Owners who care only about the money they can take out of the club, a ‘well-respected and liked’ (in his own words) manager, and a flagship ‘free’ signing in Joe Cole. Despite fans’ reservations, for a week or two, last August the familiar refrain could be heard around Anfield, if slighted muted, ‘This Could Be Our Year’.
Fast forward 12 months, and fans everywhere find themselves eagerly anticipating the new season to come. Liverpool survived the disastrous tenure of their previous owners, which culminated in high court hearings with administration a real possibility, and a manager that just could not cut it at Anfield. Both have been replaced by owners willing to invest in the playing squad (€48m this summer on players rather than €40m on loan interest repayments) and firm fans’ favourite as manager in Kenny Dalglish.
Doni has been signed as a much more experienced stand-in goalkeeper for Pepe Reina than Brad Jones. With 5 clean sheets in 13 Serie A starts for Roma last season, this 6’5” stopper should see action in Liverpool’s cup games and the Kop faithful should not be too anxious if he is called upon during the league campaign.
Winner of Sunderland’s young player of the year award for the second successive season last year, big money summer signing Jordan Henderson, could have an early chance to face his former team, if he can force his way into Liverpool’s midfield in time for the opener at Anfield on August 13th. He is an attack minded central midfielder but has a rather disappointing return of just 4 goals in 71 appearances, however he was responsible for creating 82 goal scoring opportunities for his team mates, the fourth highest in the league.
Henderson will have added competition from another summer signing, this one from Blackpool, Charlie Adam. A player whose time at Rangers was rather unspectacular, Adam is a player who has shown his greatest strength is his pinpoint passing and possesses deadly accuracy from set pieces. His 12 goals in 35 games last season illustrate Adam’s goal scoring ability from midfield.
One thing Liverpool have been lacking for many years now, is a genuine wide player and Stewart Downing, signed from Aston Villa, may be the answer to their prayers. An ever present in the Premier League for Aston Villa last season saw him finish with 7 goals and 9 assists. Downing, along with Henderson and Adam, look to have the ability to provide Andy Carroll with the much needed ammunition to take advantage of his primary attributes.
Dalglish’s headache will be trying to accommodate the new signings, along with Lucas, Meireles, Shelvey, Spearing, Maxi, Kuyt and a fit Gerrard in the four available midfield berths, this is assuming, of course, there are no departures between now and the start of the season. Aquilani looks to have secured a move away from Anfield back to Serie A with Fiorentina taking him on another season long loan deal. The player has voiced his desire to return to Italy on a permanent basis and maybe reluctant to agree to another loan move.
Steven Gerrard made just 22 Premier League appearances last season, and not wanting to write him off too soon, he is 31 and it should not be too much of a surprise should he fail to make many more appearances in the coming season than he did last year. His all-action, high-tempo style is not conducive to a lengthy career without the player adapting his game in his later years. As influential as Gerrard has been, this season may see that adaptation being made, either by the player himself or the club by accepting his declining contribution and acquiesce to the fact that he may be available for just 50% of their games.
Despite boasting a strike-force that cost in excess of €67m, Liverpool are still rather lacking in strength and depth in this key area. Copa America Sliver Boot winner and Player of the Tournament, Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have little or no experienced and adequate cover, with the exception of utility attacker Dirk Kuyt, in the event of prolonged absence.
At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool have different issues. A mixture of youth and experience is generally an accepted recipe for success and hopefully this will be the case here. Flanagan & Kelly have begun to prove themselves at the top level and with Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel and Agger, Liverpool have the experience. However, the defence as a unit lacks any real pace particularly down the middle. Wilson, Ayala, and Coady do not yet have the required Premier League experience to push for starting places but expect to see more of them throughout the season.
A much trotted out statistic is that since Dalglish’s return in January, Liverpool were second only to Chelsea in Premier League points won, this despite losing their last two games of the 2010-11 season. With their summer signings, Liverpool are certainly stronger than last season and should pose a bigger threat from midfield in particular. Having finished 6th last season, it is expected that Dalglish’s men will improve on that position and will be genuine challengers for the Champions’ League places come next May.
Predicted finish: 3rd
See a review of 2010/2011 season
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