A number of Liverpool’s key players have silenced the doubters to enjoy a stunning resurgence in 2023-24’s title challenge.
Some of Jurgen Klopp’s most entrusted stalwarts were written off as past it or not good enough in Liverpool’s hugely underwhelming 2022-23 campaign. That may have been the case for some – such as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and James Milner – but they have all been moved on, while a summer midfield rebuild has refreshed the squad, helping some of the club’s long-serving players to get back to their best.
We’ve identified six Liverpool players that have enjoyed an excellent return to form in 2023-24.
Virgil van Dijk
We’ve been banging the drum for some time that Liverpool’s captain is back among the Premier League’s very best centre-halves, but we’ll leave it to Jamie Carragher to crunch the numbers and explain the key reasons for Van Dijk’s renaissance.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 1, 2024
Injury issues saw Gomez reduced to the role of a fringe player among some of Liverpool’s most dominant seasons under Klopp, while he struggled to fully convince after seeing increased gametime amid the club’s struggles in 2022-23.
Now injuries to key defenders have required the 26-year-old to step up and slot in positions across the backline – be it left-back, right-back or centre-half he’s been solid as a rock and rarely put a foot wrong.
He’s also getting closer and closer to that long-awaited first Liverpool goal. We can almost smell it.
The major improvement this season suggests that last term’s defensive lapses were more systemic, leaving defenders exposed by the midfield press breaking down, than any individual deficiencies.
Not even Alexander-Arnold’s biggest fans would claim he’s the greatest one-on-one defender in the world, but this season he’s been left isolated so rarely that it hasn’t been an issue for the Reds.
“I don’t really care where Trent is on a team sheet,” Carragher said during Alexander-Arnold’s excellent run in midfield in the final weeks of the 2022-23 season.
“I want to see him on the ball [in the region highlighted below] because, if he’s on the ball in those areas, whether he’s playing midfield, full-back, wing-back, or on the right of a midfield three, there are very few players in world of football who could match him.
“Klopp and Liverpool have to find a way [to utilise his strengths], as they have done for the last four or five years as a full-back.”
He’s since moved back to right-back, but Liverpool have settled on a system that compensates for his defensive shortcomings (which were often overstated anyway) while getting the best out of his extraordinary crossing and playmaking talents. Last season was just a blip.
“Wonder what would happen if you locked Nunez in a room and handed him a Rubik’s cube. He might eat it,” one Twitter user brilliantly put it.
The Uruguayan striker remains an enigma. We’d be lying if we said he’d become a picture of dead-eyed finishing consistency. No player has missed more big chances in the Premier League this season.
But it was Golden Boot winner Erling Haaland that ended up top of that chart last season, and the Norwegian is only one behind Nunez on that count in 2023-24 so far. Getting so many big chances, even if missing them, shows the movement and attacking instincts of a top striker.
Nunez has definitely improved on last term, though. He can still be frustrating, maddening even, but he’s largely effective. With his brace against Bournemouth, he became the first Premier League player to notch double figures for goals and assists (all competitions) this season.
As with any academy player making their way into the first team, Jones has had his ups and downs. Now approaching his prime years, with over a hundred appearances under his belt for his boyhood club, we’re approaching sink-or-swim time for the local lad.
But after some iffy displays amid Liverpool’s struggles last season, Jones appears to be thriving under the pressure and maturing as a midfielder. He’s certainly holding his own amid competition from the summer recruits for a regular spot in Klopp’s favoured midfield.
“His development goes hand in hand with the development the team went through,” assistant coach Pep Lijnders told reporters in December.
“He always shows up, he’s this player who really leads with the ball and without the ball. We are really happy and proud he can give so much impulse every game.”
The Portuguese attacker struggled with injuries in 2022-23, which reduced him to just 12 Premier League starts.
He’s had frustrations with being sat out on the sidelines once again this season, but he’s been excellent when fit and available. Jota has already matched his tally of seven league goals from the entirety of last season.
In the absence of Mohamed Salah, and a number of other key players, away to in-form Bournemouth, Jota made himself Liverpool’s talisman. He produced a man-of-the-match display, notching two goals and an assist.
Jota’s availability could prove massively important as Liverpool approach the spring chasing four pieces of silverware.