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aldo's verdict My heroes and villains of Liverpool's season as Klopp must ditch some big-name stars

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Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp managed to get the best out of his players when the team's form dipped mid-season

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp managed to get the best out of his players when the team's form dipped mid-season

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp managed to get the best out of his players when the team's form dipped mid-season

THE heroes and villains of Liverpool’s season have changed their identity over the course of a bizarre campaign – and big question marks now hang over a host of players in Jurgen Klopp’s squad.

I was at Anfield last Sunday to see Liverpool produce a minor miracle as they finished third in the Premier League and while we would all have been disappointed if we were offered that at the start, it was a reason to celebrate at the end of a traumatic campaign.

Injuries were a big factor in Liverpool’s problems and if Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip had played most of the games in the season, I’m pretty sure they would have got much closer to champions Manchester City.

Yet Klopp needs to be honest with himself and even though he is noted for being loyal to players, some in his Liverpool squad need to be moved on.

Here is my verdict on the players who lived up to their billing for Klopp this season and a few who were exposed when the tide turned against them.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Fabinho

This Brazilian took time to settle at Liverpool and there were question marks over whether he would make the grade in English football, but he has now firmly established himself as a key man for Klopp.

Fabinho is at his best in a central midfield role and that is where they need him to be every game next season, but he also showed he can also perform well at the heart of the defence.

When Van Dijk and Gomez were ruled out for the season in October, Fabinho stepped in and showed he could marshal the defence, but he was badly missed in midfield when he dropped back.

Overall, he played 42 games this season and was vital to keeping the team together when so many star names were in the treatment room.

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Nathaniel Phillips plugged a massive gap in the Liverpool back line

Nathaniel Phillips plugged a massive gap in the Liverpool back line

Nathaniel Phillips plugged a massive gap in the Liverpool back line

THE UNSUNG HERO - Nat Phillips

In adversity, heroes can emerge and that was certainly the story with Phillips.

He would never have got near Klopp’s first team if it were not for the injury crisis, but this no-nonsense centre-back has given the club a real dilemma as they look at their defensive options this summer.

As the Sunday World revealed exclusively back in March, RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate is on his way to Liverpool and I’m pretty sure Ozan Kabak would have been signed as well after he did a decent job during his loan spell from Schalke.

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Yet Kabak is returning to Schalke and I’m sure the form of Phillips is linked to that decision.

He is fantastic in the air and against teams like Burnley who play long ball football, he could be a great option to play alongside Van Dijk next season.

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 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold finished the season in style

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold finished the season in style

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold finished the season in style

FIGHTING BACK - Alisson Becker and Trent Alexander Arnold

While Alisson was inconsistent by his standards, you have to take into account the situation with the tragic death of his father back in Brazil.

He was at fault for conceding big goals in defeats against Leicester and Man City, but that goal against West Brom was crucial to the Champions League qualification.

As for Alexander Arnold, he will have learned a lot over the last few months.

We forget that this lad is only 22 and everything up to this season in his career has been positive, but he had to face some criticism this season and it was justified.

He made mistakes in the full-back position and while I feel he didn’t deserve to be dropped from the England squad by manager Gareth Southgate, he has faced big questions.

Trent fought back well in the final month of the season and I have no doubt that he will take lessons from his mistakes and prove himself to be the class act we all know he is.

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Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino were well off the pace for much of the season

Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino were well off the pace for much of the season

Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino were well off the pace for much of the season

MUST DO BETTER - Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino

I have written about Liverpool’s misfiring front three too often on the pages of the Sunday World in recent months and while they just about came good in the end, Mane and Firmino under-performed badly this season.

Mane’s two goals against Crystal Palace may have sealed the third place finish, but he missed so many chances over the course of the season and he was well off the boil for long spells.

Then we come to Firmino, who has been struggling for so long now that we cannot say he is out of form.

When I mentioned Liverpool should try to sign Harry Kane in my column last Sunday, it was to replace Firmino because Klopp’s team create so many chances and they are just not taking enough of them.

Mohamed Salah is not absolved from criticism here and even though he scored plenty of goals again, he missed far too many and all three must do better next season.

ON THE WAY OUT - Joel Matip, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi

Liverpool may need to sell some fringe players to fund the signing of new players this summer and for me, Keita is one of those who could be on the way out.

We all had high hopes for this gifted performer when he was signed from RB Leipzig and you can see that he has great skills when he gets into an attacking position, but you need more than that in English football.

Keita lacks pace and he doesn’t get back quickly enough when he loses the ball, which explains why Klopp has been reluctant to use him in high-intensity games.

I suspect Keita will head back to Germany, where his game may be better suited, and he won’t be the only player offered up for sale this summer.

I’d consider getting some money in for Joel Matip as he is too injury-prone and I’d also expect Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi to be up for sale because Liverpool need to get some top-quality players in to freshen things up.

THE MANAGER - Jurgen Klopp

WHEN all seemed lost, he somehow managed to pull it back and salvage something from the season.

I would question how Klopp allowed Liverpool to lose six games on the bounce at Anfield as that should never have been allowed to happen.

Yet when Leicester opened the door to a top four finish, Klopp galvanised his team, rode his luck at times and got them back into the Champions League.

Great managers are not held down for long and Klopp will be back next year with fire in his belly to correct the wrongs of this season.

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