By 90Min
May 24, 2019

A lot of things have changed since May 2015. Donald Trump became president, Britain voted to leave Europe, two more Star Wars films happened, Game of Thrones went bad and Liverpool got good again. 

It's that last bit we're going to focus on, since we are four years removed from the day that really marked Brendan Rodgers' card at Anfield. A 6-1 (SIX-ONE) - defeat at Stoke City on the final day of the season ensured the Reds would finish sixth, one year after dramatically bottling the title race. The Northern Irishman would hold until October before being mercifully replaced by Jurgen Klopp, and things would slowly but surely begin to improve from there, swelling into the title-challenging Champions League finalists we have today. 

Here, we've compared the starting XIs between that defeat at Stoke to Liverpool's win over Wolves, to assess just how much progress has been made in the 48 months that have since passed.

GK - Simon Mignolet (2015), Alisson Becker (2019)

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Simon Mignolet is a rare survivor from the thrashing at Stoke, but it doesn't seem likely he'll be around for much longer. He's far from the worst player in the 2015 side, but compared to Alisson, no contest doesn't even cover it. 

21 clean sheets in his debut Premier League season really says it all about the Brazilian's influence on what was previously a shaky defence.

RB - Emre Can (2015), Trent Alexander-Arnold (2019)

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Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a revelation since stepping into the Liverpool first team a little over two years ago. His 12 assists in the Premier League this season represents the best total ever registered by a defender in a single season of the competition, and he has been a key part of a solid back line.

In 2015, Emre Can, one of seven natural midfielders on the pitch, played at right-back. Because why not? Oh yeah, the whole 6-1 thing.

CB - Martin Skrtel (2015), Joel Matip (2019)


Skrtel, to be fair, was actually a really good defender in his day. At the height of his powers, he'd probably compete with the likes of Matip, Dejan Lovren or Joe Gomez for a place at the heart of the defence - so he is by no means the clearest demonstrator of just how shambolic Rodgers' selection was here.

Matip, on the contrary, is probably the weak link in the Reds' current back line, despite the fact he has generally been solid since establishing himself at the turn of the year. That's a testament to just how good that defence has been. 

CB - Mamadou Sakho (2015), Virgil van Dijk (2019)

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Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahaha. Give me a second to recover here.

Do we even need words to describe the discrepancy here? Sakho, largely solid since leaving for Crystal Palace, was a human disaster at the back for Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk, on the other hand, has immortalised himself in just 18 months on Merseyside, won the PFA Player of the Year award in his first full season, and is just generally wonderful. 

Sakho was on the books for four years, but Van Dijk contributed more in his first month. 

LB - Alberto Moreno (2015), Andy Robertson (2019)

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It's mad to think that Moreno was keeping Robertson out of the team up until about 18 months ago. Having been left in the dust by the Scotland captain's scintillating performances this season, the Spaniard looks certain to leave for free this summer. 

He's not too bad a left-back, in fairness - a bit suspect defensively but about Liverpool's level back then - but that only serves to demonstrate the progress that has been made since. 

RCM - Jordan Henderson (2015), Jordan Henderson (2019)

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It's difficult to decipher what formation was actually played in the defeat at Stoke which I'll go back to pretending didn't happen after this. With no strikers, or actual wingers, anywhere to be seen, you'd guess it's a 4-3-3 with a couple of more-than-suspect positional choices. I'm certainly not watching the highlights to figure it out, out of fear, so this will have to do. 

Anyway, Jordan Henderson seems to have played in both matches, in a similar role as one of the more attack-minded midfielders. The perception of him is often that he is no longer good enough for a rapidly developing Liverpool midfield, and he probably will be before too long, but he works hard, doesn't hide, and rarely looks out of his depth.

Except when Stoke are running riot at the Britannia. 

CM -  Lucas Leiva (2015), Fabinho (2019)

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As we work through the list, it becomes clear that most of the actual players who took to the field for Liverpool back in 2015 weren't terrible. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple of howlers, and very few would make the starting XI today, even at their peak, but Lucas is another who was an excellent servant to the club and by all means a good player that struggled in a poor team. 

Fabinho, though, What a signing he has been. Rocky start aside, he is now established at the base of the midfield three, and it will take some effort to unseat him.

LCM - Joe Allen (2015), Gini Wijnaldum (2019)

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Joe Allen was possibly the clearest example ever that succeeding at a middling Premier League club - Brendan Rodgers' Swansea, at the time - does not necessarily translate onto the big stage. Allen's time at Anfield was short, sweet, and eventful for all the wrong reasons. 

One year later, Georginio Wijnaldum joined from Newcastle. He took some time to settle into an established role but is now a fixture in the midfield along with Fabinho when fit.

RW - Philippe Coutinho (2015), Mohamed Salah (2019)

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There seems to be a shared delusion among Philippe Coutinho's managers that he is a winger. I've no idea where it comes from but hope for his sake that it stops soon. 

He's a quality player but never seemed to truly fit under Klopp. Two-season wonder Salah is alright too, however. 

CF - Steven Gerrard (2015), Divock Origi (2019)

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Look, please don't shout at me. I didn't pick this. For some reason, Brendan Rodgers decided that for the last game of Steven Gerrard's glittering 17-year career - Steven Gerrard, one of the best midfielders of his generation, and a bonafide legend at Liverpool - he would play as a false nine. And he even scored, despite the obvious handicap. Brendan, come on mate.

In 2019, without Roberto Firmino, it was Divock Origi who played up top and didn't score. He only does that when all other hope is lost, it seems. And we love him for it. 

LW - Adam Lallana (2015), Sadio Mane (2019)

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Adam Lallana, on the wing. I despair. 

He would probably have had a good career at Liverpool, if injuries didn't totally ruin him, but he is never, no matter how you spin it, a winger. 

Neither is Sadio Mane, really. He's a forward, but unlike Lallana, he is devastatingly effective in Jurgen Klopp's system - as demonstrated by his joint custody of the Premier League golden boot. 

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