MATCH CENTRE

Farewell 2017/18, time to focus on 2018/19

Champions League finalists 2018… not bad for a team who judging by the twitter reactions signed a Chelsea flop, an Arsenal mis-fit and were insane to recruit a relegated left back whilst embarrassingly issuing a grovelling apology to end our pursuit of a defensive addition over an alleged meeting in Blackpool whilst failing to add a so called out-and-out number 9. All this playing out against a summer of speculation around a Brazilian number 10 who eventually headed to Barcelona in the January window.

Last season really did have dizzying highs but it wasn’t all plain sailing, heavy defeats at the Etihad and Wembley only played into the hands of those who use statistics to make our defence look more porous than a smart price sponge. And the lowest of lows was the events on the pitch in Kiev where 2 errors from Karius served to hand the trophy to Real Madrid and despite appearing to have Klopp’s faith now finds himself behind new signing Alisson in the pecking order. That defeat was just 8 weeks ago but you could be forgiven for thinking it was even longer ago by the changing landscape and the additions of Keita, Fabinho, Shaqiri and Alisson.

The run to that final, carving teams apart almost at will, registering 7 goals twice in the group stage and scoring at least 5 goals against every opposition on the road to Kiev played latterly to the backdrop of Jamie Webster’s Allez Allez Allez as coach welcomings and red smoke repeatedly filled the streets surrounding Anfield. A centre back photographed holding up his shirt in front of a Christmas tree allowed the script to be written for him to score a goal worth £75m on his debut to dump our rivals from across the park out of the FA Cup and condemn them to yet another season without a trophy prompting them to no doubt change the batteries in the Cuckoo clock.

No domestic trophies as the VAR-ce of a 4th round tie at Anfield where the flow of the game was interrupted on multiple occasions as the first groans about the possible system to be permanently implemented and the focus on Kiev, allowed the door of Champions League qualifications to suddenly spring back open for Chelsea but a professional job on the final day confirmed that Liverpool will again compete with Europe’s elite on the road to Madrid.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was a shining light, seizing the opportunity to solidify his right back credentials in the absence of Nathaniel Clyne, scoring against Hoffenheim before his Kop End goal dream was realised in the Boxing Day thrashing of Swansea, talk about a perfect Christmas present. His performances leading Gareth Southgate to call him up to the England World Cup squad.

Now we can close the chapter on that season and start to focus on the one we are about to enter, the fixtures were released in the middle of June and Sky and BT have already begun carving them up and as expected have shifted Liverpool from a traditional Saturday 3pm kick off time in all but 1 of the matches in the opening 2 months of the season. That will no doubt continue as the season progresses, the TV companies will probably be sending us for many late kick offs or early kick offs in destinations where you’ll be setting off or returning home at 3am. I’m not going to analyse the fixture list and say if we have a good set or bad set because it’s how you perform in each match that counts and it’s fair to say there’s a huge amount of excitement around. Everybody plays the other 19 teams home and away. There have been a positivity around the 4 additions so far to an already exciting Liverpool team that has dropped Emre Can who seemed to have been Juventus bound for the last 12 months but with no formal announcement until the middle of June.

The World Cup recently finished in Russia and whilst I had half an eye on the action, in comparison to previous tournaments, it’s fair to say my interest levels were significantly lower. Wishful thinking that all 8 Liverpool representatives would crash out at the group stage to be able to re-join pre season at the American leg of the tour ahead of the new campaign where optimism in the red camp is at a renewed high under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp following last season’s exploits and I’m hoping that I will write a post at the end of the season reflecting on silverware. My eyes were firmly focused on July 7th and the first step on what will hopefully be a memorable season as Liverpool’s pre season got underway at Chester before it took in Tranmere, Bury and Blackburn. They have been completed and now it’s matches in America against Borussia Dortmund and both Manchester clubs. A return to Dublin for a meeting with a now Pepe Reina-less Napoli ends the travelling as Torino travel for Anfield’s first friendly in 4 years just 5 days before our opener against West Ham at Anfield.

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