As we continue to work our way through the 2016-17 season that was, today we get to Player of the Year voting and what will be a bit of a conundrum for many following a season in which Liverpool had a slew of key players but perhaps no real standout. Or at least no real standout from start to finish.
Sadio Mané will be the frontrunner for many based on his key contributions to the first half of the season and for helping Liverpool get back on track following a disastrous winter, but the two long stretches of football he missed—including the end of the season when Liverpool secured top four—muddy the waters.
Meanwhile, there are cases to be made for his fellow attackers Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho. When Liverpool were playing their best football, it was always Firmino at the fulcrum point of it. And meanwhile, Coutinho was both key and, Player of the Season or not, Liverpool's most talented player.
Behind them, there was also the contribution of Adam Lallana, who established himself in a new position, and at the base of it all the overlooked Simon Mignolet. The Belgian started the season on the bench, but by the end of it, Liverpool wouldn't have made the top four without his steady goalkeeping.
Voting is rounded out by Joël Matip and Gini Wijnaldum, neither of whom are likely to win but whose roles in Liverpool's success last season were noteworthy. All told, it's a long list, with a lot of good, key players and no true, unchallenged, start to finish standout.
Despite a slow start, by the end there was again no question: Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool's most talented player. Whether he was their best in 2016-17, though, is another question, and that uneven start and a long injury absence get in the way of making that case. He ended with 14 goals, 9 assists in 36 total appearances.
When Liverpool were at their best, it was with Firmino's movement and endless pressing providing a fulcrum point for the entire attack, and beyond the attacking side of things, his value defending from the front to Klopp's press cannot be overstated. He recorded 12 goals and 11 assists in 41 total appearances.
Lallana had his best year as a Liverpool player, and maybe his best as a professional footballer, in 2016-17 after a move to deeper midfield. Tactics, technique, and endless pressing energy have turned him into Jürgen Klopp's silkier version of Dirk Kuyt, and his 8 goals and 7 assists from midfield were invaluable.
The Senegal attacker arrived over the summer in a £34M deal and made an instant impact when he scored a stunner in the first game of the season against Arsenal. He went on to score 13 goals and 8 assists in 29 total appearances, though absences through injury and international duty limited his involvement.
Matip signed on a free from Schalke and has looked a long-term defensive anchor whenever he's been on the pitch. The problem, though, has been a run of niggling injuries for a player who until now has had a largely spotless record. He proved his worth in 29 league games, but also missed nearly a quarter of the season.
He wasn't meant to be Liverpool's starting goalkeeper, and many were surprised he wasn't sold. Then, his presumptive replacement stumbled. Mignolet retook the starting job over the winter and never looked back, and as Liverpool's attack tumbled down the stretch, it was often Mignolet keeping them in the top four race.
After starting the season quietly and, at times, anonymously in a midfield shuttling role, Wijnaldum grew into one of Liverpool's most important players during Jordan Henderson's absence, when his engine and tactical nous—as well as his knack for arriving late in the box and scoring 6 important goals—took to the fore.
Cast your vote below and let us know any reasoning you might care to share for it in the comments. Elsewhere, voting remains open for Young Player of the Year, where the contest is shaping up as Emre Can vs. people who think Emre Can is too experienced to be eligible for Young Player of the Year.