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The key strengths of Liverpool's title winners

June 26, 2020 16:49 IST
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Liverpool were crowned champions of England for the first time in 30 years on Thursday with seven matches remaining, having turned the Premier League title race into a procession.

They have smashed records along the way and more could follow, including most wins, most points and the biggest winning margin. It will go down as a season for the ages, but what makes Juergen Klopp's side such an unstoppable force?

A CORE OF STEEL

Virgil Van Dijk's (left) ability to pick a pass means Liverpool can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye

IMAGE: Virgil Van Dijk's (left) ability to pick a pass means Liverpool can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

All truly great sides are constructed on unshakeable foundations and Liverpool are no exception.

When Manchester City splashed out 35 million pounds ($43.39 million) on goalkeeper Ederson in 2017 it raised eyebrows but a year later Liverpool paid nearly double that for another Brazilian shot-stopper, Alisson Becker. It was a masterstroke.

 

Alisson kept 21 clean sheets last season as Liverpool and Manchester City went head-to-head in an epic title race, more than any other keeper. He leads the way again with 12 this time despite being out injured early in the season.

Alisson exudes calm, distributes the ball like a cultured libero and make the difficult look remarkably routine.

In front of him, Dutch centre back Virgil van Dijk has been a colossus since joining from Southampton in 2018. Rarely can a defensive signing have made such an incredible impact.

Van Dijk's ability to pick a pass means Liverpool can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye. And when it comes to defensive basics, he does everything with rare grace.

In front of Van Dijk is Liverpool's engine block. Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho, with James Milner as a reliable backup, provide the relentless intensity opposing sides find so suffocating.

Without them working in unison, Liverpool's attacking maestros could not flourish.

WINGING IT

Youth product Trent Alexander-Arnold established himself as first-choice right back and left back Andy Robertson joined from Hull for a paltry 8 million pounds.

IMAGE: Youth product Trent Alexander-Arnold established himself as first-choice right back and left back Andy Robertson joined from Hull for a paltry 8 million pounds. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

When the mercurial Philippe Coutinho left for Barcelona in 2018, some feared Liverpool's creative spark would fade. Instead they have flourished. Klopp's early Liverpool sides often came unstuck against the "low block" when lesser opponents sat in deep and let Liverpool pass themselves into knots.

Then something happened. Youth product Trent Alexander-Arnold established himself as first-choice right back and left back Andy Robertson joined from Hull for a paltry 8 million pounds.

Operating like well-oiled pistons on each flank, they are arguably the best fullback pairing in the world, providing pace, penetration and creativity to open up even the most limpet-like defensive rearguards.

Alexander-Arnold is second behind only Manchester City magician Kevin de Bruyne in the assist charts this season with 12, while Robertson is fourth on the list with eight.

THE ATTACKING TRIDENT

Salah and Mane have bagged 32 league goals between them this season

IMAGE: Salah and Mane have bagged 32 league goals between them this season. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

In Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino Liverpool possess an attacking trio that is almost impossible to contain.

As well as searing pace and lethal finishing prowess, Salah and Mane are a midfielder's dream with their intelligent runs.

Salah and Mane have bagged 32 league goals between them this season while the Klopp's modern day number nine Firmino is the unsung hero, running himself into the ground for the cause.

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC HENDERSON

Henderson's passing range has expanded, his energy is relentless and above all, he will not tolerate a dip in standards from his team mates.

IMAGE: Henderson's passing range has expanded, his energy is relentless and above all, he will not tolerate a dip in standards from his team mates. Photograph: IMAGE: Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and manager Juergen Klopp after the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Photograph: Peter Powell/Reuters

Klopp nghas irained a sense of collective responsibility at Liverpool -- a characteristic of all great sides. But skipper Jordan Henderson is their talisman.

It took him an age to come out of the more naturally-gifted Steven Gerrard's shadow. Even now soccer analysis website transfermarkt.co.uk puts the 30-year-old down at 13th when comparing market values of Liverpool's squad.

But his contribution is priceless. Henderson's passing range has expanded, his energy is relentless and above all, he will not tolerate a dip in standards from his team mates. Henderson shuns the limelight but no captain will be more worthy of raising the Premier League trophy aloft.

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