Liverpool are Premier League champions and it will never get boring saying that; 23 players won a medal for their efforts, and here is the definitive review of their season.
I’ll get straight to the point. I spent the whole of last season writing what is now Liverpool FC’s Official Celebration Souvenir magazine of their Premier League-winning campaign.
116-pages, 25,000 words, detailed match reports, analysis of all 38 games, boss images and a big silver trophy. Or four.
Called Premier League Champions 19/20 – spoiler alert – it has got Jordan Henderson lifting the Premier League trophy on the front cover and at £6.99 is only £6.99 more than the Reds paid for James Milner. And look how good he’s been.
You can order a copy here, but one thing I couldn’t fit in was a player-by-player review of the medal-winning men who made it happen. So you can have that for free. Right here, right now.
But don’t forget to order a copy. Maybe it’ll be part one of a collection…
Injured on the opening night against Norwich, sent off against Brighton and probably got a bollocking from the wife for throwing a ball through the skylight of their roof that risked dirtying a clean sheet if it landed on the bed.
Liverpool’s holy goalie didn’t keep a clean sheet until December yet still finished joint-third in the race for the Golden Glove on 13, despite missing nine league games.
It still seems weird to have a central midfielder wearing No. 3, but not as weird as it was to see Julian Dicks and Paul Konchesky wearing No. 3.
For me, Fabinho is the best defensive midfielder in the league, yet the stats show the Reds only kept six clean sheets in the 32 games he started in 2019/20 – but kept nine clean sheets in the 13 games he missed after getting injured against Napoli in November.
Work that one out.
4. Virgil van Dijk
Genuinely believe he’s the best centre-half Liverpool have ever had, and I’ve seen Sotirios Kyrgiakos. His dominance in the air at both ends of the pitch is crucial.
The two goals against Brighton were big at the time, but the best goal description of the season came from the Times‘ Henry Winter when Virgil headed the opener against the Mancs at Anfield: “Van Dijk steamed imperiously through United’s defence like a majestic liner arriving up the Mersey, cheered by crowds of onlookers.”
Perfect for a man who cruises through games.
5. Gini Wijnaldum
The new Ronnie Whelan. Wears No. 5, does an important yet often unnoticed and underappreciated job in midfield, has a knack of scoring goals in big games, wins titles.
Those who flag up his lack of assists ignore the effort and physical presence he provides in midfield, which allows Liverpool to scrap out wins against yer Sheffield Uniteds and Co.
He’s only missed four league games in two seasons, which have been a decent couple of campaigns, and is the Reds’ most versatile midfielder.
6. Dejan Lovren
Inevitably copped the blame for the 3-0 defeat at Watford and that was the last we saw of Croatia’s first Premier League winner, bar a 17-minute cameo at Goodison when it looked like the Toffeelady could have gone past him if she hadn’t been at home shielding from Evertonianism.
Lovren gave his all, but it was time to move on.
7. James Milner
Blatantly enjoyed winning the Premier League with Liverpool more than he did with Man City, I’m reliably informed that James Milner is the main man who gets the dressing room songs and chants going when the Reds have won silverware – so roughly every four months.
His experience, nous, influence and humour make him a massive presence off the pitch, and he absolutely thrives on the responsibility on it.
If Liverpool had a 95th-minute penalty to beat Neptune North End in the Universe Cup final I’d want Milner to take it.
Keep him at Anfield until he retires then give him a coaching job and shares in LeBron James, or something.
8. Naby Keita
It was for Kepa’s own good that he didn’t get near it, but this needs to be the type of thing we see more of from Naby lad.
The best counter-presser at the club and a creator of goals, staying fit is key to Keita becoming the more-regular starter that so many Reds crave.
He’s also speaking better English – nobody pronounces ‘lad’ better – but after taking his summer holiday in London may well return speaking like Ray Winstone.
Which’d be a right coat hanger, as they say in Cockney rhyming slang.
9. Roberto Firmino
Our No. 9, give him the ball and he scores every time. Er, if we’re playing away from home.
Lucky Timo Werner is coming in then. What?
All joking aside, there cannot be a single Kopite who doesn’t appreciate what Bobby gives to the team in terms of creativity, link play, guile, skill and movement.
His assist for Salah’s goal at home to Newcastle was outrageous, he won us the Club World Cup in Qatar and when you count up how many of his goals away from Anfield this season were winners (seven) his stock rises even higher.
An absolute pleasure to watch, putting his missus in goal to practice no-look finishes in his back garden was a highlight of lockdown.
10. Sadio Mane
Four fewer goals than in 2018/19 but eight more assists and remarkably consistent when you consider he played in the Africa Cup of Nations final exactly three weeks before coming on as a substitute at home to Norwich.
MP’s get twice as long off and even Jacob Rees-Mogg’s kids don’t think their dad works nearly as hard as Sadio Mane.
I adored John Barnes when I was growing up, he was the best player in the First Division between 1988 and 1991, so it says a lot to me that his 61 league goals in his first four seasons as a Liverpool player is two less than the 63 Mane has now scored in his four seasons.
Pace, goals, not afraid to put his foot in – I’m with Jamie Carragher on this one, there isn’t a Liverpool player I enjoy watching more than Sad-i-o, Mane! Running down the wing, Mane!
11. Mo Salah
Just the 94 goals and 38 assists in 152 games over three seasons, yet he’s still perceived by many as being too selfish and wasteful in front of goal.
Which is a bit like being pissed off at having to pay the phone bill when calling the National Lottery to claim a £35 million jackpot.
Salah’s numbers are off the charts compared to all who came before him, despite being double- and triple-marked by some teams, and it is always noticeable how less dangerous Liverpool are when he doesn’t play.
Unless it’s against Everton at Anfield.
One goal shy of equalling Roger Hunt’s record of 20 league goals in three consecutive seasons, he’s absolutely determined to keep winning medals and wants to do it in a red shirt.
You can’t say Pharaoh than that, although he’ll miss Dejan Lovren more than you.
12. Joe Gomez
Easy to forget that he’s only 23 and gone completely unnoticed that 43 appearances in 2019/20 was by far the most Joe Gomez has made in a season.
He’s the reason Liverpool didn’t consider paying Ajax over £70 million for Matthijs de Ligt last summer.
And what a good decision that was. Still another four or five years away from his peak and with room to improve and be more consistent, I’m struggling to think of a better English centre-back.
I’d have Gomez any day of a Leap Year over Harry Maguire, who turns like a bin wagon in a cul-de-sac, and when it transpired in November that the most mild-mannered player in the entire team had wound Raheem Sterling up I knew then that Liverpool had City rattled.
I’m not even sure he knew some of his team-mates’ names when he came on against Norwich City to make his debut about 20 minutes after signing for Liverpool and, like all second-choice goalkeepers, Adrian can be brilliant and erratic – a bit of a Spanish Grobbelaar.
However, when you consider his Premier League record for LFC is WWWWWWWWWWW and recall the unbelievable save he made in Naples, Adrian is arguably the best backup goalkeeper Liverpool have had during the modern era.
14. Jordan Henderson
Liverpool’s Premier League-winning captain. Player of the Year. A driving force in midfield. A leader on and off the pitch.
And next season will be his testimonial year, if such a thing still exists.
One goal short of 30, two assists short of 50, I’d quite like Liverpool to win the FA Cup in 2021 so Henderson can get his feet shuffling and complete the full set of medals in the season when, fitness permitting, he becomes the 27th player to make over 400 appearances for the Reds.
If you’ve not got a mural of him lifting the Premier League trophy on the side of your house yet are you even a Liverpool supporter?
15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
My favourite Liverpool player to interview, I sat with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for 15 minutes in the St Regis Hotel in Doha and, on the quiet, he’s a proper student of the game.
He’s also a good laugh and scored Liverpool’s best goal – in terms of pure tekkers – of last season away to Genk.
To go from playing twice in 2018/19 to 43 games in 2019/20 is a massive step up after an injury that Klopp is still trying to protect him from.
As frustrated as he looks when regularly substituted or not starting, he told me himself it would be a full two years until the injury he got against Roma is fully healed.
Given how well he can move on stairs when his missus wants to make a Tik Tok, I think we’ll see more of him, more often, next season.
18. Takumi Minamino
Gradually being eased into life at Liverpool as he learns the language, adjusts to the culture and earns the trust of his team-mates, it shouldn’t be underestimated how difficult is to go from playing in the Austrian Bundesliga to trying to get into the best team in the world.
An early goal next season to boost Takumi Minamino‘s confidence would be ideal, but he’s already shown glimpses of being a very good player.
Getting a run in the side to show it more often may be tricky for Taki, but he’ll be all the better for having had time to settle.
20. Adam Lallana
Coming on to silence the Mancs at Old Trafford, and stop them becoming the first team to beat Liverpool, was one of the moments of last season.
On the training pitch, every player will tell you he led by example and raised standards, and his big mates – Henderson, Milner and Robertson – are going to miss him a lot.
On the plus side, he should be quite cheap in Fantasy Football next season.
23. Xherdan Shaqiri
Xherdan Shaqiri scored in 50 percent of the Premier League games he started last season. He only started twice, but if you’re going to score once it might as well be one of five in the Merseyside derby.
You’d be a legend for doing that across the park whereas that 5-2 hammering has become something of a footnote in Liverpool’s season, as has Shaqiri’s contribution.
Even so, he’s now won 17 major honours in a glittering club career with Basel, Bayern Munich and Liverpool. And played for Stoke.
26. Andy Robertson
You know Andy Robertson has got a book coming out to raise funds for his charity? Well, he has. And, working for the publishers behind it, I’ve already read the first draft of it. You are in for an absolute treat.
You’ll also see the signing of Kostas Tsimikas in a new light, but that’s a story for another day.
Andy Robbo had another superb season, not only in terms of headline-making assists, but also defensively.
Adding headed goals to his game was something none of us saw coming, particularly Aston Villa and Burnley, and when you find out what happened to him on holiday last summer you’ll be amazed he was as good as he was…
27. Divock Origi
He has his critics, although I suspect some of them are infiltrating Evertonians who are desperate to end Divock Origi‘s run of having scored against them at Anfield in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Seven goals in 2018/19, six in 2019/20, Origi will forever be a Liverpool cult hero and gives the Reds power and physicality up front when utilised.
At 25, he’s got a lot more football left in him and although it’s hard to envisage him being a regular starter, I’d keep him in a cupboard under the Main Stand and bring him out on every derby day until he’s beaten Ian Rush’s all-time goalscoring record.
32. Joel Matip
Joe Gomez benefitted, but I’d have absolutely no qualms if Matip got back in at centre-back next season.
Definitely needs to work on his trophy-lifting technique – he didn’t milk it nearly enough on the Anfield podium – but was in outstanding celebratory form in Istanbul when producing a classic double-handed ‘Joel Wave’ that was right up there with anything he did in Madrid.
Also remains the last Liverpool player to create a goal in a Champions League final. It’s the only assist of his LFC career, but who’s complaining?
48. Curtis Jones
If we were in an era when Liverpool weren’t doing too well – and let’s never go back to those days – Curtis Jones would have already played a lot more first-team games and probably been touted as some kind of Scouse saviour.
As it is, the 19-year-old has been gradually eased into first-team proceedings and looks every inch a player with a big future.
There’s a lot more to come from him.
66. Trent Alexander-Arnold
A Liverpool-born Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner at the age of 21, Trent Alexander-Arnold played in all 38 of Liverpool’s league games and set a new record of 13 assists for a defender, beating his own record of 12.
His performance away at Leicester City on Boxing Day was the finest individual display I can recall from a right-back in a red shirt, there’s a mural of him on the side of a house off Anfield Road and he is prominent in helping the local community.
However, getting beaten by Diogo Jota in the final of the ePremier League invitational FIFA 20 tournament makes all of that irrelevant and he should be demoted back to the U23s immediately.
76. Neco Williams
Looked like he could be a player during Liverpool U19s UEFA Youth League games and, when given a chance, has shown he is.
Liverpool’s full-back conversion factory in Kirkby, aka The Academy, has produced the goods again with former Welsh winger Neco Williams now giving Trent Alexander-Arnold some competition for a spot at right-back.
He’s still learning the ropes, and I know an ex-Red who thinks he’d benefit from a season out on loan, but Williams already has three assists to his name and will be a goalscoring full-back in the future despite working regularly with Rob Jones on the training ground.