2020/21: A truly ridiculous season. No fans, then some, then none, then finally a whole load for the final home game – plus a billion injuries, players missing games through Covid tests and the fewest manager sackings in nearly 20 years.
As if dealing with all that wasn’t enough, it all took place in a season which started halfway through September after just a few weeks’ break from the last one finishing.
Oh, and extra international matches played in each break too, because that’s just what we all missed most.
There was very, very little normal about the season just finished, and that extends well beyond just the confines of Liverpool FC!
Alisson’s inch-perfect header
We’ll start with the Reds though, and with one of the most bizarre – and important – moments in our recent history.
Needing a win, uninspired, last minute, all hope lost…send up the big man from the back. Nope, from even further back that that.
Alisson Becker strode forward to plant a quite extraordinarily brilliant header past West Brom counterpart Sam Johnstone and into the far corner, rescuing a win for Liverpool and keeping our top-four hopes alive.
Most ‘keeper goals are long-rangers, bouncers, misjudged and just plain fortunate, or else penalties.
Ali did it in style, with deliberation and at the best possible moment. Incredible, but also incredibly ridiculous.
David Moyes turns back time
Even as Reds, we’d acknowledge there’s no question that David Moyes presided over an Everton revival for a period, such as it was – even if a trophy never arrived under his watch…or since.
But after he left the Toffees his career went awry: sacked from United, Real Sociedad, Sunderland and West Ham without achieving a thing. He departed Goodison Park seven years ago – that’s a long time in management to do, well, basically nothing of note.
And yet he has revived West Ham this year, taken the Hammers from relegation strugglers a year ago to European football this term.
It has come out of nowhere, without a big budget and surpassing each of Spurs, Arsenal and his old club the Ev.
Fair play, Moysie. Has he revived his own fortunes or is he a beneficiary of a ridiculous campaign?
Record-breaking bad home form…good enough for third
Remember when Liverpool didn’t lose a home league match for approaching four years? Good times.
Then, we went and did the complete reverse for a few months: a historically bad run of Anfield results, six straight defeats against Burnley, Brighton, City, Everton, Chelsea and Fulham.
Six. Straight. Defeats.
And overall, it was even worse: we drew the two home games preceding that run, and one of the two after it – so just one victory taken from 10 Anfield Premier League matches in a row, or six points from 30 available.
It’s staggeringly bad.
And yet, this season and almost certainly this season only…it was still enough overall to allow us to finish third!
A £200m attack outscored by newly promoted side
Cast your minds back to September and who the season predictions, among fans and among the wider media, were saying had managed a transfer window of positivity to set themselves up to challenge for the title.
Almost unanimously, it was Chelsea on account of the vast amounts spent on improving their attack.
Between Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, the Stamford Bridge club invested just shy of £160m on the front line, to go alongside the £58m addition of the previous summer, Christian Pulisic.
There’s no question they’ve built a good squad. They’ve just become Champions League winners, after all. But the much-vaunted attack simply didn’t fire: their top scorer in the league was Jorginho with seven penalties.
And the team as a whole scored a pretty paltry tally of 58 – fewer than newly promoted Leeds and last year’s relegation strugglers West Ham. Is that what £200m buys you these days?!
Duo to the rescue for the best run of results
No victory is usually down to just one player, or two, save for those most dramatic of occasions and the rare one-man-shows.
But when players are in a winning side consistently, it certainly shows that they contribute to the overall value – and that was the case for our stand-in centre-backs Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams this season.
Indeed, it’s Rhys who tops the entire Liverpool squad (who played more than once) for points-per-game won with him in the team in 2020/21, with 2.16 ppg earned across all competitions.
In the Premier League, that increases to a whopping 2.44 ppg for Rhys – again top of the squad – well above the LFC average for the season of 1.82 ppg across our 38 fixtures, which yielded our 69 points.
Second, in a surprise for many perhaps, was Naby Keita (2.4 ppg) and Phillips (2.24 ppg) took third.
Of the first-team regulars, Diogo Jota (2.0 ppg) was highest.
It just goes to show how everybody must, and did, step up when called upon – and it’s credit to the pair who were effectively our sixth and seventh-choice centre-backs that they were in the side through the most consistent run of the campaign.
Everton make history and still do nothing
All that time, and for what?
Everton beat Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season: their first Merseyside derby win in over a decade, and their first at Anfield in nearly 22 years.
That result had the Toffees dreaming of untold riches: winning the league, qualifying for the Champions League, whatever other obscure and far-off ideas they had.
Ultimately, it earned them 10th place.
And more than that: Carlo Ancelotti has been a manager for well over one thousand, one hundred games in his career, yet Everton‘s final game of the campaign saw him suffer his heaviest-ever margin of defeat, losing 5-0 to Man City.
How very Everton.
A mid-season signing who doesn’t play a minute
Injury crisis, desperate need of defenders, sign someone on the last day of January…don’t play them.
Not for a minute.
Step forward, Ben Davies!
United protests see game called off
This one wasn’t involving Liverpool directly, but it definitely affected the Reds.
Man United fans saw fit to reignite their protests at the owners after the Super League fracas, to the extent that they actually broke into their own club’s stadium, invaded the pitch, effectively blocked the team in their hotel and got a match called off.
It was, if we set aside the small and minor details of vandalism and criminal behaviour, an incredible reminder of the power that people hold – which we’ve seen throughout football more than once this year.
Anyway, the game got moved, United had fixture overload and Liverpool won, so cheers for that.
Curtis Jones a nailed-on starter – until he wasn’t
In making a team of the season based on importance by game time – in other words, who played most minutes – Curtis Jones would be in a Red shirt for 20/21.
His 1,920 minutes of action place him 11th in the squad, ahead of Jota and Milner in what was a campaign of massive progress for the 20-year-old.
Except, it was a campaign of two parts, really.
Jones was in the team almost non-stop from November through to the very start of March, appearing in 18 of 21 league games in that time and clocking up 1,035 Premier League minutes in that time – exceptional for a kid who hadn’t even played 150 minutes in the top flight before this season.
But after the Chelsea defeat, he was just…out the team. He didn’t play a minute in the next five league or two Champions League games after that, and didn’t even rack up another 90 minutes in total across his game time on the pitch for the remainder of the season.
A huge step forward, but a very quiet end for him.
Fail to win more than half to get runners-up
Finally, it’s worth a note that in this so-called terrible season for the Reds, while Man United had their best campaign in years, we ultimately finished…five points behind them.
And while they had a first-choice defence in place all year – and chose between two first-choice goalkeepers – as we lost every one of our centre-backs, Liverpool conceded two goals fewer.
Indeed, Man United‘s stellar campaign in the Premier League actually saw them fail to win more matches at Old Trafford than they won: just a 47% win rate on home soil, which proved good enough for second.
Which just about sums up this ridiculous season!