Catch-Up: L Is For… Liverpool, League Cup

Part eight of our whizz through the past three seasons takes us to L. Apologies to J and K, but I couldn’t find much of interest. Just for completion sake: Japan are ranked 30th in the world, with South Korea 35th, and both are off to the World Cup. Kim Jong-il’s lot are 103rd. Right, that’s out the way… L time!

The English Football League Carabao Coca-Cola Carling Capital One EFL Rumbalows Worthington’s Milk Cup Sponsored by Littlewoods. Last time we took a look at it, Arsenal came from behind to beat Championship side Reading.

Fresh from their success in the 2015 FIFA World Club Cup, Chelsea marched through to the 2016 EFL Cup Final with wins over Huddersfield, Newcastle, Manchester United, and Burnley. Wigan Athletic’s route to the Final came with victories against Barnsley, Arsenal, Bolton (where they were 0-2 down away from home, then scored three times in four minutes to win), Fulham, and Reading.

Chelsea were three-up inside half-hour at Wembley, before Wigan struck twice after the break to put them back in the tie, but an Aidan McGeady goal ten minutes from time gave Chelsea their third silverware of the summer.

Wigan would make the Final the following season too, where they’d face Everton. Crewe, Leeds, and Derby stood in their way, before Wigan knocked-out Arsenal for the second year in a row. They lost 0-1 at home to Sunderland in the Semi-Final First Leg, but won 2-0 in the North East to book their place at Wembley.

Like the Latics, Everton were also in their third-ever League Cup Final having also lost their other two. Walsall, Manchester United, Aston Villa, and Fulham were all dispatched at Villa Park, before squeaking through after extra time 5-4 on aggregate against Bolton.

The 2017 Final was decided by a solitary goal, with Tarik Elyounoussi striking in the opening ten minutes to give Everton their first trophy since the 1995 FA Cup and Charity Shield.

Newcastle met Stoke in the 2018 Final, the first time that either side had appeared in the match since the mid-70s. Newcastle’s route to Wembley took them past Cardiff, Burnley, Sunderland, and Arsenal. The first two ties both went to extra-time, before a 4-1 stuffing of arch-rivals at the Stadium of Light. Arsenal won 2-0 in Newcastle, but a stunning 4-0 win for the Magpies at the Emirates had them one game away from a trophy.

Stoke City battled past Oxford United, Nottingham Forest, West Ham, Fulham, and Manchester United to reach the Final, with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford booking their place in the showdown with Newcastle at Wembley. Juan Agudelo gave Stoke the lead after quarter of an hour, but an equaliser from 16 year-old Jimmy Salvin® took the game to extra-time.

Adam Campbell, transfer listed at Newcastle, won it for them just 85 seconds into extra-time with a thundering header at a corner to give the club their first major honour since 1955 (though they had won the Championship four times since).

I wasn’t going to include Leicester in this catch-up as they’re not in next season’s Premier League, but quickly realised that explaining how the “real life” 2016 Champions wouldn’t be there in 2019 needed an entry of its own.

Our last look at the league tables back in 2015 saw Leicester finish 4th in the Championship, but they lost to beaten-finalists Cardiff in the Playoffs. Another Playoff campaign followed in 2016 after a 3rd place finish, and the Foxes booked their place back in the top-flight with victory at Wembley.

Alas, it wasn’t a glorious return to the Premier League after twelve years away. The club won just five matches in their league campaign, finishing rock bottom on 22 points, some eighteen points behind 17th-place West Ham. Relegation cost Simon Grayson his job.

Back in the Championship this season, the Foxes couldn’t bounce-back under new boss Paul Jewell and they’ll spend another year in the second tier.

Liverpool finished 7th back in 2015 during a stinker of a season where Rafa Benítez was replaced by Eddie Howe before Christmas and the club miss-out on European football. Luis Suárez left for Barcelona for £14m, and the money was reinvested in Eduardo Vargas from Napoli, and Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

2015/16 started brightly, with Liverpool losing just twice in all competitions up to the end of November. The first came on the opening day away at Norwich, while the EFL Cup campaign was over at the last sixteen with a 0-5 home defeat by Manchester United.

A wobble came in January with the club losing five out of six, including FA Cup defeat at home to Reading, but form picked-up and the club finished 4th on the final day when victory instead of defeat at Manchester City would have sealed 2nd. Diego Contento arrived from Schalke in a £16m summer transfer, and Dennis Praet joined from Dortmund for £8m.

2016-17 started with the club overcoming FC Twente in the Champions League Playoffs to make the Group Stage, despite a First Leg defeat at Anfield. Galatasaray, Lille, and Valencia would await them. Liverpool drew all three at home, and lost all three away to finish bottom of the group.

Domestically, the club didn’t get off to a good start either with just ten wins on the board by the New Year, and Eddie Howe was dismissed in favour of Luis Enrique. They scraped to 5th place, meaning they’d have to go through the Playoffs to make the 2017-18 Europa League Group Stage.

£60m was spent in the summer of 2017 as the club brought in Alexander Merkel (Dortmund), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), and Lorenzo Crisetig (Inter) in substantial deals. UEFA’s draw was kind to the Reds, as Welsh side Bangor City were seen off 8-0 on aggregate, and Liverpool found themselves alongside Fenerbahçe, Partizan Belgrade, and Metalist Kharkiv.

Despite the significant summer outlay, results were inconsistent both domestically and on the continent. Despite progressing behind Fenerbahçe, a run of just one win in thirteen matches put an end to Enrique’s tenure at Anfield by December.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Rafa Benítez was appointed Liverpool manager for the third time in his career at Christmas 2017.

Alexander Merkel’s time at Anfield was cut short as the central midfielder was shipped off to Arsenal, and the money reinvested in Steven Caulker to shore up Liverpool’s leaky defence. Raheem Sterling also left the club after failing to score in 18 months, though Swansea were still happy to stump-up £11m for the 23 year-old’s signature.

Fiorentina and Shaktar Donetsk came and went in the Europa League, but Wolves and Sunderland ended the club’s domestic cup runs. Liverpool were drawn against Arsenal in the last eight in Europe, but did themselves no favours losing 0-4 at the Emirates before a draw at home. Arsenal would eventually go on to win their third successive Europa League.

Liverpool eventually finished 7th in the Premier League, with a good run of results under Benítez, but the damage was done before Christmas. With Newcastle’s FA Cup win, it will be a year without continental competition next season for a Liverpool side who are without a major honour since 2006.

RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.