reason for Liverpool’s decline just six months after they nearly put together one of the greatest campaigns in football history?
The answer is simple. FSG and Jurgen Klopp.
FSG own Liverpool and, to be fair, despite all the criticism they’ve received, they’ve been good owners for the most part, but their ‘sell before you spend’ model is no longer tenable these days.
While his model has helped keep the club afloat financially, it is starting to hurt Liverpool competitively.
At the end of last season, it was clear that the Liverpool squad needed reinforcements. Although they brought in Darwin Núñez, they lost Sadio Mané, who was a key player in the squad during his time at the club.
Núñez was Liverpool’s big signing in the summer, although they also bought young talents like Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay. But this is not sustainable to keep Liverpool challenging constantly and the results show on the pitch.
In the same summer, Liverpool signed only Núñez, Newcastle broke their club record by signing Alexander Isak. Not forgetting the millions they had spent in early January. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s biggest rival Manchester United spent heavily on the likes of Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Antony.
It is no wonder why these two clubs are so far ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League table. This is not to say that spending guarantees success because Chelsea also spent nearly £300m in the summer. However, it helps you get the best out of the talent out there, which helps you compete.
A year ago, Newcastle were in the relegation zone, but twelve months later, they are in contention for a Champions League place, thanks to their newcomers and, of course, the magic of Eddie Howe.
But the truth is that Howe would not have been able to perform this magic without these reinforcements that Newcastle made. A coach is only as good as the players at his disposal.
The FSG has failed in this regard. Since 2019, Liverpool have spent just £283m on transfers, and a large part of that came from player sales.
This amount is less than what West Ham, Leeds United, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur have spent, which is not ideal. Chelsea, Arsenal, United and Manchester City were not included because they were expected to outspend Liverpool anyway.
This shows that Liverpool cannot continue to compete at the highest level without changing their model. To be fair, the model has gotten Liverpool to where they are now and made their success feel genuine, but it’s no longer sustainable.
Klopp is not innocent despite his magic
In fact, it just goes to show that Klopp has been working magic over these years to ensure Liverpool compete with the greats on the pitch. But it is for the same reason that Klopp is partly responsible for Liverpool’s woes this season.
While FSG has always been frugal with spending, it would have bucked that trend if Klopp had shown little restraint. However, the German strategist believed that the club did not need reinforcements. In fact, just before the start of the season, Klopp claimed that Liverpool had the best players in the world.
Everyone saw that the Liverpool squad was running out of fuel, but Klopp didn’t see it. He believed that his players were the best and he was loyal to them.
But now his loyalty is likely to cost Liverpool this season. While there is nothing wrong with loyalty, it should not come at the cost of the club’s success on the pitch.
There was no reason for Liverpool to hand James Milner a new one-year contract at 37 with nothing to offer. In 2018 and 2019, Liverpool reached two consecutive Champions League finals and won one. However, many of the players who played in the two finals are still at Liverpool now.
And considering that Klopp’s style is based on ‘heavy metal and Gengenpressing’, it’s ridiculous that some of the players he met at the club and signed are still around, especially the ones on their last legs.
Klopp’s decision not to release some of these players has had an impact on Liverpool’s poor season. For example, last season Liverpool conceded 0.39 goals per game. However, they are conceding 1.39 goals per game this season.
While it’s easy to single out the defense, the truth is that Liverpool’s midfield has been non-existent this season. The press is no longer there and the opponents can now easily pass.
However, this had to happen with the likes of Henderson and Milner continuing to start at Liverpool. Klopp could have prevented this if he had reinforced his squad, but he was too stubborn to do so, which gives the idea that Klopp loves to play underdog status.
However, Klopp is learning his lessons. He already brought in Cody Gakpo this month, but that won’t solve Liverpool’s problems. Despite the arrival of Gakpo, the Reds are unlikely to splurge this January of this season, as panic buying has never worked for them.
However, if they are going to do that in the summer, they may need to go as far as the Champions League this season to get players who can improve their team.
But that could be a tall order for Klopp and his boys to conquer.