Liverpool’s new era officially starts now and anything other than a top four finish in the Premier League will be seen as a failure.
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Coming in midway through last season to rescue a rudderless ship left behind by Brendan Rodgers, it has taken new boss Jurgen Klopp quite some time to make this “his team” but the signs in preseason are promising.
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Klopp has even said it himself and says that this team is his. The charismatic German coach has shipped out 11 players and the additions of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum will add pace and power to their attacking midfield unit. After reaching the finals of both the Capital One Cup and Europa League last season, Klopp proved he can get his team to play as a unit and deliver his famous “full throttle” style of play.
Now it’s all about delivering that consistently and having an entire preseason, plus time on the training ground during the season with just the PL games and domestic cups to worry about, means Klopp will be fully judged on this season.
Without European soccer, Liverpool will challenge for the title: This assertion is being made due to Liverpool making a title run the last time they were without the rigors of either the UEFA Europa League or Champions League. With so many teams in transition (Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United) Klopp actually has a head-start on all of the new managers arriving this summer.
Most likely it’ll be a top six finish and a slight push for the top four: Liverpool have a very, very tough start to the season. They face Arsenal, Leicester, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United in their first eight games. If they get off to a poor start, pressure will be on. New goalkeeper Loris Karius broke his hand in preseason, plus defensive issues haven’t really been addressed in the offseason which remains the biggest concern.
Best Possible XI
—– Mignolet —–
— Clyne — Lovren — Sakho — Moreno —
—– Henderson —–
Mane — Coutinho — Wijnaldum — Firmino
—– Sturridge —–
Transfers in: Sadio Mane ($45 million, Southampton), Georginio Wijnaldum ($30 million, Newcastle United), Joel Matip (Free, Schalke 04), Ragnar Klavan ($5.6 million, Augsburg), Loris Karius ($6.2 million, Mainz 05), Alex Manninger (Free, Augsburg)
Transfers out: Jordan Rossiter ($333,000, Glasgow Rangers), Kolo Toure (Free, Glasgow Celtic), Jose Enrqiue, Samed Yesil (Both released), Joao Carlos Teixeira ($330,000, FC Porto), Jerome Sinclair ($6 million, Watford), Jordon Ibe ($20 million, Bournemouth), Brad Smith ($8 million, Bournemouth), Martin Skrtel ($6.6 million, Fenerbache), Joe Allen ($17.3 million, Stoke City), Sergi Canos ($3.3 million, Norwich City)
Last season: An eighth-place finish was disappointing but Liverpool did flirt, albeit briefly, with a top four finish. Klopp’s side lost in both the Europa League and Capital One Cup final but too many defensive mistakes cost them any chance of salvaging their season after Rodgers was fired in October. Liverpool were not boring to watch as they poured forward in search of goals but left plenty of space in defense.
Star player: Daniel Sturridge – When he’s fit and on his game there’s no other Liverpool player who possesses the same individual quality as Sturridge. A lethal finisher who comes up with big goals in big games, Sturridge must stay healthy if Liverpool are to challenge for a place in the top four this season. The England international has a huge role to play and is now entering his prime. The entire Liverpool team is set up to get the best out of him. This is his team.
Coach’s corner: Klopp’s project is ticking along nicely but he’s not entering a pivotal period in his tenure at Anfield. An expectant crowd gave him a pass for last season. He arrived in October and without being able to bring in his own players or barely having any time to work with the team on the training ground to implement his new methods, progress was slow. Handed a new long-term contract this summer, the Fenway Sports Group obviously believe in his abilities. He has galvanized the fans and players together and he brings the whole package as a media presence and a master tactician. Now he must deliver success where it matters most: on the pitch.
PST predicts: Without European soccer, Liverpool could push for the top four. If you look at the teams who finished above them last season, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham will all be there or there abouts again. Leicester City, West Ham, Southampton all finished above Liverpool but could slip below them and then you have Chelsea, who surely won’t be as bad this season under Antonio Conte. Simply put: plenty of things will have to go right for Liverpool to finish in the top four and although they have the attacking players capable of achieving it, defensive frailties mean a top six finish is much more likely.