Now that I can finally sleep at night without having flashbacks of Loris Karius in Kiev its time to look to the future and if you’re a Liverpool fan it is certainly looking bright.
Since we are only a matter of hours away from kicking off our campaign against West Ham here’s a look at why there is a sense of renewed optimism around Anfield, and why it could finally “be our year”.
All fans want to see their team spend big in the transfer window as a signal of intent to their rivals but on some occasions, Liverpool could’ve been accused of buying players for buying players sake instead of targeting weak areas and sourcing quality replacements. Well that cannot be said this time around.
- Alisson Becker
Although you could say that Jurgen Klopp’s hand was forced with this one, the most notable signing for the reds this summer has been Brazilian shot stopper Alisson Becker, who we bought for an at the time world record fee of £67 million from AS Roma. The price Liverpool forked out for the keeper only highlighted how clubs could negotiate a higher price given Liverpool’s desperate need for reinforcements in this area. The addition of Alisson is clearly overdue considering the abysmal track record of Liverpool goalkeepers over recent years, which was highlighted none more so than Loris Karius’ performance in May’s Champions League final vs Real Madrid. Since then the German has looked completely shot of confidence and will surely have his spot as number 1 taken by the new arrival.
- Naby Keita
Despite a deal being agreed last year both Liverpool and Naby Keita have had to be patient before finally seeing him in a red shirt, and just to add to the excitement he will be wearing the famous number 8 shirt, last worn by arguably the club’s biggest legend, Steven Gerrard. Tough act to follow.
Personally, this is the signing which I am most excited about, despite being guilty of only seeing YouTube videos of Keita like most of us fans what I have seen is a player similar to N’golo Kante where he is not the most physically imposing but his ability to recover the ball in the middle of the park is second to none which is vital in Klopp’s high pressing system. But where he differs from the Chelsea man is in his attacking nous, having displayed an eye for a killer pass and even contributing with a goal or two. I believe that he will play a huge part if Liverpool are to achieve any success this year.
It is no secret that Liverpool do not struggle to score goals against anyone, but it is at the other end of the pitch that sees our undoing. Many have suggested that we need a robust central midfielder to do the so called “dirty work” thus allowing our front line to flourish even more. I can think of few players that fit that description more so than Fabinho, our other Brazilian signing this window. He is the kind of player that any successful team needs to have, you look at Casemiro for Real Madrid or Busquets for Barcelona, players that don’t receive the plaudits they deserve, and you only truly realise their value when they are not in the side. It is hoped that Fabinho will slot into that midfield three, occupying the space left by Emre Can who has now left for Italy, though Fabinho is far more defensive than Can which will presumably suit Liverpool better.
- Xherdan Shaqiri
The final signing was perhaps the shrewdest piece of business done by Liverpool in this window, with some suggesting that in today’s inflated market his £13 million price tag could’ve been as much as triple that. Xherdan Shaqiri was undoubtedly too talented to be playing in the championship and Stokes relegation alerted a whole host of clubs. I’m sure that Shaqiri is under no illusion that competition for places in his preferred position on the wings is incredibly high, with Mo Salah on one side and Sadio Mane the other. It has been suggested that he could be deployed in the number 10 role, a position that Liverpool were actively looking to fill during the window but missed out on their targets for whatever reason which could leave Klopp utilising what he already has at his disposal instead. He did his reputation no harm in pre-season putting in a number of impressive performances in particular against Man United where he set up a goal and scored an amazing overhead kick, even more impressive given it was only a brief cameo on his first outing for the reds. Any regular viewers of the Premier League will know that Shaqiri is often capable of the spectacular.
The Jurgen Klopp effect
We are now entering Klopp’s third full season as Liverpool manager, it has been a great journey so far but the big question mark that is beginning to loom over Liverpool and the German in particular is whether or not he can deliver silverware to Anfield for the first time since 2012. I am not suggesting that Klopp’s tenure would be over should he not deliver any trophies this campaign, it would however raise a few red flags behind the scenes given the faith that has been shown by the owners in terms of the funds and resources available at his disposal.
This Liverpool side is by far the most entertaining to watch in the league and that is largely down to Klopp and his footballing philosophy, even rival fans are enjoying watching Liverpool, although admitting it through gritted teeth.
Progress has been clear to see over the past couple of years having reached the final of both Europa League and Champions League since Klopp took over, but we have fallen short on both occasions, which leads me to think that surely it is only a matter of time before this immensely talented side start to win things as well as hopefully securing their place as the best team in England first the first time in my lifetime.
Klopp’s presence has also been quoted as being a huge factor in our new signings’ decisions to join the club and he has also managed to convince key players such as Salah and Firmino to commit their futures by signing long term deals to remain on Merseyside. In summary the Liverpool manager is hugely popular with all sections of the Anfield faithful, players and staff alike and long may it continue.
What does the 2018/19 season have in store?
As is always the case all of the teams immediately around Liverpool have invested heavily into improving their squads (except for Tottenham?!) which means that the league is by no means a forgone conclusion and it would be foolish to rule out any of the “big” clubs but obviously the team to beat is Manchester City. Guardiola’s side set the benchmark incredibly high last season and he is not the kind of manager to allow his players to take their foot off the gas. All teams will be chasing the Sky Blues and it will take a monumental effort to other throw them, but I believe if any team can then it should hopefully be Liverpool. Especially given that we showed on 3 occasions last season that were capable of matching City, and even beating them convincingly.
But the issue with Liverpool hasn’t been beating the teams around us, the challenge has constantly been about finding a formula to unlock teams who opt to “park the bus” against us, a conundrum that has cost vital points over the last few campaigns.
One season wonder?
A big part in last season’s successes was obviously the arrival of Mo Salah who set the league alight by scoring the most goals ever by a player in 38 game premier league season but despite this pundits are already writing it off as a fluke so here’s hoping that he has the bit between his teeth and continues in the same vain this term alongside Mane and Firmino who aren’t half bad either.
Although this will undoubtedly change over the course of the season for one reason or another, here is the strongest 11 I think we could field should we remain injury/suspension free:
Goalkeeper – ALISSON BECKER
Why spend so much on a ‘keeper for him to not be number 1?
Right Back – TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
The only scouser in the squad but my word what a player he is going to be!
Centre Back – DEJAN LOVREN
“One of the best Centre Backs in the world”
Centre Back – VIRGIL VAN DIJK
Is actually one of the best centre backs in the world.
Left Back – ANDREW ROBERTSON
Hull bought Kevin Stewart for the same price they sold Robbo for.
Defensive Midfielder – FABINHO
If utilised correctly could be in with a shout for player of the season.
Central Midfielder – NABY KEITA
You will struggle to find a blade of Anfield grass that he won’t cover.
Central Midfielder – ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN
Thank you, Arsenal.
Right Wing – MOHAMED SALAH
Striker – ROBERTO FIRMINO
So much more than just a striker.
Left Wing – SADIO MANE
Massively underrated last season, big, big player.
Klopp will no doubt sacrifice one of my selections for our captain Henderson, but I personally feel Chamberlain adds that little bit more although I would have no problem with Henderson starting. Our strength in depth within the middle of the park is brilliant with the likes of Milner, Lallana and Wijnaldum all ready to be called upon if required. Defensively we don’t have quite the same depth, particularly in the centre. If Lovren or Van Dijk were to get injuries then that would only leave us with Klavan, Matip or Gomez as obvious replacements.
As highlighted last year we look an entirely different team when Klopp brings off Salah so hopefully with the inclusion of Shaqiri we should continue to look assured even if the Egyptian has gone off.
As mentioned earlier, barring any injuries Alisson should have the goalkeeping position secured for the upcoming campaign.
Premier League – 1stFA Cup – 5th Round
Carabao Cup – Winners
Champions League – Quarter Final
Player of the Year – Roberto Firmino
Young Player of the Year – Trent Alexander-Arnold
Surprise package – Daniel Sturridge