The Liverpool Offside 2022-23 Season Review
Part II: The Highs of a Low Season
Even when Liverpool were down this season, there were moments of positivity and promise; times when individuals shone or the entire team clicked into gear. Too often that only lasted a game or two, but even then, one of the worst Liverpool seasons in recent memory will for many have brought with it some of the brightest moments in recent memory—and signs of promise for the future. Today, we go sifting through the bad to find the good.
I mean, we’re all thinking about beating Manchester United 7-0. That’s the obvious one. Plus there was the clobbering of Bournemouth 9-0 all the way back in August, though it almost feels as if anything pre-World Cup break was another season entirely.
The dopamine and serotonin released in my brain during those two games, though, is what got me through the whole following week in a season when too often it felt like watching Liverpool left me dragging. Still, I have mixed feelings about revelling in big victories when the team ended up in fifth place.
Watching Curtis Jones start becoming the player we all hoped he would be after his injury is something I don’t have any mixed feelings about, though. The same goes for seeing Trent Alexander-Arnold inch closer to his final form in his new midfield-fullback hybrid role. I hope both of our Scousers continue to thrive in their roles next season and beyond, and based on how the season ended it’s easy to believe that they will.
There are two things that clearly stand out as the highs of this season. Or three. But 7-0 is a bit of a given. Beyond that result, though, my top highlight was Bobby Firmino’s send-off.
While I was crushed when the announcement was made, I was so glad we knew ahead of time this would be Bobby’s last season in Red so he could get the send-off he deserved. Hearing the travelling fans sing Bobby’s song for so much of the second half at Leicester, a game he didn’t even take part in, is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed, and you could tell it meant so much to him.
And then he scored in both of his final appearances. The goals couldn’t have been more different, but they were both quintessential Firmino goals. It would have been tragic if he’d ended his Liverpool career in any other way.
The other thing I thoroughly enjoyed about this season was Curtis Jones turning into a game changer practically overnight. After a couple of very frustrating years where CuJo’s progress seemed to have stagnated due to injuries and at times he can seem caught up in trying to do too much to his own and the team’s detriment, in the final stages of the 2022-23 season he suddenly became indispensable to Liverpool’s revival.
In that final stretch, every single frustrating aspect of his game disappeared and so much of Liverpool’s attacking threat flowed through him. It is not at all a coincidence that the Reds’ late season unbeaten run coincided with his own remarkable run of performances. It wasn’t a huge sample size, but if the real Curtis Jones turns out to be anything like what we saw in the last few months, he has a chance of locking down one of the midfield starting roles for the foreseeable future.
In a season that was marred by struggles, we saw Liverpool still manage to win matches by the following scores: 9-0 (Bournemouth), 7-0 (Manchester United), 7-1 (Rangers), and 6-1 (Leeds). Whatever else happened along the way and in between them, those were some very, very fun matches.
From an individual player perspective, we saw the progression of Ibrahima Konaté into legitimately one of the best central defenders in the league. The sky is the limit for the anime-loving Frenchman. I’d also like to note a personal highlight, as I was lucky enough to be on hand with Will when Bobby scored his final goal at Anfield. It was a moment of pure euphoria.
Has anyone else mentioned 7-0 yet? Because 7-0 happened and. It. Was. Glorious. So too was the way the fans celebrated Firmino’s departure, as much as it hurts that probably my and many others’ favourite Liverpool player of all time is departing. And it was great to see Jones finally looking like the player we thought he might turn into when he first broke into the team.
I’m going to focus in on the promise of another young player who took a back seat to Jones in the final weeks, though, because a lot of Liverpool fans get weird in a bad way when it comes to judging young players who aren’t quite the finished product yet and I think it’s worth offering a counter-narrative.
So I just want to take a moment to appreciate the season Harvey Elliott had. A lot of people seem to be looking for reasons and excuses to write off a player who’s just turned 20 and ranks out around the 90th percentile in almost every statistical category that’s important for an attacking midfielder over the past year. Elliott was one of the standouts for Liverpool this season when things weren’t going well, and it he was some random 24-year-old plying his trade in Ligue Uber Eats, the same people writing him off today would be desperate for the club to sign him. He is and remains a gem and everything about this past season continues to point to a bright future—and in a season like the one Liverpool just had, the things I took the most joy out of are the ones that seem to at least point to a bright future.
I’m sure nobody has mentioned 7-0 yet, which means I’ll be the first one to talk about Liverpool handing Manchester United Football Club their largest defeat since the Great Depression. Because we can try to find less obvious answers, but at the end of the day that was far and away the highlight of what was otherwise a rather dour campaign for the Reds.
A second high point directly related to the first—but one that also merits singling out—are the Youtube compilations documenting the emotional journey United fans went on starting with the pre-match feelings of confidence, before moving on then to hope, then that sickening feeling growing in their chests, then anger, before finally giving way cauterized resignation. That match truly was a spectacle that couldn’t help but bring warm fuzzy feelings to every Liverpool fan’s heart.
The only other thread of real positivity in the season for me was the green shoots of life that began to show in Liverpool’s midfield towards the end of the campaign, namely from the likes of Stefan Bajetic and Curtis Jones. Decrepit play from the old guard, injuries, and likely no small degree of desperation from Jurgen Klopp forced the Reds to turn to youth and castoffs in the middle of the park, with the two academy products seizing their opportunity with youthful exuberance. With so many midfielders exiting the club come June 1, there will be a small degree of encouragement for Reds supporters that the engine room next year will possess some measure of talent already raring to go.
And of course Bobby receiving an Anfield send off befitting his legendary status as one of the Liverpool greats will live in my heart forever.
After his January arrival and some of the doubts people had due to his slow start, Cody Gakpo’s emergence has been a real bright spot in the last stretch of the season. He could seem physically overmatched at times in his first few games, but has since found his feet in Liverpool’s new look attack, effectively replicating some of Bobby Firmino’s false nine work. He has really great technique you wouldn’t expect from a man that big, and strikes the ball impeccably.
Meanwhile, Darwin Nunez was the be-all and end-all for Liverpool in attack when Liverpool were completely out of sorts early in the season. His chaotic energy at times was really the only thing going for the Reds in many games in the first half of the season as he chased down every ball and took all the shots humanly possible. It’s been interesting to see how Gakpo has been preferred in the last third of the season, but between these two, Diaz, and Jota, Liverpool have a really grafty attacking unit heading into next season. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to make them into something cohesive and capable of the kind of tight press that has defined Liverpool’s attack under Jürgen Klopp.