Liverpool’s 2021/22 season review: What could’ve been for Klopp and his players

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The 2021/21 season was certainly a memorable one for Liverpool, winning the League Cup and FA Cup on penalties against Chelsea after consecutive 0-0 draws at Wembley, but after losing the Champions League Final to Real Madrid and missing out on the league title to Manchester City by one point, there will be a sense of disappointment amongst the Liverpool faithful that the elusive quadruple slipped right trough their grasp.

League Cup triumph

Having secured 1/4 trophies this season with their League Cup victory over Chelsea in late February, The Reds made a clear statement they are gunning for all the marbles and showed the rest of the world they have the capabilities to compete across all fronts this campaign.

Klopp’s biggest concern for January were the departures of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations, with both players reaching the final for Egypt and Senegal respectively. Questions were going to be raised over who was providing the firepower needed to sustain a title charge this season.

But that’s where the rest of the team came in, with Diogo Jota, in particular, stepping up in their League cup semi-final second leg clash against Arsenal to secure their place in the final against Chelsea. Where the Reds would edge out the Blues on penalties to secure the first trophy n their quest for the quadruple.

It wouldn’t be the last time the two teams would meet in a domestic cup final this season, and no one could’ve known that the FA Cup final would follow in the same direction as the League Cup final.

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FA Cup Success and the emergence of Luis Diaz

January Singing Luis Diaz has been a revelation since joining Liverpool, scoring two goals in the league and looking like a serious threat to the opposition whenever he gets on the ball. Considering how interchangeable Liverpool’s front three are on the attack, Diaz seems to have fitted well into Klopp’s system thus far and is displaying the qualities of a top player that will become vital for the Reds in the final part of the season.

The Columbian’s overall stats for Liverpool this season in all competitions is 7 goals and 3 assists, and if he continues his form from last season, there’s no reason why he can’t become a key figure for the Reds in the years to come.

Liverpool secured the second trophy of the season with their FA Cup victory over Chelsea in May. Their run to the final included a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest, who would go on to get promoted to the Premier League.

Klopp’s men faced title rival Manchester City in the semi-final in April. A Konate header from a corner, a Zach Steffan howler and a Sadio Mane volley put Liverpool 3-0 at halftime, and despite a valiant comeback from the City players, making it 2-3 with injury time left to play, they couldn’t find the equalising goal and so Liverpool would face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, a repeat of their League Cup

meeting back in February.

And it would truly be Deja Vu as both sides created a number of guilt-edge opportunities to open the scoring, but in the end, they couldn’t be separated in 120 minutes of football, so once again it went down the penalties.

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It looked like Edouard Mendy would be the hero after saving a penalty from his countryman Sadio Mane, but Mason Mount would then miss his spot-kick, allowing Greek defender Konstantinos Tsimikas the chance to win the shootout for Liverpool, which he did by dispatching his penalty in the bottom left corner, giving the Reds their second domestic trophy of the season.

History repeating itself in the Premier League title race

At the start of the year, following a thrilling 2-2 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool were 14 points behind league leaders Manchester City, and many considered the Premier League title race over in January as Pep Guardiola’s men looked to achieve a 4th title win in 4 years.

But fast forward to March, and after drawing to the likes of Southampton and Crystal Palace, as well as losing to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool were able to capitalise and pick up 27 points since early January to see themselves just one point behind Guardiola’s Manchester City side.

When the sides played each other in the league again on the 10th of April, they couldn’t be separated as they drew 2-2 at the Etihad, with Liverpool remaining right behind City in the hunt for Premier League glory.

Both sides were relentless throughout the season, but a twist was to come for the Reds as they drew 1-1 at home to Conte’s Tottenham side in early May, giving Pep the advantage which he dually took when his City side dispatched Newcastle and Wolves 5-1 and 5-0 respectively. However, there was another twist to this Premier League tale.

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This was when City played West Ham United at the London Stadium and found themselves 2-0 against the Hammers at half-time thanks to a Jarred Bowen brace. Pep and his players produced an inspired comeback which was completed courtesy of Vladimir Coufal’s own goal, Riyad Mahrez could’ve won it for the Citizens from the penalty spot, but his spot-kick was saved by Fabianski in the West Ham goal and thus it ended at 2-2.

With the Reds winning their games in hand 2-1 against Aston Villa and Southampton, this set up a final day blockbuster where Liverpool would play Wolves at Anfield, and Manchester City would play Steven Gerrad’s Aston Villa side, with ex-Liverpool playmaker Phillipe Coutinho in the team.

Liverpool made the worst possible start when Pedro Neto gave Bruno Lage’s side the lead inside three minutes, despite the news being welcomed at the Etihad however, Pep’s team looked nervous throughout the first half. Those nerves would turn to dread as Polish right-back Matty Cash opened the scoring with a header eight minutes from the interval.

Having got the equaliser through Sadio Mane in the 24th minute, the news of Villa’s goal would be cheered across Anfield as hope sprang back into the Liverpool team, who were looking to take advantage by taking the lead in their match.

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However, Wolves remained defensively solid and wouldn’t give Liverpool an inch during the early stages of the second half. Then, news broke that Aston Villa got a second goal through their old talisman Coutinho, cheers once again rang around as the Reds desperately tried to look for the goal that would see them be crowned champions as it stood.

But, Pep would bring on substitutes Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling to change the game on its head, which they did in spectacular style. With 15 minutes to go, Sterling set up Gundogan to make it 2-1 and get City back in the game. T

hen just minutes later Zinchenko laid it on a plate for Rodri to level the game at 2-2. Then with just under 10 minutes to go, Ilkay Gundogan scored his second and City’s third to send the Etihad into pandemonium, reminiscent of the Aguero 2012 moment 10 years prior.

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Despite taking the lead Mohamed Salah and making it 3-1 through Any Robertson, it wasn’t enough and Manchester City were crowned champions of the 2021/22 Premier League season by 1 point, as they were during the 2018/19 season.

Deja Vu – Champions League heartbreak against Madrid

In regards to their Champions League campaign, having topped their group with 18 points that featured the likes of AC Milan, Athletico Madrid and Diaz’s former side FC Porto, they were drawn in the last 16 to Italian Champions Inter Milan.

Despite being under the cosh for both legs, Klopp’s men ran out 2-1 aggregate winners to send them through to a quarter-final clash against Benfica. Although they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in Portugal, with former FC Porto attacker Luis Diaz grabbing the third goal, it was a much crazier affair at Anfield where the Reds eventually came out 6-4 victors.

This set up an unlikely semi-final clash with Unai Emery’s Villareal side, with the former Arsenal boss knocking out Italian and German giants Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively to reach the last four of the competition.

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In the first leg in Liverpool, Unai set up his team exactly how everyone thought they would, putting ten men behind the ball and looking to catch Klopp’s players on the counter-attack. Although the plan was working in the first half, it wouldn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken. An own goal by Pervis Estupinan in the 53rd minute and a Sadio Mane goal two minutes later sealed a 2-0 first-leg victory.

However, in the second leg in Spain, the tie would be flipped right on its head. Boulaye Dia scored just after three minutes and throughout the first-half Liverpool looked all over the place, Francis Coquelin got the equaliser four minutes from the interval and it set the scene for an upset of wild proportions.

But Klopp, being the tactician he is, brought on Diaz for the second half and he immediately caused trouble for the Villareal defenders. Brazilian midfielder Fabinho got the all-important away goal as the Reds looked to control the game, with Diaz and Mane getting two further goals to round off an impressive 5-2 aggregate scoreline and advance to the Champions League final.

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Real Madrid would await them in the final in Paris, a repeat of their Champions League final in Kyiv back in 2018. With Ancelotti’s men being the comeback kings during the knockout stages, including their thrilling 6-5 semi-final aggregate fightback against Man City, Liverpool would have to be wary and take the fight to Madrid early on.

This is exactly what they did, Klopp’s men dominated the first half and had a couple of good chances to take the lead through Salah and Mane, before Benzema seemed to have given Real an unlikely lead before halftime, only for the goal to be controversially ruled out for offside.

Liverpool continued to press on for the opening goal, but it would be the Spanish Champions who would strike the first blow when Federico Valverde’s low driven cross into the corridor of uncertainly found Vinicius Junior, who tapped home after Trent was caught napping at the back post to give Ancelotti’s team the lead.

The Reds created more great chances, but Thibaut Courtois was pulling save after save to keep Marid in the lead in what turned out to be a man of the match performance from the Belgian shot-stopper.

Liverpool couldn’t find a way through and Real were able to see out the 1-0 victory and crown themselves 14-time winners of the Champions League/European Cup. Klopp’s men failed to score in three consecutive cup finals this season.

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Although they claimed two trophies, made another Champions League final and were one point away from the Premier League title, it will still feel like a season of what if’s as the Reds were on course of achieving the impossible, yet walked away with arguably the two least desired trophies of the four available this season. With Sadio Mane set the leave the club in the summer, it will be intriguing to see whether Liverpool can mount another charge for the quadruple next season as City continue to build their star-studded team.

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