As the dust continues to settle on the 2016/17 season, we pick five on-pitch areas for Liverpool to improve to enjoy an even more successful 2017/18 campaign.
For that to happen Klopp’s team will need to improve numerous on-pitch issues that have proved problematic at both ends of the pitch.
Here are five aspects for the Reds to work on to ensure of an even more successful 17/18 season.
We noted last year how a serious improvement in set-piece defending was needed, so that we’re here again 12 months on is somewhat depressing.
This is actually a small improvement on the 15 conceded in 2015/16 – but Klopp’s side rarely convinced when defending corners and free-kicks, and in reality, the inability to was more costly than just 12 goals.
The Reds’ open-play dominance meant set-pieces often provided the only route to success for opposition – especially lesser teams – and gifting easy goals made overcoming such sides extra difficult.
Klopp joked during the season that only making his players taller would solve the problem.
Complacency against ‘the rest’
We also noted how struggles with ‘lesser’ teams needed addressing, but not only does it remain an issue, it’s now arguably the most troublesome of the lot.
For a second season running Klopp’s men were electric against rivals – unbeaten against the big boys – but it was again a whole different story with the rest.
The Reds certainly cannot afford to be as generous next season, with a tougher league campaign to come as Champions League demands are juggled.
An improvement in attitude and approach to such games must transpire to eradicate costly complacency, with these fixtures needing to become a tool for routine wins.
Breaking down defensive blocks
Given how problematic this became – despite Klopp’s insistence otherwise – it’s arguably the most important area of all for Liverpool to improve.
Struggles against the ultra-defensive tactic make it almost certain that Klopp’s team will face it again next season, and the Reds will have to be immeasurably better prepared.
More patience in play – which improved at the end of the season – with better movement and short passing options is key; the sort displayed in Gini Wijnaldum’s crucial final-day opener against ‘Boro.
With points needing to be routinely taken against such opponents, the route to breaking deep-sitting defences must be found.
Along with set-pieces, counter-attacking proved another route to success against the Reds, who were often all at sea when required to defend a breakaway.
Counter-attacks are admittedly difficult to guard against due to usually a lack of bodies and defensive structure, but Liverpool’s attempts – best described as disorganised chaos – were poor.
Red shirts would stream back but with no direction or organisation, making it easy for even the most limited of opponents to exploit.
Too often there was a lack of pressure on the ball to prevent or at least hold up the developing counter, while those scrambling back panicked, failing to track runners or mark.
Examples that spring to mind come in goals conceded in losses to Hull and Crystal Palace.
At Hull, a lack of pressure after losing possession allowed an easy pass to release Oumar Niasse, who ran through unchallenged to score.
And Christian Benteke finished off a slick Palace break at Anfield after being left unmarked at the back-post – with none of the three retreating Reds picking him up.
Given the dominance Liverpool regularly enjoy, we must become harder to bypass.
This was an issue that flared up throughout the season, as the Reds paid the price for lacking in numerous aspects of game management.
The inability to close games out, defend resolutely when under pressure and Klopp’s substitutions all proved particularly problematic.
The Reds crumbled under pressure too easily at times too – failing to hold out when on the back-foot against the Cherries, or hold their nerve in key Anfield games with Crystal Palace and Southampton.
Klopp’s substitutions – or lack of – didn’t help either, with the boss often too slow to make game-changing switches, though ultimately due to a lack of options.
Klopp admitted after the Chelsea draw that Liverpool “need more game management” and it must be said that it improved as the season progressed – most notably in controlled wins over Tottenham, West Brom and Watford.
But had this shrewdness in seeing games out been in play from the start it could have helped prevent the mid-season collapse.
Having more quality on the pitch and the bench to utilise will be vital to posting an improvement from the off next season, as will the adoption of a “streetwise” mentality for appropriate moments.
Improving this and the other areas will position the Reds strongly for a positive 17/18 campaign.