The failure of Jurgen Klopp and his team to end an exciting season with a trophy means Liverpool have lost two finals this season, while their manager has now lost five in a row.
Ahead of a big summer for the Merseyside club, Sportsmail assesses just what Liverpool need to do if they are to move to the next level and challenge for major honours in 2016-17.
Strive for Consistency
This has been an intense and absorbing season for Liverpool and one that has certainly ended with the club and the team in better shape than when it started.
However, the numbers don’t lie.
Liverpool - despite benefiting from Klopp’s input from October onwards - finished eighth in the Barclays Premier League, behind West Ham, Southampton and the worst Manchester United team in living memory.
They took one point from relegated Newcastle and failed to beat Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Norwich at home. Klopp’s Liverpool have ridden on the back of adrenaline and emotion at times and when their high-tempo brand of pressing football has worked they have looked devastating. But their inconsistency has killed them and, just as in Basle on Wednesday, they have appeared very ordinary at times.
Klopp has averaged 1.6 points per game in the Premier League. His predecessor Brendan Rodgers averaged 1.5 this season. As another Liverpool manager once said, these are the facts.
Find Another Way
A lack of a Plan B has been Liverpool’s problem for a while. Rodgers never had one and Klopp does not appear to. Rickie Lambert was the first centre forward signed by Liverpool to give them an alternative route to goal while this season £32million Christian Benteke has been the elephant in the room.
Klopp’s football is brilliant to watch at times and nobody at Anfield would have him try to play any other way. Performances at Manchester City and at home to Manchester United and Villarreal showcased his methods at their best. There must be a way to play when the plan isn’t working, though - especially in the Premier League when the most organised defences will attempt to smother artistic players such as Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
Liverpool’s attempts to chase the game in the last 20 minutes in Switzerland were dismal. It is a puzzle that needs solving.
Get Rid Of Passengers
Whoever signs the players at the club needs a good summer. There have been successful purchases in recent years and that is why Klopp finds himself with such a talented and exciting base to work with. But Liverpool’s squad lacks depth and they must rectify this to take advantage of an uncluttered schedule and have a run at a Premier League title that should be a realistic target.
Klopp may face difficult conversations with some of the star players he already has. Some will not relish a season with no European football and will doubtless have their heads turned.
Next season Liverpool should benefit from the return to fitness of Danny Ings, who started the season brightly before suffering a serious injury, while young Belgian forward Divock Origi looks a real talent. There are passengers in Klopp’s squad, however, and that has undermined the progress the German has tried to make.
Stop Back Pain
Why did Leicester City win the Premier League? Because of Vardy and Mahrez? No. Because of Morgan, Huth and Schmeichel. The creative players always grab headlines and earn the big money and that’s fair enough. They are the ones people pay to watch. But it’s hard to win anything if you are porous and it was the consistent excellence of Leicester’s central defenders and their goalkeeper that saw them to glory this season.
Liverpool do not have that luxury. Their central-defensive pairing in Basle included 35-year-old Kolo Toure.
Everybody loves Toure, and the way he applied himself when injuries and suspensions catapulted him back into the team was marvellous. He is way past his best, however, while goalkeeper Mignolet will never be quite good enough to be relied upon at the top level. Clean sheets win cups and titles and deep down Klopp will know this.
We will not discuss Alberto Moreno here, by the way. Wednesday’s performance closed that argument once and for all and we can only hope he has started packing.
Keep Sturridge Safe
Much of what Liverpool achieved this season was achieved without their English centre forward.
Daniel Sturridge still remains fundamental to them and Klopp and his medical staff must find a way to keep him fit and firing next season.
Sturridge divides opinion with some of the things he says but his talent is enormous and more than good enough to build an attacking philosophy around.
At times since he returned to the team, the forward has looked as though he doesn’t quite trust his body. After so many injury problems and setbacks, that is understandable. Players have come back from worse, though, and Klopp has to restore the confidence and feeling of invincibility that all strikers need to perform at their best.
Sturridge’s goal at St Jakob Park on Wednesday was the highlight of a forgettable night for Liverpool and in some ways sums up his season: a moment of brilliance and light amid a fog of disappointment.
Original source: How Klopp can launch title charge