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Premier League preview: Liverpool were just warming up last season

Wednesday 8th August 2018

Despite finishing fourth for a second consecutive year, Liverpool must consider last season a disappointment. It certainly ended with heartbreak in the Champions League final.

Behind Manchester City, Liverpool were arguably the second best side in the top six. They played better football than the other four clubs, scored more goals and provided better entertainment. Yet, they still finished 25 points behind City, six behind Manchester United. Tottenham finished two points ahead in third.

Four new signings this summer combine for a £163 million outlay. Jurgen Klopp improved the squad drastically in key areas and closed the gap with the top two. Hopes are high at Anfield to see the moves pay off.

Managerial status

This season marks Jurgen Klopp’s third full campaign in charge. The pressure is on to deliver trophies. Last season’s Champions League final gave fans and the board a taste of past success.

The German is not in danger of being sacked should things go awry. The board clearly believe in their man. They've proved it by spending in a manner even the man himself didn't anticipate. The Kop adores him, too. Virtually every soul laps up his positive attitude and wild touchline passion by the ladleful. They fully believe he is the right man for the job. To complete the love triangle, his players have bought into his methods since day one. There are no non-believers inside the wrought-iron gates. 

With all of that, there is a firm belief this is the best chance Liverpool have to win the title in decades and the burden It lies on Klopp’s shoulders to deliver on his squad's potential.

Transfer business

Liverpool’s summer shopping spree took many by surprise. Few would have predicted the Reds leading the Premier League spending race.

Fabinho improves their defensive midfield options, offering an upgrade and replacement for the departed Emre Can. Naby Keita finally arrived from RB Leipzig, providing Klopp with his ideal box-to-box midfielder. He too is an upgrade on the existing options.

The biggest upgrade came in goal, however. Every man and his parakeet know Liverpool fell short between the sticks in recent years. Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius’ struggles were plain and painful to watch.

Alisson's capture was the puzzle's missing piece. The former Roma goalkeeper ranks among the best in the world and solves a major problem that has haunted the Reds since Pepe Reina started showing his age.

Xherdan Shaqiri does not fall into the same category, but at £13 million, the Swiss is a solid second option who will allow Klopp to rotate.

Nearly all Liverpool's issues were resolved in this transfer window. They still lack a replacement for Philippe Coutinho and a better partner for Virgil Van Dijk but those are not major issues. Other than Emre Can, only squad players such as Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Simon Mignolet could depart. Even so, this will remain the strongest Liverpool squad for quite some time.

Core group

Alisson, Van Dijk, Fabinho, Keita, Sadio Mane, Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino are the seven key players in this team, quite literally its spine. They represent the foundation for Klopp's further success. Three are new signings and therefore locked in for several seasons. There is no reason for the others not to renew. They won't find a better situation anywhere, not even Barcelona or Real Madrid. Prying any away from Anfield is going to be an extremely difficult process.

Youth players 

With such a quality squad at Liverpool, chances for the youngsters are at a premium. The summer spending has made that even more an issue. Consequently, Ben Woodburn has been loaned out to Sheffield United and Sheyi Ojo appears likely to follow.

Marko Grujic may get his chance should he stay and Trent Alexander-Arnold is poised to build on his impressive first season. Beyond those two, though, the prospects are poor for young stars looking to make their mark.

Outlook

This season is a defining one for Liverpool Football Club. They have a manager in whom they believe who now has a squad that should be challenging on all fronts. 

Their summer business has strengthened every key area, adding a world-class goalkeeper and two highly-rated central midfielders to an already lethal attack. The Reds are title contenders. Anything other than the Premier League crown must be considered a failure.

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Sean Lunt

Football journalist working in the North West mainly covering Everton and Liverpool but with musings on anything football related. 


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