Second place finish: 30 wins; 7 draws; 1 loss: 97 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah (22 goals)
Player of the Season: Virgil Van Dijk
Predicted Finish: First
After a relatively successful stint with Mainz in which he achieved promotion and then suffered relegation two years later, Jurgen Klopp signed a two-year deal with fellow German club Borussia Dortmund in 2008. Klopp proved to be a good fit for Dortmund winning the Bundesliga title in 2010/11, the domestic double (Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal) in 2011/12 and in 2013 he took them to the Champions League final which ended in defeat. Despite Klopp’s winning history, a lot has been said about his ability to win silverware as a manager of Liverpool having been to three finals with the club before last year, failing to win any of them. The EFL cup and Europa League finals were both lost in 2015 and in 2018, after a fairy-tale run, the Champions League final was lost 3-1 to Real Madrid.
Considering where Liverpool were as a club when Klopp took over you can’t argue with his continued progression. In the years preceding Klopp’s arrival Liverpool finished seventh, sixth, eighth, seventhand second. In what was a four year stretch without Champions League football Liverpool managed to win the League Cup and finish Runner Up in the FA Cup in 2011/12. Since Klopp took over Liverpool had a disappointing season in 2015/16 and then started their rise with two fourth place finishes and a second-place finish last year. To cap this off, Klopp brought Liverpool back to the pinnacle of European football last year by winning the Champions League. If Liverpool are looking to win that elusive Premier League title then Klopp should be the man to do it, adding his face to the Mount Rushmore of Liverpool managers in the meantime.
Liverpool squads of the last two decades have not been up to the usual standard for the Premier League giants. Think back to the 2005 season, the last time they won the Champions League before their most recent triumph; it was a rock-solid defence of Riise, Hyypia, Carragher and Finnan that brought them the gold rather than the midfield or attack. That season saw a strike partnership of Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse which is far from the most dangerous tandem Liverpool have ever listed. Other notable line-ups of the past include the midfield of Mascherano, Gerrard and Alonso behind Fernando Torres and in front of Agger and Carragher. Despite being a strong core, it was the wide positions occupied by Benayoun, Kuyt, Aurelio and Arbeloa that didn’t quite meet the standard. In 2014, the season of the infamous ‘slip-up’ when Liverpool came so close to winning the Premier League title it was the SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) with Sterling, Gerrard, Henderson and Coutinho being backed up by a combination of either Kolo Toure, Glen Jonhson, Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Jon Flanagan or Aly Cissokho. For context, of the ten players listed in Liverpool’s extended squad as a defender that season, not a single one is still playing for the club. That brings us to this season:
From back to front Liverpool boast world class players such as Alisson Becker, Mohamed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mane, two of whom are well entrenched in the conversation of Ballon d’Or for the season past. Virgil Van Dijk came away from 2019/2020 without being dribbled past once in the Premier League, Champion’s League or FA Cup and Alisson Becker, the other name being included in the discussion kept 33 clean sheets in 59 games for club and country.
Along with two of the best players in the world for their position are two dynamic young fullbacks in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson who boasted a combined 23 assists last season in the Premier League alone. Looking to the forward line, Liverpool have arguably one of the best attacking trios in the world with Mohamed Salah, one year removed from his record-breaking season, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino racking up 56 goals and 15 assists between them, all three of the Liverpool strikers finding themselves in double digits for goals by season’s end. Finally, Liverpool’s midfield, welcoming back Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Naby Keita from their injury interrupted seasons, will be the deepest it’s ever been assuming 2018/19’s injury woes don’t carry on into the new season. Adding them into a mix of Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Henderson and Shaqiri gives Klopp the freedom to mix and match his players knowing full well he has faith in any combination he puts onto the pitch. Last season we saw a very fluid midfield trio from Liverpool that at times included a combination of all of these eight players and if they can stay relatively injury-free for the coming season, which history proves may be easier said than done, they’ll be hard to beat.
The early months of 2019 brought many games to forget for the Reds as they saw their seven point lead at the top of the table slip away across the space of eleven games in three months beginning with a 2-1 loss to Manchester City in their first game of the new year. This Manchester City victory closed the gap to four points atop the table, a fixture that we look back on now as a turning point in the title race. Liverpool’s fixtures across the festive period won’t do them any favours this year either as they once again play eleven challenging games across December and January, seven of those coming before New Year’s. Included in this host of troubling games are visits to Bournemouth, West Ham, Leicester, Tottenham and Wolves as well as hosting the likes of Everton, Watford and Manchester United at home. Only three of their opponents in this time span, one of which is newly promoted Sheffield United, failed to finish in the top half of the table last year. Considering Liverpool’s nightmare run last year consisted of draws with Everton, Manchester United, West Ham and Leicester City in the League, including a loss to Wolves in the FA cup, they may have cause for concern. All five of those teams will cross paths with the title hopefuls in the span of two months, however it must be said if Liverpool can survive these games and take close to maximum points then they will be in a great position for their first league championship in 30 years.
Liverpool fans have been saying ‘next year will be our year’ for some time now but on this occasion, they may well be speaking the truth. Manchester City will be in the picture, there’s no doubt about that and with Tottenham finally spending some money to add to their squad they will be fighting for the top prize as well. Seeing as Liverpool are yet to make any big-name signings, they are putting a lot of faith into their current squad but with good reason. If they manage to stay healthy and have close to full options all year, they’ll undoubtedly be a huge name in the title race and I’m picking them to take home the chocolates this season.
Written by Daniel Thurley.