Liverpool came back from an early setback to end their title-winning season on a high, collecting a club record points tally of 99 thanks to a 3-1 win at Newcastle.
Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool
Premier League (38), St James’ Park
July 26, 2020
Goals: Gayle 1′; Van Dijk 38′, Origi 59′, Mane 89′
Lack of Pressure Makes for Sloppy Start
Pre-matchday nerves? Not for the champions.
With the Premier League title secured in record time, Liverpool’s motivation to end the season has been an intrinsic one, unlike yesteryear where the final game has held significant importance in taking that vital step forward.
In season 2016/17 and 2017/18, the battle was for a top-four spot and last season, of course, the hope of snatching the title was still very much alive.
Here, at Newcastle, however, the boss was afforded the chance to inject fresh legs as the only thing on the line was securing a new club record for points in one season, with 99 to surpass that of last season’s 97.
But within just 30 seconds the lack of any resemblance of pressure, perceived or otherwise, made itself known and proved costly as Gini Wijnaldum gifted the ball back from a free-kick and Neco Williams narrowly played Dwight Gayle onside.
The broadcasters did not have the anticipation of all of that unfolding either so if you were left puzzled by what happened, don’t worry – you weren’t alone.
Backups Continue to Lack Real Bite
With such rotation, the trip to Teeside also meant that none of the prolific front three started for Liverpool in the league for only the second time since Mohamed Salah arrived at the club.
Talk of a drop off in quality from the front three is not new, as without other experienced options Ox moves out of his favoured role and Origi is largely left to lead the line, but it often leads to frustration more than rewards.
Minamino, who started wide before replacing Origi centrally, was tidy in possession and showed he had an eye for goal from distance, but will no doubt benefit from a summer in the gym.
But Origi, on the other hand, continued to ask more questions than he answered, both centrally and on the wing, and at times halted any resemblance of forward momentum.
A goal to break his 23-game drought came with perfect timing on the scoreboard, but Klopp had already seen enough with the regular front three waiting on the touchline.
Having dropped their pursuit of Timo Werner, the question now is where do the Reds look for a more suitable forward option: the transfer market, free agency, Rhian Brewster or another emerging talent.
Imperious Van Dijk
The superlatives to describe Liverpool’s No. 4 are endless, with his all-round game not surpassed by another centre-back in world football.
As they say, consistency is key and Van Dijk, by starting at St James’ Park, became Liverpool’s second player to ever start in two consecutive seasons since Steve Nicol in 1987 to 1989, durability to be revered.
And while the man to make the foul for the host’s opener, he more than made up for it with a perfectly weighted looped header for his fifth goal of the season and his first since that win over Man United.
Main Man Mane’s Stylish Send Off
‘You know I love you’. Words said by Jamie Carragher but felt by all those of Liverpool persuasion when thinking of the No. 10.
Sadio Mane can lay claims to being Liverpool’s player of the year and he, alongside Firmino and Salah, instantly changed the tempo as a flurry of chances came the Reds’ way, with his stunning curled effort another one to add to the showreel.
It was his 22nd this season and 18th in the league this season and coupled with his 12 assists, Mane has been front and centre in a season like no other.
His displays in attack are only half the story as his work ethic to track back and support his team are just as much of a hallmark of his game, one which keeps Liverpool consistently firing on all cylinders.
Having risen from year to year and season to season, it will be exciting to see what he has in store for us in 2020/21.
99 Red Points
It has been a remarkable season and one which will forever be enshrined in the club’s history books, with a Premier League title joining the Super Cup and Club World Cup in the trophy cabinet.
Records have fallen in their wake throughout and the last game of the season was no different, as a tally of 99 points is the most of any campaign in the club’s history, with their 32nd win of the season sealing the deal.
Remarkably, it is the second successive season that the Reds have finished the campaign in the nineties – the standard for any side aiming to clinch the title in the modern era.
Backing it up for a third will be no easy feat, but with one record left on the table in the form of surpassing Man City‘s record of 100 points, there is a goal in sight as the team look towards their next challenge.
And as Jurgen Klopp perfectly assessed the situation, “we will not defend anything, we will attack.”
Here’s to ending the title-winning season on a winning note and in record-breaking fashion, and here’s to attacking the next.