Love Me Do: A recap of Liverpool’s 2017-18 season through Beatles music

Liverpool, a wonderful city replete with beauty and history, is known most to the outside world by two things: Liverpool FC and The Beatles. In a season of ups and downs, there’s a Beatles’ song out there to properly encapsulate each feeling.

June 22: Liverpool complete record £37.6m signing of Mohamed Salah from Roma

Song: ‘And I Love Her’

Lyric:  “Bright are the stars that shine / Dark is the sky / I know this love of mine / Will never die / And I love her”

Not a person in the world could have expected the kind of season Salah has had, that is true. But, when his signing was announced in June, Liverpool fans were still growing delirious with visions of that wonderful left foot scoring goals in front of the Kop.

They’d been through this one before. It was Liverpool that initially chased Salah prior to Chelsea swooping in as an efficient vulture to sign him from Basel in 2014. Just as too many of Liverpool’s transfer pursuits have been in recent years, the club dragged their feet, haggled over small details to allow Chelsea the chance to do the deal.

Three years later, they got their man. And he’s been worth the wait.

August 1: Preseason optimism

Song: “Love Me Do”

Lyric: “Love, love me do / You know I love you / I’ll always be true / So please love me do”

Just like every other year when the players report to Melwood for preseason, optimism holds hegemony over anxiety.

What can this team do?

Another year with Jurgen Klopp in charge while Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all inch further into their prime years. Sprinkle in a little regularly misplaced confidence that Liverpool will continue to make smart purchases through August, and fans could realistically see a successful season on the horizon.

The squad was overstuffed with quality; not just a few players, either, but an actual squad for the first time in years. Another left back had been signed, as Andy Robertson will compete with Alberto Moreno and allow James Milner to return to the midfield.

Speaking of the midfielder; where are all the minutes going to come from? There’s Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Adam Lallana and, behind them, Marko Grujic, Ben Woodburn, Ovie Ejaria and other deserving academy stars to fill the bench in the event of an injury crisis.

Oh yeah, and Klopp publicly declared that Coutinho, the team’s best attacker, will play in the midfield, allowing a front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Salah to flow seamlessly. This team is taking its greatest attacking threat and sticking him in the midfield; there will be a laughable excess of goals.

Behind Firmino, there’s Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, new academy signing Dom Solanke and our own Rhian Brewster. The midfield and front line are overstocked. How many players on this team are capable of scoring double digits? It’s going to be wonderful.

The team definitely needs another centre back, sure, but that’s classic Liverpool. They always need a centre back. And, as of August 1, they have another month to figure that one out.

Augus 11: Philippe Coutinho transfer saga pt. 1

Song: “Taxman”

Lyric: “Let me tell you how it will be / There’s one for you and 19 for me / Because I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman”

Barcelona ruin all the fun.

They get to pick the best players from other clubs whenever they want and seemingly need not care about tampering rules or respect for the clubs they negotiate with.

Just as Liverpool appeared to be working towards building a world-class side, Barcelona storm in to take their best player. There are few footballers in the world like Coutinho, and he was meant to buck the recent trend of Liverpool selling its best players. What good is more than £100m if the transfer window is about to close and all other clubs know you’re desperate to spend it?

Thankfully, Klopp and Fenway Sports Group stuck to their guns and fended off the taxman for, at least, a few more months.

August 20: Virgil van Dijk saga pt. 1

Song: “Taxman”

Lyric: “Let me tell you how it will be / There’s one for you and 19 for me / Because I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman”

Liverpool ruin all the fun.

They get to pick the best players from other clubs whenever they want and seemingly need not care about tampering rules or respect for the clubs they negotiate with.

Just as Southampton appeared to be working towards re-sustaining its Premier League mid-table status, Liverpool storm in to take their best player. What good is more than £70m if the transfer window is about to close and all other clubs know you’re desperate to spend it?

Yet, still, Southampton appeared to be resigned to their fate of losing their best player to Liverpool yet again. Until Liverpool were guilty of tapping up the defender and issued a public apology to Southampton.

Thankfully for Southampton, Klopp and Fenway Sports Group stuck to their word and the taxman was fended off for, at least, a few more months.

August 27: Irrational confidence grows as Liverpool demolish Arsenal 4-0…

Song: “Twist and Shout”

Lyric: “You know you look so good (Look so good) / You know you got me goin’, now (Got me goin’) / Just like I knew you would (Like I knew you would) / Well, shake it up, baby, now (Shake it up, baby) / Twist and shout (Twist and shout)”

“Twist and Shout” is a song oft-played at weddings because it’s perfect for a celebration. It gets the cement-footed dudes up on the dancefloor who wouldn’t normally be there; it subconsciously establishes good-feelings and smiles.

When Liverpool were putting Arsenal to the sword, you couldn’t help but twist-and-shout. For 90 minutes it was a party; even the corpse of Daniel Sturridge scored!

Each of the front three netted before Sturridge, truly making it the perfect result. BBC Sport wrote that Liverpool may have truly found their Luis Suarez replacement in Mane, while Salah needed no time at all to settle back into English football.

With the team still in that party mood after the match, reports were flying that Liverpool were closing in on deals for Monaco’s French star Thomas Lemar and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It would appear the club finally learned how to capitalize on moments and buy from a position of power.

It was early on, but it also put Liverpool in second place on goal difference, two points behind Manchester United. Next on the fixture list, after the transfer window closed and an international break would come and go, is title-favorite Manchester City at The Etihad.

Dare to dream?

September 9: …Manchester City brings Liverpool back to earth 0-5

Song: “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”

Lyric: “I look at the world and notice it’s turning / While my guitar gently weeps / With every mistake we make we surely must be learning / While my guitar gently weeps”

*exhales uncomfortably*

Well. That was difficult to sit through.

No better way to be humbled than to receive a worse beat down than the one your club just extolled on Arsenal. Liverpool were being outplayed even before Sadio Mane got sent off for a stray boot directly into the face and neck tattoo of Ederson, but Pep Guardiola’s side took it to another level once Liverpool were left a man down.

Leroy Sane was unplayable; City were in total control.

But. But. What if Liverpool played that game with 11 men for the entire match? What if, instead of Ederson’s face beating Mane’s studs to a bouncing ball, it was reversed; Mane pokes around the Brazilian and it’s the keeper who gets sent off, it’s City that are resigned to playing a man down?

Impossibly, this result wasn’t as disappointing as a 5-0 drubbing should be. Optimism works in mysterious ways, and somewhere in the shadows of our brains it was able to work with enough doubt manifested in the red card to keep on belligerently pushing forward.

Immediately all eyes were set on January 14, when City would come to Anfield.

October 22: Lovren struggles as Tottenham beat Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley

Song: “Girl”

Lyric: “When I think of all the times I tried so hard to leave her / She will turn to me and start to cry / And she promises the Earth to me and I believe her / After all this time I don’t know why’

Lovren’s worst performance of an otherwise solid season came at Wembley against Spurs. The Croatian was cataclysmic; he contributed to Tottenham’s win almost as much as Harry Kane did– it’s a shame he didn’t claim any goals.

(Somewhere in the world, Harry Kane looks sadly to the ground, as any negative comment about him invariably drifts through the air and finds its way to him. He’s disappointed, but continues to erroneously assert that he doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it.)

There’s no better way to succinctly, and beautifully, sum up Lovren’s afternoon of work than what Barney Ronay wrote in a column for The Guardian:

With half an hour gone Lovren was euthanized from the pitch, wandering off straight past his manager to sit three rows back, looking utterly stunned, still in his red shirt. Has there been a worse half-hour from an international‑standard Premier League player?”

‘Euthanized’ is the perfect way to describe the substitution. It was an act of philanthropy but Klopp, showing his altruistic heart. He cares about Lovren, just as he cares about Liverpool and earning points.

Instead of folding, Klopp’s side used the result to springboard an unbeaten run both domestically and continentally. A poor performance that could have ruined a season actually galvanized the club.

December 27: Liverpool and Southampton agree van Dijk deal

Song: “Something”

Lyric: “Something in the way she moves / Attracts me like no other lover”

Something about van Dijk led Klopp to devote a monogamous connection to the centre back. There was no Plan B; like a loyal partner in a long distance relationship, Klopp waited.

And for all the consternation the majority of fans felt on September 1 when van Dijk nor any other defender had been signed, it’s unimaginable to picture this Liverpool side without the Dutch oak tree in the backline.

Van Dijk would get to swap a relegation battle for Champions League knockout football; an impotent attack for playing with Salah, Firmino and Mane; St. Mary’s for Anfield. Oh, and, one would imagine, a tidy pay raise. 

A seemingly unimportant detail, as far as that Liverpool would have still done the deal when they did without it, the fact that van Dijk was eligible to play in the Champions League. Rare is the huge-money January signing with the eligibility to play in Europe, because these huge-money signings usually come from other clubs that at least qualified for the Champions League group stages.

But now Liverpool won’t need to rely solely on Joel Matip and Lovren when lining up against Europe’s elite in the Champions League knockout stages.

January 5: Van Dijk scores winner against Everton on his debut

Song: “Fixing a Hole”

Lyric: “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in / And stops my mind from wandering where it will go”

Van Dijk looked every bit of the player Liverpool paid for on his debut– and more. The Dutchman is the rare centre back who has been manifested across generations: he’s the big, mean, no-nonsense defender mixed with the modern defender, where great emphasis has been placed on how a defender attacks rather than how a defender defends.

Unlike loads of centre backs at top clubs– think John Stones-types– he never lost his ability to defend. Crazy, isn’t it, that far too often clubs are too concerned with what a member of the backline does to create goals than to thwart them?

Van Dijk’s debut was a storybook narrative. Too good to be true, it seemed. A defender scoring on his debut? A game winning goal just before the final whistle? At home? In a knockout competition? In a derby?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes, thank you very much.

January 6: Liverpool and Barcelona agree £142m Philippe Coutinho fee

Song: “Anna (Go To Him)

Lyric: “You come and ask me, girl / To set you free, girl / You say he loves you more than me / So I will set you free / Go with him

Klopp tried his hardest to hold onto Coutinho, but it wasn’t to be. He let him leave to a longtime suitor.

Coutinho long had been giving the eyes to Barcelona. His top mate Neymar had long been courting him through the media and, poetically, it was Neymar leaving that created the need and bottomless pit of money to make the deal a reality.

Well, it also needed Coutinho’s full compliance to become a reality.

The way he handed in a transfer request a day before the Premier League season started in August. The way he had a ‘back injury’ that ruled him out until the summer transfer window closed, but miraculously healed itself on a plane to Brazil for international duty. The way that back injury didn’t once bother him between September 1 and December 31, but when the transfer window re-opened, all of a sudden it flamed back up.

Klopp had seen enough.

Losing Coutinho would hurt Liverpool’s depth, but there was enough quality in the starting XI to persevere. He just had to hope, desperately, that Firmino, Mane and Salah would remain fit through the rest of the season.

Let this be an important lesson, kids: The taxman always wins in the end.

January 13: Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City

Song: “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”

Lyric: “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, life goes on! / La La how the life goes on”

Who needs Coutinho anyway?

While whatever happens in the Champions League Final will be more important than any league game in January, Liverpool’s 4-3 bollocking of City is the result of the season.

Guardiola brought the all-conquering, undefeated Manchester City into Anfield and saw them  gegenpressed right back to Manchester. It was an elevating result. It was three points but really much more valuable than three points.

Without Coutinho, Liverpool still tore through City. All doubts were allayed and it showed, as always, life goes on.  

January 14: Klopp announces Loris Karius is his new no. 1, leaving Simon Mignolet on the bench

Song: ‘The Walrus’

Lyric: “I am the walrus / goo goo g’joob”

After Karius helped guide Liverpool to their 4-3 win over City, Klopp announced the German would be his undisputed no. 1 for the rest of the season.

The lyric needs no further explanation; it is clearly about Mignolet.

February 14: Liverpool tear through 5-0 Porto

Song: “Eight Days a Week”

Lyric: “I ain’t got nothin’ but love, baby, eight days a week”

What better Valentine’s Day present could Liverpool have possibly given their fans than a 5-0 thrashing of Porto? Liverpool being drawn against Porto was kind fate, but one that the team earned by topping their group. They were supposed to advance, but nothing is ever a certainty.

However, Liverpool certainly were NOT supposed to travel to Portugal and wipe Porto off their own pitch 5-0, ending the tie in 90 minutes on Valentine’s Day. Salah and Firmino each scored while Mane thumped home a hat trick. It was one of those Mane-dominated games fans had been waiting for since September.

For most of the season, Salah had lead the lines. When he didn’t, it was Firmino. Mane, who had carried the team the season prior, would surely catch unplayable form at some point, right?

And what a time to do so.

Now, Liverpool could fully rely on their mercurial attacking triumvirate as the team chased Champions League qualification in the Premier League, and Champions League glory through the knockouts.

April 4: Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-0 in leg one of the Champions League quarterfinals

Song: “Helter Skelter”

Lyric: “I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you / Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer / You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer / Look out! / Helter Skelter”

All it took was 31 minutes.

Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mane scored to give Liverpool a three-goal cushion over Manchester City, all in 31 minutes.

Then, which was even more shocking than storming out to a 3-0 lead against one of the best Premier League teams ever, Liverpool held firm to keep a clean sheet, depriving City of the ever-valuable away goal.

Salah performed when his team needed it most; Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal was from distance, just as it was when Liverpool beat City in the league; Mane smashed a rocket into the top corner minutes after hitting the post. It truly was a tidal wave, if only tidal waves had a sea of fans screaming it on.

Onto The Etihad six days later, with a golden opportunity to put Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

April 10: Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool

Song: “Norwegian Wood”

Lyric: “And when I awoke / I was alone, this bird had flown / So I lit a fire / Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?’

Liverpool lit a fire at The Etihad.

Definiantly refusing to crumble after a disastrous start, as Gabriel Jesus made an entire fan base collectively take a deep, uneasy, jittery breath with a second minute goal, Salah and Firmino pushed Liverpool into the semifinals.

As the traveling Kop went in party mode before the final whistle, an earlier-respectable crowd had begun to vacate seat after seat. By the end of the game, the crowd at The Etihad looked… well, it looked like it normally does for any other home game.

April 24: Liverpool 5-2 Roma

Song: “Happiness is a Warm Gun”

Lyric: “Happiness (is a warm gun) / Bang, bang, shoot, shoot”

Bang, bang, shoot, shoot: Liverpool nearly evaporated Roma.

After 68 minutes, they were in the same position as they were against Porto: up 5-0 in leg one. Liverpool could see their breath on the Champions League final.

As it had been all season, Salah, Firmino and Mane scored all the goals. Of course they did. Henderson and Wijnaldum were masterful, as was Milner. Every facet of the team were performing at their peaks. No side on Earth can beat Liverpool when they’re in that form.

Fans on top of a Police van and flares being let off before the UEFA Champions League, Semi Final First Leg match at Anfield, Liverpool.
Fans on top of a Police van and flares being let off before the UEFA Champions League, Semi Final First Leg match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Second leg be damned, flights to Kiev were bought.

But, the very most Liverpool thing of all, they allowed Roma back in the tie with two late goals. The second leg would remain relevant, but Liverpool would get over the line and book a place in the final against Real Madrid.

April 21-May 6: Liverpool stumble against West Brom, Stoke and Chelsea with Top 4 in the balance

Song: “Yesterday”

Lyric: “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away / Now it looks as though they’re here to stay”

Liverpool, forever and always, are gonna Liverpool. A win against either of two relegation-bound side would have sealed Champions League qualification. Or, a point against 5th-place Chelsea.

After progressing through the Champions League group stages undefeated, dusting away Porto and Manchester City then opening up a five-goal lead against Roma, it wouldn’t be an unfair assumption that maybe, just maybe, Liverpool have turned a corner and learned how to professionally take care of business. Any one of those three results would do.

Nope.

After dropping a two-goal lead to West Brom, failing to score against Stoke at Anfield and failing to get a point at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool’s participation in the 2018/19 Champions League is still unconfirmed.

Now, they could use a win against Brighton in their final league match or will need a win against Madrid in the final. Two much different routes.

May 13: Liverpool beat Brighton 4-0, securing Champions League qualification

Song: “Do You Want To Know A Secret”

Lyric: “Let me whisper in your ear / The words you long to hear / I’m in love with you”

Last season, Liverpool found themselves in the same situation heading into the final day of the Premier League season: win, at Anfield to secure Champions League qualification for the following campaign. This season, just as last, they performed fantastically, and professionally, to get the job done.

After stumbling against West Brom, Stoke and Chelsea, they got after Brighton from the opening whistle. The scoreline flatters Brighton, too; there were multiple penalty shouts not given and a few wholly suspect decisions by Mane that cost the side goals.

Even better; Salah broke the 38-game Premier League record for goals in a season. He had entered the game tied with Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez on 31 goals and got his 32nd at Anfield.

A truly fanatical season by Salah, with one final act to go.

May 26: Champions League Final

Song: “Here Comes The Sun”

Lyric: “Little darling it’s been a long cold lonely winter / Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here”

All that’s left of this most exhilarating campaign is for the orchestra to reach its crescendo: The Champions League Final. In Kiev on May 26, as you may have heard, there will be a big football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Liverpool, European royalty, have not been in the final since 2007 when they lost to AC Milan. The last time they lifted the trophy was in 2005, beating AC Milan. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter since they last reached these heights.

It’s not just the final that will have had fans excited. The results against Porto, Manchester City and Roma have been plenty for a fanbase that has suffered through years of not even reaching the tournament, let alone producing moments that will last a lifetime.

Next season, Liverpool will be back in the competition. The hope is that will be an occurrence every single year until Klopp no longer is punching the air on the Anfield touchline. Win or lose, the Champions League Final, and the days leading up to it, should be a celebration. Win or lose, what an incredible season.

When the sun rises and sets in Kiev on May 26, hopefully Jordan Henderson will be rising and setting his hands on the biggest prize in club football: The Champions League trophy.

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Tom Bogert

A fan of repetitive disappointment and frustration, I hold Liverpool and the New York Red Bulls near and dear to my heart.