Liverpool’s preseason coverage has been overshadowed by a single event — the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for £75million in July. Most Liverpool fans will admit that the sale was of no surprise, and opinion has been pretty divided on the issue. He tied the all-time Premier League goalscoring record with 31 goals in that time, but also missed seven matches at the beginning of last season and would have missed many more this time around had he stayed. But Liverpool’s preparations have rightly been due to the loss of Suarez, both because of the money he brought in and the goals that he provided. The club’s triumphant return to the Champions League has become a key factor in the club’s transfer strategy as well, as the club will need strong squad players for those early season matches in Europe and the domestic cups to keep the starters healthy.
With that out of the way, where does Liverpool stand before the Premier League kicks off? A marquee attacking player has yet to be signed, but Rodgers and Liverpool have made a few solid signings in attack and midfield that should help reinforce an already excellent squad. Rickie Lambert, while at an advanced age, brings a wealth of experience and goals to act as a backup to Daniel Sturridge. The club still, however, need to sign a big-name striker to either partner or compete with Sturridge on the front lines. Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, and the hard-working Jordan Henderson all return on the back of a great season for each, and will be the key to Liverpool’s success this time around. New signings Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic should provide competition for those players and give Brendan Rodgers options off the bench. Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen had relatively good seasons last year, despite the former’s ill-timed mishap that all but sealed the title for Manchester City. Lucas Leiva’s injuries have made it hard for him to cement a place in the starting XI as of late, and the arrival of a young Emre Can won’t do the Brazilian any favors either. I expect to see Emre Can get some early chances to prove himself, and show why the club is obviously grooming him to take over for Gerrard in the coming years.
While it was Liverpool’s breathtaking attack that brought them to the threshold of the Premier League title, it was the club’s defense that bolted the door shut. A plethora of injuries kept Brendan Rodgers from having a consistent center back pairing, thus the back four never had the chance to achieve the chemistry needed for a successful defense. Ironically, Liverpool’s transfer business last summer consisted almost completely of defenders meant to solve this very problem. Mamadou Sakho was the only player to come out of that crop with any dignity left, and may indeed be a starter for the Reds alongside the excellent signing of former Southampton defender Dejan Lovren. The Croatian was phenomenal against Borussia Dortmund in the club’s final friendly, and could be the vocal, commanding leader that the back line hasn’t had since Jamie Carragher retired. The club’s senior fullbacks, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, have never been world-class, but they’ve basically “done the job” over the past couple seasons. Enrique is still coming off an injury that kept him out of the team most of last season, but academy product Jon Flanagan proved a more-than-adequate replacement. The signing of promising young left-back Alberto Moreno surely spells the end for Enrique, and should prod Flanagan to work even harder to replace the Spaniard. The club’s second fullback loan in as many seasons, Javier Manquillo looks to replace Glen Johnson, whose performances have failed to impress as of late.
Pepe Reina, a club favorite whose destiny was sealed last summer before his loan to Napoli, finally made a permanent move to Bayern Munich. It’s rumored that another goalkeeper will be brought in to challenge Simon Mignolet, who Brendan Rodgers considers a long-term project. Mignolet has slowly adapted to Brendan Rodgers’ style, and will hope to win over skeptics this season.
Many pundits have already predicted that Liverpool will fall back instead of building on last season’s success. But the club is used to being seen as the underdog; nobody expected them to go from seventh to competing for the title last year. Whether or not the club does what everyone thinks they should–pick up a marquee signing like Falcao, Reus, or Shaqiri–the players the club already has have the talent to go just as far, if not further, than the team did last year. The key to Liverpool’s season will be creating chemistry from front to back, hopefully forming a structured and disciplined back line and a potent, lethal attack.
IN: Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Lazar Markovic (Benfica), Javier Manquillo (loan, Atletico Madrid), Divock Origi (Lille)
OUT: Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace), Pepe Reina (Bayern Munich), Luis Alberto (loan, Malaga), Divock Origi (loan, Lille), Iago Aspas (loan, Sevilla), Andre Wisdom (loan, West Bromwich Albion), Brad Smith (loan, Swindon Town), Conor Coady (Huddlesfield Town)
Strengths: Creative attackers, quality defenders brought in, chemistry among attack and midfield, in-form striker in Daniel Sturridge, competition for midfield places
Weaknesses: Fresh defenders could need time to gel together, lack of sufficient backup or partners for Sturridge in attack, lack of clear-cut starter in defensive midfield
Final Position Prediction: 3rd
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