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Rating Liverpool's season so far: Darwin's development, Fabinho's struggles and Salah keeps on scoring

9:00 AM GMT 14/11/2022
Fabinho Salah Elliott Liverpool GFX
The Reds have endured a difficult start to the campaign, but brighter days lie ahead...

A season which promised everything has so far turned out to be a fairly mixed bag, as far as Liverpool are concerned.

As the Premier League breaks for the World Cup, the Reds sit sixth in the Premier League table, 15 points off top spot and facing a battle even to finish in the top four.

So consistent and so reliable for so long, Jurgen Klopp’s side have been anything but so far. They may have secured qualification for the Champions League last 16 with some comfort, but domestically theirs has been a campaign of disappointment, with moments of promise overshadowed by a series of underwhelming performances and morale-sapping defeats. 

Already, they have lost twice as many league matches (four) than in the whole of last season, but the recent trend, at least, is upward, with a first away win of the campaign at Tottenham followed up by a 3-1 victory against Southampton on Saturday.

The expectation is that they will improve after the World Cup, when key players should return from injury and when they have traditionally come on strong in recent years, but the fact that the idea of a title challenge at Anfield already feels like it is off the table tells you just how much they will need to.

Here, GOAL takes a look at the first three-and-a-half months of 2022-23…

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2022-23

    Best player

    It was Luis Diaz who carried the fight in the opening weeks of the season, the Colombian showing the kind of energy, skill and determination that so many of his colleagues were lacking. He departed injured against Arsenal last month, but should be back by the time the league resumes on Boxing Day.

    In Diaz’s absence, Mohamed Salah has been the man to step up to the plate. The Egyptian is on 14 goals for the season, including seven in the Champions League, two at Tottenham and the all-important winner against Manchester City. Where would Liverpool be without their Egyptian superstar?

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2022-23

    Best performance

    Considering they’ve had a 9-0 win and a 7-1 win, it says a lot that the victory over Manchester City at Anfield in October takes this by some distance.

    Liverpool arrived into that game low, having been beaten at Arsenal the previous week, but the sight of Pep Guardiola, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Co. seemed to stir something in Klopp’s men.

    They delivered a display of immense concentration, defensive solidity, teamwork and counter-attacking quality to hand the champions their first loss of the season.

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2022-23

    Best goal

    Another award for Salah, whose winner against Manchester City was a masterpiece, showcasing all of his unique talent.

    Reading the flight of Alisson’s long pass was one thing, but to ease Joao Cancelo out of the way while simultaneously bringing the ball under his spell, and then to show the speed and composure to run clear and slot home in front of the Kop, said it all. A very special footballer.

  • Darwin Nunez Liverpool 2022-23

    Best new signing

    Well the field for this one is a little narrow, but it’s fair to say that Darwin Nunez has already made quite the impression on Reds fans, good and bad.

    The good is that the Uruguayan looks capable of scoring bagfuls of goals, that he has personality and work ethic and serious potential.

    The bad is that he marked his Anfield debut with a red card for headbutting Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen, which cost him the chance to build momentum early in the season.

    Still, a return of nine goals in nine starts is more than decent. Expect him to get better and better as the season goes on.

  • Jordan Henderson Liverpool 2022-23

    Biggest disappointment

    After thrashing Rangers and then fighting their way to home wins over Manchester City and West Ham in October, the feeling was that a corner had been turned.

    But a risible defeat to Nottingham Forest, the Premier League’s bottom club, washed away all that optimism in one fell swoop and underlined the fact that this is a team some way short of the standards it has set for itself in recent years.

    Liverpool don't lose those sort of games, and they can't afford to if they want to achieve their ambitions.

  • Roberto Firmino Liverpool 2022-23

    Biggest positive

    There was something reassuring about the way in which Liverpool secured progress for the Champions League last 16, winning five straight games after a desperate defeat in Naples to open their Group A campaign.

    European football has often provided a comfort blanket for the Reds amid domestic struggles, and it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of a showdown with Real Madrid in the New Year.

  • Harvey Elliott Liverpool Ajax 2022-23

    Surprise package

    It’s fair to say that Harvey Elliott has officially moved past the point of being a “prospect”, isn’t it? The 19-year-old is the only player to have featured in all 22 of Liverpool’s games in all competitions this season, and more often than not he has been one of the Reds’ better performers too.

    Whether part of a midfield three or stationed on the right in a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, the teenager’s game looks like it is developing at pace. No wonder Pep Lijnders, the assistant manager, refers to him as ‘the diamond’.

  • Fabinho Liverpool 2022-23

    Could do better

    A few players fall into this category.

    The form of Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez has been patchy, while Andy Robertson and Thiago Alcantara have found it hard to reach top gear.

    But the obvious answer is Fabinho, whose struggles have left Liverpool’s midfield looking woefully exposed, and forced Klopp into a change of system as he looked to plug the gaping holes in his side’s structure.

  • Virgil van Dijk Liverpool 2022-23

    Cause for concern

    Well, the elephant in the room is that, with more than a third of the season gone, Liverpool face a battle to secure Champions League qualification.

    Any idea of a title challenge looks fanciful, the Reds sitting 15 points off leaders Arsenal, but first and foremost, Klopp’s side must put itself back in the picture for a top-four finish.

    And with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United all circling, and Newcastle absolutely flying under Eddie Howe, competition looks like it will be fierce. They are seven points off fourth place at the break, albeit with a game in hand.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022-23

    Klopp's job

    Dietmar Hamann may disagree, but there is no danger of any pressure being placed on Klopp from Liverpool’s owners any time soon.

    There is an acceptance that this season had the potential to be problematic, given the condensed schedule and how close the Reds came to the Holy Grail last time out.

    Certainly, the manager has made some mistakes - his team selection at Old Trafford and the introduction of James Milner at right-back at Goodison Park stand out - and the way in which Liverpool have played raises questions about concentration and preparation.

    But then, there has been a 9-0 win and a 7-1 win, they’ve beaten City and won at Spurs, and they sorted Champions League qualification with a game to spare, beating runaway Serie A leaders Napoli along the way.

    They know big improvement is both needed and possible, and with players back after the World Cup ‘break’, Klopp should be backed to deliver exactly that.