Opinion: Liverpool FC - this is their year
"Next year is our year."
This is a phrase every football fan loves to associate with Liverpool FC. Over the past few years, the Merseyside club have come close to lifting the title, but The Reds have always missed out.
From Gerard Houllier to Jurgen Klopp, all were expected to bring the Premier League title back to Merseyside, but it hasn't happened till date.
Brendan Rodgers and his boys came agonizingly close in the 2013-14 season with Luis Suarez tearing the Premier League apart. But it was not to be as The Reds lost the title to Manchester City by a whisker due to the infamous yet poignant Steven Gerrard slip against Chelsea.
There were big expectations from the man who succeeded Rodgers. Jurgen Klopp brought in a lot of promise, and in the two and a half years he has been in charge, he has made Liverpool a force to be reckoned with.
Under his tenure, The Reds have reached three finals. Unfortunately, they were unable to win any of these which included a Champions League tie against Real Madrid in Kiev.
Even if Liverpool defeated the Premier League Champions in the quarter-final of the same tournament, even if they play perhaps the most scintillating football in the whole of Europe, without any silverware - all is for nothing.
But Klopp intends to change this in the 2018-19 season. The charismatic German has gone out of character by splashing the cash in the transfer market like his fellow league rivals. The arrivals of the Guinean Naby Keita, the "Alpine Messi" Xherdan Shaqiri and the Brazilian duo of Fabinho and Alisson Becker have propelled them to become serious title contenders.
Jurgen Klopp's teams are not always the ones that active in the transfer window. But often, "The Normal One" has done some shrewd business which his clubs hugely benefit from.
The past couple of seasons, Klopp pulled off some steals as he brought in Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Wijnaldum, and many others who became important cogs in the team at a price less than £40 million each.
He also set out to remove the defensive vulnerability of his team by bringing in Virgil Van Dijk for an astounding £75 million, a world record by for a stopper. This season, he has further strengthened the midfield and defense, and also has added depth to the squad - this they lacked in previous seasons.
Naby Keita is a player who will fit perfectly in Klopp's high pressing system. The Guinean was brought in for an estimated £48 million with further add-ons. He averaged around 3.1 interceptions in 90 minutes last season for RB Leipzig.
He has the ability to quickly transit a team from defense to attack, this is decisive for a counter attacking team like Liverpool. He might not be the most creative player in the team, but often he provides defense splitting passes which the attacking trident of Liverpool can benefit from.
Although his disciplinary record is poor (he bagged four red cards last season), he is a dynamic player whose explosive runs can tear even the best defensive lines apart.
His electric performance against West Ham in the opening match shows exactly what he brings to the team, and clears the doubt about whether he is deserving of the number 8 jersey worn previously by Steven Gerrard, one of the greatest Liverpool players of all time. Keita is certain to become a favourite among the Anfield faithful this season and onward.
Out of the clear blue sky, Fabinho became the second signing of The Reds this transfer window. He was signed for an estimated £42 million with additional add-ons. The defensive midfielder was brought in as replacement for the departing Emre Can who was leaving for Juventus on a free transfer.
Starting as a right back, Leonardo Jardim promoted him to the defensive midfield role in the second half of the 2014-15 season for Monaco, this was decisive. He played a pivotal role in Monaco's title winning campaign of the 2016-17 season.
What Fabinho does best is regaining the ball from the opposition and complete the shift from defense to attack in a mere matter of seconds. The lanky Brazilian can also cover the right-back slot in case of an injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold or Nathaniel Clyne.
He also adds steel to the spine, and can push the full-backs further forward, relieving them of their defensive duties. Along with Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Adam Lallana, Fabinho completes a world class midfield unit.
Xherdan Shaqiri was a shining light in Stoke City's disastrous 2017-18 campaign which ended in relegation. He was one of the few positives in a horrendous season for the Staffordshire club.
He bagged 8 goals and became top scorer for The Potters. But this wasn't enough to lift them from the relegation spot, as they finished bottom of the table. For Liverpool, Shaqiri provides much needed depth in attack.
Although he might not be a player who suits Liverpool's style of dynamic attacking football, the depth he provides to the squad is something The Reds will need in the near future. The 26 year old Swiss is an absolute bargain for £13 million.
The 2017-18 Champions League final was one which every single Kopite was looking forward to. After 11 long years, Liverpool were in a Champions League final, and they could have attained European royalty status again possibly, if not for one woeful performance.
In the few matches that led to the finals, Loris Karius had somehow convinced everyone that he was deserving to be the first team goalkeeper. There were even some comparisons to David De Gea which seem hilarious in retrospect.
Karius committed two errors in the final, and both resulted in goals for Madrid. The terrible display by the German in the final proved to be the catalyst to bring in Brazilian Alisson Becker from Roma for £66 million, a record buy for a goalkeeper at that time.
After the departure of Pepe Reina, Liverpool have struggled to get a goalkeeper of world class stature. Since the Spaniard left the club and before Alisson arrived, they signed over 10 shot-stoppers including the likes of Adam Bogdan, Charles Itandje, Diego Cavalieri, Brad Jones, and many others who can be deemed as flops.
But the arrival of Alisson changes that. Dubbed as 'The Messi of goalkeepers' by Roberto Negrisolo (Roma's former goalkeeping coach), the Brazilian is one of the best in the world, and the Scousers can't hope for someone better than him.
It is guaranteed that Alisson will put an end to Liverpool's goalkeeping woes, and will boost them in the title contention picture.
With these signings, Liverpool is a club capable of defeating any team in the world. Although the gaffer was criticised for changing his opinion about big budget signings, he has done what is best for the club, and now they look set to knock City off the top of the table and reclaim their long lost league title.
There have been two Liverpool squads before this who were close to the title picture. The squads of 2007-08 and 2013-14. Both these squads had their respective strengths and weaknesses.
The former lacked pace up front, but were defensively solid, and the latter had enough pace in attack but was defensively vulnerable. It seems Jurgen Klopp has managed to combine the strengths of both these teams.
The current squad has one of the most dangerous attacking trios in the world, and one of the most formidable defensive units in the Premier League with Van Dijk at the helm and Alisson in goal.
This has been a time of fantasy for Liverpool fans, but lets not get carried away. A top of the table finish is still a humongous task. But there is hope now, more than ever. The trio of Salah, Mane, and Firmino tormenting the defense of numerous teams has become a household sight.
Since suffering a humiliating 6-1 defeat against Stoke during Steven Gerrard's last game in a Liverpool shirt, the Merseyside club has come a long way. With the current squad, the Premier League hoodoo can come to an end once and for all.
Allez! Allez!! Allez!!!