The Liverpool Offside 2022-23 Season Review
Part I: The End of an Era
We’ve reached the end of the Jürgen Klopp’s eighth season in charge at Liverpool, and it feels like the end of an era. The second member of the famed front three is departing, the club is preparing for an overdue midfield rebuild, and with it last summer’s questions about age and planning for the future shift to the defence. With big changes on the horizon, we try to put the disappointments of 2022-23 into the larger context of what this group has done and won over the years.
We all knew that there would be some painful goodbyes as the core of one of the most successful squads in Liverpool’s history began to move out of their prime. Sadly, we saw almost the exact core that challenged for the quadruple longer than anyone had before in history stumble early and often after a shortened offseason. Players like Fabinho, Thiago, and Jordan Henderson looked a shadow of themselves for much of the season.
Possibly the biggest disappointment, though, was that the squad who had been mentality monsters for the better part of four seasons failed to put up much of a fight in more than a handful of matches, and often looked their worst against the bottom sides. While we knew a rebuild/reload was always going to be needed with the ageing core, the struggles this season certainly precipitated the process post haste.
I won’t say it made it more palatable when it comes to accepting that big changes were needed, but the doldrums of the stretch pre- and post-World Cup made it very obvious that this wonderfully likeable bunch needed some new faces, especially in the midfield. Despite all of that, it still hurt to see the likes of Bobby Firmino and James Milner, key to Liverpool’s turnaround under Jürgen Klopp, leave the club on a the sour note of missing out on the top four for the first time since 2015-16.
Liverpool have essentially been preparing for a rebuild since the signing of Diogo Jota, slowly putting pieces in place for the inevitable remodelling of the squad. However, even with the beginnings of a plan in place, figuring out exactly when Father Time is coming for you is a whole different matter. The management took a bet on the midfield holding up as they made reinforcements in other areas and chased the white whale of Jude Bellingham and, well, the results weren’t pretty.
Still, it’s hard to fault a squad that’s challenged on all fronts for the last five years, which is more than the two or three years that most great teams stay together these days. Playing every single game possible last season took a visible toll, as the intensity and relentlessness of those teams past went missing and players messed up routine assignments frequently. And with so much money and quality in the league, there’s always someone ready to take your spot if you slip up. It’s not been particularly enjoyable to sit through, but yeah, I get it.
It does seem cruel for players like Bobby and Milner to be leaving after a down season like this. We were all obviously too optimistic about everyone’s ability to maintain the standards of 2021-22 and challenge for silverware again this season, but for two more legends to leave the summer after we lost Sadio Mane really drives home that we’re in a period of transition.
Even then, it’s hard to really know how to feel about it. I understand the business sense behind it. They’re both getting older and wouldn’t be able to contribute in the ways that they used to. Letting them go is the natural way of things. But it still hurts.
I feel incredibly numb to all the bad things of this season, oddly. It’s really affected how I feel about the departure of Bobby and Milner. This season felt off from the start and it never really got on track, at least until the final 10 games I guess. After this group nearly achieved the unthinkable last season and it ended in heartbreak on and off the pitch, it makes sense that the vibes would be off this year. It’s just been a slog this past season and nothing went well. Oh, yeah, and a World Cup happened for six weeks in the middle of the season.
I can’t be too upset about the past season given what this group has done, though. This is the best Liverpool side to ever compete and they were literally 3 or 4 minutes or moments from winning multiple league titles and maybe a couple more CL trophies. I can’t be too sad about a few bad bounces and a down year, I guess. Not when they gave me everything I’ve ever wanted as a Liverpool fan. I know the reality now is harsh but the journey has been a blast.
Imagine telling the you from this time last year that Liverpool would beat Manchester United 7-0, but this season would still be a disappointment. The few extraordinary highs were not enough to counter the far more numerous lows.
What makes it worse is that this season feels very much like the end of something. Bobby is gone, Milner is gone, the whole squad is one year older. This one hurts, because all of these players deserve so much more than they got.
As Steph said, we’ll always have 7-0. This season was a weird one: feast and famine, long stretches of unbelievably bad form and seemingly unending mental lapses, punctuated by moments of pure, unadulterated football bliss.
The most disappointing part about this past season was probably that we know that this gang of lads are capable of literally anything and everything. But it turns out that they are mere mortals, and even the best players in the world can be ground down after last year’s near perfection (and crushing disappointment) and this season’s condensed schedule.
However, ending the season with an 11-game unbeaten run, with a 7-game winning streak thrown in, can at least give us some hope for the upcoming campaign.
This season kinda sucked. There’s really no getting past that. There’s also no getting past that two of the past three seasons kinda sucked for Liverpool and that in both cases—this season due to an ageing midfield core and 2020-21 due to only carrying three senior centre halves—it was at least in part due to recruitment issues that an awful lot of people raised as potential red flags before the start of them.
What’s also true is that 12 months ago, this group of players came within two games of a historic quadruple that would have written them into history as the greatest English club side of all time. What’s also true is that this group of players has won every major trophy on offer and will be remembered as maybe-probably-at-least-arguably the greatest Liverpool side ever assembled. So rather than being too upset about the season that was or getting too hung up on last summer’s recruitment failures, that’s what I’m going to try to focus on.
This season was bad. But this group? This group was very good. We were fortunate to get to watch them play. We were fortunate to get to watch them win. We were fortunate to get to watch them do things a lot of Liverpool fans had maybe started to give up on ever seeing happen again. They won number nineteen in the league. And a sixth European Cup. They won an eighth FA Cup, a ninth League Cup, and a first Club World Cup. They had the best goalkeeper in the world and the best fullback duo in the world and the best attacking trio in the world. And no matter how badly things may have gone wrong this past season, we got to see all of that.
While it was certainly not fun for very long stretches, if a season like this is the eventual cost of competing on multiple fronts for half a decade without human rights abusing petrostate owners spending £100M on new fullbacks every season, I’ll take that every single time.
Liverpool under Klopp have beautifully walked the line between being a powerhouse with immensely lovable players without feeling like you have to sell your soul to support them. I feel privileged to have been witness to what they’ve done these last eight years.
Even if the best days of the Klopp era at LFC are behind us, I’m not going to dwell on what could have been. In an era where football is increasingly dominated by owners with limitless resources, this team made the absolute most of what they had and achieved things nobody really thought was possible when Klopp took over. Even if they came agonizingly close and just fell short more times than we would have liked, they still did a hell of a lot of winning along the way and gave us so many fond memories, and I’ll always love them for that.