With the new season of the English Premier League set to kick-off on August 18th, Sportskeeda takes a look at each of the prospective contenders for the Champions League spots and the EPL title, starting with fallen behemoths Liverpool FC.
Liverpool FC have been in a rut as of late, with the club going through their worst patch in years with finishes of 7th, 6th and 8th in the last three seasons, ever since the departure of the talismanic Xabi Alonso. Alonso’s exit heralded a mass exodus to come in the following years with many influential players such as Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Meireles departing from the club, in addition to the exit of Liverpool’s greatest modern-day manager, Rafael Benitez. Ever since 2009, Liverpool have been struggling for form, and this season former Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers will attempt to do what Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish failed to do.
The worst season ever. Period.
Liverpool started the season brightly enough, with a 2-0 win at the Emirates in Week 2, a ground where they had never won before. Despite 9-man Liverpool being drubbed 4-0 at White Hart Lane, Liverpool were still in contention for a Champions League place, until Lucas Leiva suffered that horrific injury during the League Cup win at Chelsea, resulting in him being sidelined for the rest of the season. It would go on to be the turning point of Liverpool’s season.
Progress was made in the Cups, with the League Cup being captured after beating Cardiff City on penalties, and many expected the win to reinvigorate the Merseysiders’ European ambitions. But the suspension of Luis Suarez, the injury to Lucas, and the lumbering figures of Henderson, Downing, Carroll et all saw Liverpool falter miserably in the league, losing 8 of their first 12 matches in the new year and all but saw the Reds out of the Champions League spots come April.
Liverpool would finish the season on a whimper, meekly losing out to Chelsea in the FA Cup final and finish a mediocre 8th, their lowest finish in 18 years and the King got the boot the following week.
Liverpool signed the promising 21-year old Roma striker for a fee of about £10.5 million. The striker, renowned for his pinpoint accuracy and finishing skills, scored 9 goals in 24 games last season for Roma. The former Swansea City and Chelsea poacher has worked with Rodgers at both those teams before, and is a definite improvement on the big log that is Andy Carroll and will effortlessly blend into the ‘tiki-taka’ game that Rodgers will look to implement.
The 39-year old Northern Irishman looks to be Liverpool’s best signing in recent memory, with his young, vibrant, and energetic style, as well his excellent philosophy, earning him the nod of FSG ahead of other contenders such as Andre-Vilas Boas and Roberto Martinez. Only time will tell if Rodgers can match the standards of the fabled ‘Boot Room’, and his signing of Borini has put him on the right track. Joe Allen seems to be edging ever closer to Anfield, and hopefully Rodgers can lead Liverpool back to the promised land.
As mentioned, Joe Allen seems set to sign for Liverpool, with Clint Dempsey too expected to sign for the Reds.
We should expect Liverpool to struggle initially, as they come to grips with the new manager’s system. We can expect attacking football, football that pleases the naked eye, and a system which can exploit the full potential of Luis Suarez.
Young promising stars such as Raheem Sterling and Suso will probably be given more game time, and young defender Martin Kelly will push No. 1 right-back Glen Johnson hard for the chance of becoming a regular starter.
Joe Cole will be given a second chance, unlike the unfortunate Alberto Aquilani, but I don’t expect much from him, as he seems to be well past his sell-by date.
Without a doubt it’s the Uruguayan live-wire, Luis Suarez, who will be the main man for the Red Army. After immediately bursting to life in his debut season in the EPL (remember United getting destroyed at Anfield?), Suarez seemed to apply the brakes last season. It started off brightly, but the former Ajax striker developed an unhealthy obsession for the woodwork (along with Stewart Downing), and his momentum derailed almost completely after his return from suspension, influenced by Liverpool’s apathetic form.
His showing against FC Gomel last night was a vintage Suarez performance, with his running, trickery and overall play overwhelming the opposition, enabling Fabio Borini to score on his Anfield debut in a 3-0 victory.
I expect Liverpool to deploy 4-3-2-1 formation with an unchanged back-five of Reina, Johnson, Agger, Sktrel and Enrique, providing Agger and Skrtel stay at Liverpool. Kelly will provide back-up to Johnson, Jack Robinson to Enrique, and Sebastian Coates and Jamie Carragher to the centre-backs.
Lucas would sit in front of the back-four, mainly to provide cover to the defence and break-up opposition attack. Before his season ending injury, Lucas made 68 tackles with an exceptional 76.47% success rate, far better than any other Liverpool player. Steven Gerrard will have the freedom and the license to roam, but wouldn’t be placed as advanced as he would like, and his game will revolve around ball retention. Joe Allen will start next to Gerrard if he signs, otherwise Henderson will get the nod ahead of the frustrating Adam and the inexperienced Shelvey.
Luis Suarez will in all likeliness, play behind the main target man with his role drifting around in the area. He will be the focal point of Liverpool’s attack. If signed, Clint Dempsey should slot into the left-wing role, with Craig Bellamy and Stewart Downing being his chief opposition for the role.
Fabio Borini and Andy Carroll will slug it out for the starting berth, and I expect Borini to be given the nod.
Anything below that will be considered a failure by the Liverpool faithful and the owners. Challenging for the title is most definitely out of the question, and the Merseysiders will hope to continue their excellent cup form and will challenge for the Capital One Cup, FA Cup and the Europa League.
Rodgers will look to bring at least one title to Merseyside, and expect Liverpool to challenge for the 4th spot until the very end.
In conclusion, I believe that Liverpool will impress this season, and despite heavy squad reinforcements by the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, one can foresee a scenario where Liverpool are back in the Champions League again.