In 2018/19, Liverpool recorded a miraculous total of 97 points. In any other top-flight campaign, that would have been more than enough to comfortably seal the title and one that would have been the Reds’ first in the Premier League era. However, a simply unstoppable Manchester City side pipped them to the first position by only one point.
Two teams going toe-to-toe with such high points totals is unlikely to be seen again, but it’s still highly likely that the top two will be the same again. Establishing the order they will appear in, though, is slightly more tricky.
Liverpool’s Season Could Rest on the Failings of Other Sides
Lack of Depth Not Fully Addressed
Liverpool, without doubt, had one of the best starting 11’s in the country last season. While on paper their midfield looked to be the weak link, Georginio Wijnaldum had the season of his life, Jordan Henderson defied his critics to produce some solid displays, and James Milner earned plaudits for his performances despite turning 33 partway through the season.
Beyond that, though, the Reds had little back-up to call upon if needed. Fortunately for them, it wasn’t needed often, but the chances of that happening again in 2019/20 are slim The whole of the front three, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, haven’t had a summer off in two seasons now (due to the World Cup last year and the African Cup of Nations plus the Copa America this summer) and fatigue could be an issue in the early stages of the season.
Jurgen Klopp has done little to address that in the transfer market. His only signing so far has been 17-year-old centre-back Sepp van den Berg from Dutch side PEC Zwolle. While highly thought of, van den Berg is clearly a player for the future and centre-back is one of the few positions where cover wasn’t necessarily needed with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren backing up to likely starters Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk.
Reports have linked the Reds with a move for Fulham starlet Harvey Elliott, but there is some confusion over the fee Liverpool will have to pay for the 16-year-old, according to the Daily Star’s Ollie Salt. Even if the Reds do complete the deal, Elliott is again one for the future and will not address any of the current problems Liverpool face.
Front Three Figured Out?
For the third straight season, it looks as though Liverpool’s front line will consist of the tyrannic trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino. The 2017/18 campaign saw Salah hit 32 goals in a sensational first season, while last season saw he and Mane share the Golden Boot accolade with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The trio hit 57 goals between them in their first season together and were only one behind that total in 2018/19, but their minutes on the pitch will have increased significantly last season with the injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri.
With those two expected to be back (Shaqiri perhaps shortly after the season has started), Klopp finally has some different options to experiment with. Although Oxlade-Chamberlain is often deployed as a central midfielder for the Reds, his pace would certainly allow him to play on the wing. Shaqiri provides some trickery and is always capable of the spectacular. Meanwhile, last season’s cult hero Divock Origi will no doubt be waiting in the wings once more to come up with an all-important goal and youngster Rhian Brewster looks set to get his chance to impress.
Last season the front-three looked stale and tired at times, but that could change this year and could be the difference between fighting for the Champions League places and fighting for the title.
Is This Liverpool’s Season?
It’s clear that Liverpool cannot compete with the mega-millions that Manchester City are prepared to spend on their title hunt. Jurgen Klopp has said as much that they are not looking for big-money signings, similar to City’s €70 million capture of Rodri Hernandez, insisting that Liverpool is a “long-term project”.
It could leave them short-changed at the end of the season, with the Premier League title the main trophy that fans are vying for. If they miss out, it would signal 30 years since the club won a league title.
It could be written in the stars for them that the title drought ends on the 30-year mark, but football can be cruel as often as it is kind. Even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans must struggle at times to see past Manchester City as the champions-elect, particularly if they make as good a start to 2019/20 as they have in the past two seasons.
It’s also easy to dismiss Tottenham Hotspur on paper, but the addition of Tanguy Ndombele and also potential arrivals of Giovani Lo Celso (football.london), Ryan Sessegnon (Matt Law, The Telegraph) and more recently Paulo Dybala (Harry Howes, Daily Star), as well as the momentum from reaching last season’s Champions League final, they’re in as good a position as any to make a go of the title.
Liverpool face plenty of competition this season if they are going to be challengers, but it’s nothing they haven’t experienced before. Ultimately, though, they still look one-star player away from sealing that elusive title and, as such, will likely fall just short again.
Prediction – 2nd