Around two months ago Liverpool lost 3 – 1 to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final. It was a devastating night for Liverpool fans in Kiev, their star player, Mohamed Salah, was forced off with injury, Gareth Bale scored one of the best goals of his life, and Loris Karius, Liverpool’s goalkeeper, made two horrible errors leaving him more than a bit red faced.
Now that's what you call making an impact!! 🔥
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 26, 2018
However, the defeat has not appeared to dampen the spirits of Liverpool, rather it seems to have made the club more determined than ever to win their first Premier League title. They have been busy over the summer and there is now a huge amount of speculation about the team’s prospects for next season. Many believe that the 2018-19 season could be the one when Liverpool finally claim the title.
Here we take a look at some of the reasons for this, and examine whether it is hype, of if there is some truth behind the speculation.
A Strong Transfer Window
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 26, 2018
Liverpool have certainly been busy this transfer window and have brought in some exciting players. Naby Keita is busy training with his team, and while the Nabil Fekir deal fell through at the last minute, there has still been plenty of other noteworthy signing with manager Jurgen Klopp bringing in the likes of midfielder Fabinho, attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, and goalkeeper Alisson Becker. These three names alone are more than even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans would have been hoping for just a couple of months ago.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 26, 2018
There were fears before the transfer window opened that the World Cup and the early closure of the window this year would restrict what the team were able to do. However, Klopp has not let it get in his way in the slightest and certainly made the most of the time available.
There is no doubt that they have a far stronger squad coming into this season. The arrival of Fabinho and Keita should give them a completely new dynamic in midfield. Fabinho is very defensively minded and many have been calling for someone with his skills for a while, and Keita is one of the most talked about arrivals for a long while. Furthermore, Shaqiri will bring some much-needed depth in wide areas.
The record signing of Alisson for £67 million was a long time coming. The team were keeping a close eye on him last season and they had been told earlier in the year that the fee was around €90 million. It came down over time and Liverpool took advantage to try to fix one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. Following the Champions League final Loris Karius looked to have absolutely no confidence left, and the arrival of a big name such as Alisson should greatly bolster the team.
Klopp has done exceedingly well in this transfer window and plugged a number of gaps in the team. From that point of view, there is every hope that they have a real shot of winning the title.
Strengthening the Backup Team
Last year Mohamed Salah was Liverpool’s big star and one of the biggest problems in the Champions League final was that they could not cope as soon as he was injured and out of the game.
When Salah went off, Adam Lallana was forced to play for much of the game despite the fact that he had been ruled out through injury for much of the season. It is vital that the team have more players to call upon to avoid this situation in the future.
Fans have long complained that Liverpool have a fantastic first team, but very poor back-up options, and that this has resulted in them missing out on the title more than once. However, with the arrival of Keita, Shaqiri and Fahinho, they should now have far more options and each of these players have the potential to make significant contributions to games.
It seems likely that Keita and Fabinho will be starting in most games, but that would leave a number of excellent options on the bench such as Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Shaqiri may be a lower key signing than the other players, but many are expecting him to become an important part of the team, and a player that can make an impact against low-blocking teams.
Last season one of Liverpool’s biggest problems was that they could not finish games that they should have won. It is vital that the team become more consistent in its ability to finish off games and churn out strings of good results.
There has been improvement since Klopp took over and there is no doubt that this will continue. However, if they are going to be serious title contenders then they have to be more stable and build momentum around their big victories. Too often, they have defeated the big name teams only to lose to a lesser team the following week.
However, they now have a number of big names on board, and with Alisson filling their goal, there should be less concerns about conceding and losing matches that way. This in turn could result in far greater consistency.
As the writer Joanna Durkan of Liverpool fan site This Is Anfield wrote, “I think the biggest difference this season will be that ability to kill teams off. Liverpool dropped 14 points from winning positions last season, but I believe our summer business will be key to addressing our untimely lapses.”
What Is Still Lacking From The Team?
In January, Liverpool sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona and the team’s most obviously weakness at the moment is that they have still not replaced him.
Many thought that the Fekir deal was going to be replacement, but since it fell through there have been no other contenders. Furthermore, despite rumours that Liverpool are still trying to resuscitate the deal, there are also reports that Lyon’s club president Jean-Michel Aulas is refusing to budge and that they are not making any progress.
The lack of replacement for Coutinho is most likely due to Klopp taking his time, he is not one to rush, and if he cannot revive the Fekir deal, he is far more likely to experiment with the players he does have rather than panic buy another player.
Liverpool fans can also be reassured by the fact that Salah has signed a new contract, meaning that he will not be coaxed away by one of Europe’s other top teams looking for star signings. Furthermore, Sadio Mane is also expected to sign an extended contract in the near future.
Can Liverpool Overcome Manchester City?
Liverpool will no doubt approach this season with their characteristic determination and the belief that they can defeat last season’s champions.
Under Klopp, Liverpool have been evolving and they look like a far better team than they have done in a while. He clearly has a vision for the team, and he is working extremely hard to help them evolve to that point, both in training and through the transfer window.
Fans are truly starting to believe that after the last set of signings and last season’s successes, there is no reason why Liverpool should not be able to challenge for the title. They should be a more complete team this season, and well placed to seriously challenge Manchester City.
However, while fans believe this, it does not mean that it will actually be true. The team reached the Champions League final last season and then fell apart as soon as their star player was injured. They failed to build much momentum over the season, and lost numerous games that were theirs for the taking. All of this has to change if they are to have any chance of winning the league.
The Premier League requires a level of consistency from teams that most other leagues do not come close to and this consistency is incredibly hard to achieve. There is no doubt that Liverpool have the raw talent to build on last season and challenge the likes of Manchester City, but in the Premier League, there are no guarantees.
One needs just look at the betting odds for confirmation of this. Liverpool are at 9/2 to win the league, a long way behind the favourites Manchester City who are at 8/13. Furthermore, Liverpool are only just ahead of Manchester United, who are at 13/2, but they are all far ahead of Chelsea, who are at 11/1.
Nonetheless, it is a very exciting time to be a Liverpool fan, and everyone will be waiting to see what impact Klopp’s new signings will have on the way they play. There are just a few weeks to go now until we find out, and it promises to be a very exciting season indeed.