Klopp at Liverpool, Season 8: Signs of decline, a 7-0 like no other and ‘Adios’ to Bobby

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This is the eighth and penultimate part in our series charting Jurgen Klopp’s nine seasons at Liverpool from his 2015 arrival to his upcoming departure from Anfield.

Liverpool had come within two games of winning an unprecedented quadruple in the 2021/22 season, but would there be a hangover from playing every match possible in that campaign and falling just short in the Premier League and the Champions League final?

The squad as whole remained largely unchanged for yet another summer, although the cast of characters in attack was continuing to transition. Darwin Nunez was the marquee signing, costing an initial £64m from Benfica, while the famous front three of Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane was no more as the latter left for Bayern Munich. Cult hero Divock Origi and domestic cup specialist Takumi Minamino also departed.

An emphatic 3-1 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield seemed like an early marker had been laid down, but unfortunately it proved to be a false dawn for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

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They began their Premier League campaign with just two points from three matches, drawing against Fulham and Crystal Palace (Nunez being sent off on his home debut in the latter) and lost at Old Trafford. The Reds were already playing catch-up, but a 9-0 trouncing of Bournemouth and a last-gasp victory over Newcastle thanks to Fabio Carvalho’s 98th-minute winner suggested that they now had lift-off.

Alas, Liverpool wouldn’t win another top-flight game until mid-October. The death of Queen Elizabeth II led to two matches being postponed in September, but the gap was filled by a mixed start to the Champions League campaign, a 4-1 hammering by Napoli preceding a narrow win at home to Ajax.

LFC’s maddening inconsistencies were laid bare in the lead-up to Halloween. Rangers were beaten twice in quick succession, including a 7-1 demolition at Ibrox, and a sublime Salah solo goal saw off Man City.

Mohamed Salah scores past Ederson during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on October 16, 2022. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

However, there were also defeats to Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Leeds. The latter became the first away team to win a Premier League game in front of fans at Anfield since Palace five-and-a-half years earlier. It left the Reds mired in ninth place, 13 points off the lead. Any hope of a title challenge was already dead in the water.

At least Klopp’s team finished top of their Champions League group and won their final two top-flight games before the novelty of a winter World Cup in Qatar meant that the club season was parked for the best part of six weeks, resuming just before Christmas.

Liverpool’s first game back saw them eliminated from the Carabao Cup by Man City, depriving them of the chance to win the tournament back-to-back. There were Premier League wins over Aston Villa and Leicester to close out 2022.

In a parallel with the season before last, January brought misery for the Reds, who won just one of six games that month and lost twice to Brighton, a 3-0 league mauling and a 2-1 FA Cup exit. The two trophies that Klopp had won the previous year were now out of reach.

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When LFC were hammered 3-0 by Wolves in early February, leaving them 10th in the table and 11 points off the top four, it represented the nadir of the German’s reign. They were as close points-wise to the relegation zone as the Champions League positions. What a contrast from the quadruple charge less than a year earlier.

Solace would arrive as the Reds won four of their next five league games, keeping a clean sheet in each one, although a 5-2 thumping at Anfield by Real Madrid effectively ended their European campaign. Los Blancos also won the return leg to thwart Liverpool in the Champions League for the third year running.

A month on from the dregs of the Molineux thrashing came one of Klopp’s most famous wins with LFC. Man United came to Merseyside buoyed by winning the Carabao Cup a week previously; they returned home with their tails between their legs, having shipped their heaviest-ever defeat in this fixture.

7-0. Yes, seven-nil. The first goal didn’t arrive until the 43rd minute and it was only 1-0 at half-time, but the second 45 minutes was an onslaught towards the Kop. January arrival Cody Gakpo, Nunez and Salah all scored twice, with Firmino having the honour of rounding off this most delicious of maulings.

Roberto Firmino celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold as he makes it 7-0 against Manchester United at Anfield on March 5, 2023. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In a week which summed up Liverpool’s head-banging season, their next game saw them lose to Bournemouth, with the Egyptian missing a penalty. They returned after the spring international break by losing 4-1 away to Man City and drawing 0-0 at mid-table Chelsea.

When Arsenal raced into a 2-0 lead at Anfield inside half an hour on Easter Sunday, Reds fans could’ve been forgiven for fearing a Real Madrid-esque trouncing, but goals from Salah and Firmino rescued a well-earned point and instigated a rot which’d cost the Gunners their shot at title glory.

The comeback also launched Liverpool’s best run of a troubled season. Having been eighth and 12 points off top four after the clash against Mikel Arteta’s side, LFC went on a seven-match winning run, which began with a 6-1 mutilation of Leeds at Elland Road.

The most dramatic of those victories came at home to Tottenham. The Reds were 3-0 up inside 15 minutes but pegged back level in stoppage time by Richarlison’s only Premier League goal of the season. The away fans’ celebrations had barely subsided when Diogo Jota went up the other end of the pitch and netted a dramatic winner, to which Klopp reacted by roaring at fourth official John Brooks.

The 3-0 victory at Leicester in mid-May is best remembered for the travelling Kopites singing the ‘Si Senor’ chant for 15 minutes straight in adoration of Firmino, who was leaving Liverpool at the end of the campaign after eight years. James Milner was also departing, which left Joe Gomez as the last man standing from the squad that the German took over from Brendan Rodgers in 2015.

James Milner acknowledges the Liverpool fans after the 4-4 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on May 28, 2023. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

After that win at the King Power Stadium, LFC had closed to within one point and one place of top four, with Champions League qualification now a real possibility. However, having salvaged third with a similar late-season run in 2021, the Reds would ultimately fall short this time around.

Draws against Villa and Southampton meant that Klopp’s team would have to settle for fifth, their lowest finish in a full season under his management. Firmino, Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all waved goodbye after the campaign ended with a 4-4 draw at St Mary’s.

Those exits would set the ball rolling on a much-needed overhaul at Liverpool. The bulk of the squad had taken the club to unforgettable heights, but having changed little in the previous four years, the group had begun to look worryingly stale during the first few months of 2023.

In case you’ve missed them, you can check out previous episodes of the series:

2015/162016/172017/182018/19, 2019/202020/21, 2021/22

READ MORE: The evolution of Liverpool’s starting XI under Jurgen Klopp

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