Liverpool‘s title challenge has been built on the foundations of reliable ever-presents, but those on the periphery of the squad have made a big contribution this season.
The Reds have already hit a record Premier League points tally, which is largely down to the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who have barely missed a game between them. The front three have contributed over 50 league goals alone.
Most recently against Newcastle, with Firmino sidelined and Salah having to be substituted with a head injury, the pressure was on Liverpool at St. James’ Park as the game approached injury time with the score tied at 2-2. It was two second-half substitutes that combined to put Liverpool ahead, as Divock Origi glanced in Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick.
It’s not the first time that Jurgen Klopp’s men have left it late, nor had the decisive goal from an unlikely source. Here are five squad players that have contributed to Liverpool’s title challenge.
The Belgian’s 86th-minute winner at Newcastle was not the first time he’s come up big with a late winner this season. Who could forget his last-second winner in the Merseyside derby?
Origi was in the right place at the right time to score one of the weirdest Premier League goals ever after Everton’s Jordan Pickford failed to get the ball clear, touching it onto the bar, where it took a couple of bounces before falling for him for a simple nod-in.
Those goals have won Liverpool four points this season.
Injuries, yet again, have really hampered the ex-Southampton man, who was only of Klopp’s most trusted players in the early years of his tenure at Anfield.
It’s been a season of few minutes and fewer highlights for Lallana, but he was credited with changing the game against Burnley in mid-March. He was named man of the match afterwards.
“We all know it, he’s always good on the ball and all that stuff, he is as well a pretty aggressive boy so the counter-press situation is a game-changer,” said his manager after Lallana won the ball in midfield before Mane put them 2-1 up.
“It was a brilliant thing in that moment – it didn’t look really promising until Adam jumped in that situation. So well done, well deserved is all the praise for today. I’m really happy for him.”
The stocky cult favourite, dubbed “the powercube”, has struggled for regular opportunities under Klopp, especially in the latter half of the season. But he’s come up big on a few occasions.
Regularly a late substitute, a return of six goals and three assists is reasonably good for Shaqiri, but the contribution that will live longest in the memory is his brace against Manchester United back in December.
Despite dominating, it looked like Liverpool might have been left frustrated by Jose Mourinho yet again as the game approached the final 20 minutes at 1-1. But then Shaqiri, three minutes after being introduced, put the Reds ahead, before repeating the trick seven minutes later. Both goals had taken deflections before sailing past David de Gea, but the Swiss international won’t care a jot.
The defender was Van Dijk’s most regular partner last season, and having put in a good performance in the Champions League final before a great World Cup with Croatia, many expected that to continue.
But Lovren’s started fewer games than Joe Gomez and Joel Matip this season, and looks to have dropped to fourth in the pecking order. Clean sheets haven’t come as regularly as they have with others, but he’s still put in some good performances in the backline.
The most notable example was the goalless draw against Manchester City, at Anfield in October. Taking a point in that game could prove decisive if Liverpool end up lifting the title, and keeping out Guardiola’s team is quite the achievement – from their 57 games in all competitions this season, only two other teams, Chelsea and Spurs, have managed it.
After an unsuccessful loan move to West Brom in the latter half of last season, Sturridge – a key player in Liverpool’s last title challenge of 2013-14 – looks to have accepted his role as a squad option this time around.
Every point counts, and it could well be just a point that separates Liverpool and City come the end of the season. Few will feel as sweet as the one won by virtue of Sturridge’s rocket against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool’s goal of the season?