De Futebol Liverpool Season Preview

Let’s take a look at the upcoming Liverpool season.

The Guardians Andy Hunter:” Jürgen Klopp has spent big to address the weaknesses exposed in the Champions League final and the squad looks well equipped to challenge Manchester City for the title.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 2nd (NB: this is not necessarily Andy Hunter’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position: 4th

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 4-1

Jürgen Klopp did not rise to José Mourinho’s assertion that there is “a demand” on Liverpool to challenge for the title for two reasons. One is that he finds Mourinho’s age-old attempts at mind games amusing and an established part of the Premier League show. The other is that he fully accepts the demand to furnish his Anfield reign with silverware this season. Having invested over £170m in a squad that reached the Champions League final three months ago, Klopp cannot and does not shy from an expectation he has created.

“It is the next step,” the Liverpool manager admitted, before his Manchester United rival spoke of Klopp’s U-turn on heavy spending and the pressure to deliver Anfield’s first league title since 1990. Klopp is more equivocal on what might constitute “the next step”. More points, more outstanding performances and an improvement on last season’s fourth-placed finish would all represent evidence of sustained progress, he has explained. But the Liverpool manager knows his third full season will be measured by trophies and providing the strongest challenge to Manchester City’s title defence. “I am really looking forward to the season,” he said. The enthusiasm is shared by all at Anfield.

A formidable obstacle stands in the way of Liverpool and that elusive 19th league championship. It is the team they have beaten three times in competitive fixtures this calendar year: Pep Guardiola’s champions. City’s hopes of an unbeaten league campaign and first Champions League triumph were both shattered by Liverpool last season, the latter courtesy of a 5-1 aggregate defeat in the quarter-finals, yet they finished 25 points clear of Klopp’s side, winning the title by a record 19-point margin and becoming the first team in English top-flight history to reach 100 points.

A dramatic regression on the champions’ part and progression on Liverpool’s is required to stop City becoming the first club to retain the Premier League title since United in 2008-09. It is testament to Klopp’s rebuilding work since October 2015, last season’s exhilarating run to the Champions League final and a productive summer in the transfer market that his squad appear supremely well-equipped to honour their side of the deal.

No Premier League club has spent more in the close season than Liverpool who, with the £75m acquisition of Virgil van Dijk in January, have invested £250m in Klopp’s squad in 2018. They also sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January for a fee that could rise to £142m. Record investment levels bring no guarantee of success but the areas strengthened, combined with the club’s recent track record on transfers under Klopp, the sporting director, Michael Edwards, and the scouts Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows, fuel already lofty ambitions.

A dramatic regression on the champions’ part and progression on Liverpool’s is required to stop City becoming the first club to retain the Premier League title since United in 2008-09. It is testament to Klopp’s rebuilding work since October 2015, last season’s exhilarating run to the Champions League final and a productive summer in the transfer market that his squad appear supremely well-equipped to honour their side of the deal.

No Premier League club has spent more in the close season than Liverpool who, with the £75m acquisition of Virgil van Dijk in January, have invested £250m in Klopp’s squad in 2018. They also sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January for a fee that could rise to £142m. Record investment levels bring no guarantee of success but the areas strengthened, combined with the club’s recent track record on transfers under Klopp, the sporting director, Michael Edwards, and the scouts Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows, fuel already lofty ambitions.

In signing Naby Keïta, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson the Liverpool manager has addressed longstanding concerns about his squad’s ability to make that next step. Those concerns – goalkeeper, midfield and strength in depth – were all exposed on the unforgiving stage of the Champions League final in Kiev.

Keïta was secured from RB Leipzig 12 months ago for an eventual fee of £52.75m, a club record at the time. Liverpool paid a premium over his £48m release clause to beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich to the midfielder’s signature. Early impressions suggest Keïta is worth the wait. The quality of his distribution is as impressive as his strength and movement in the centre of midfield.

Such dynamism was lacking towards the end of last season when Liverpool were stretched to the limit by injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Emre Can. Oxlade-Chamberlain is unlikely to feature this season as he recovers from multiple knee ligament damage. Can’s free transfer to Juventus is more of a financial setback to Liverpool.

Fabinho brings more European experience and title-winning pedigree from Monaco, where he played as both a defensive midfielder and right-back. Klopp has deployed the Brazilian in midfield during pre-season and admits that the £43.7m signing needs time to adapt to Liverpool’s style. His arrival increases the competition on Jordan Henderson, whose requests for an early return to pre-season training after the World Cup were rejected.

Of the outfield signings only Shaqiri arrives with question marks following criticism of his work-rate during Stoke City’s losing fight against relegation. For a £13m release fee, however, it is worth seeing how he responds to a manager who does not indulge individuals. When Klopp looked at his options to replace Salah in Kiev he had a choice of Lallana, who was not match fit, or Dominic Solanke. That is why Shaqiri makes sense. His ability to play across the front-line improves the manager’s game-changing options considerably. How he adjusts to not having a guaranteed starting role is the more pertinent question.

It is in goal, of course, where Klopp has made the most important and long-awaited change. The optimism would be laced with nagging doubt had Liverpool approached the season with Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet still vying for the No 1 spot. Instead the jersey belongs to Alisson, the most expensive goalkeeper in the world at £65m from Roma.

Liverpool first inquired about the Brazil international’s availability in January and were immediately dismissed. They were then quoted £90m in May, £75m in June and stalled their pursuit until Roma indicated there was room for negotiation. By then Karius had made a weak start to pre-season, although Klopp has since confirmed that victory in the Champions League final would not have been enough to divert his gaze from Alisson.The 25-year-old did not make one mistake that led to a goal against Roma in the league last season. A save percentage of 79.3% was bettered only by Jan Oblak of Atlético Madrid (82.7%) and David de Gea (80.3%), while his excellent distribution – a quality both Mignolet and Karius lack – promises to quicken Liverpool’s attacking play. Should Alisson prove as successful as Liverpool’s last purchase from Roma, there will be a solid foundation to the anticipated title challenge.

Klopp’s confidence is based not only on new faces. Targets have been secured early, unlike last year when he was forced to delay deals for Keïta and Van Dijk. There has been no uncertainty surrounding the future of key players with Salah and Firmino both committing to new five-year contracts and Sadio Mané expected to follow suit. Salah and Firmino have doubled their weekly wage to around £200,000 while Liverpool will proceed with a new £50m training complex at Kirkby. The club is investing in the long term.

Salah has looked fit and a class apart in pre-season and youngsters like Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho have seized their opportunities to impress. The only hiccup of the summer was the aborted £53m move for the Lyon playmaker Nabil Fekir. Regardless, the range and quality of options now available to the Liverpool manager are the strongest Anfield has witnessed for some time. The demands have increased also. Klopp has no problem with that.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/aug/06/premier-league-2018-19-preview-liverpool