Can Liverpool be the team to seriously challenge City’s title defence?
After Manchester City’s record-breaking title-winning campaign last season, Pep Guardiola’s team have been strengthened by the £60 million signing of Leicester City winger and former PFA Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez. With the Citizens’ fellow title rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal only making minor improvements to their sides and with Tottenham, yet to make a summer signing, in most people’s eyes, Man City will be clear favourites to win the Premier League for the 2nd year running. One team that has significantly bolstered their squad is Liverpool. Despite finishing 25 points behind City in the league last season, could they be the team best equipped to considerably challenge Man City’s title defence?
Although Liverpool reached the final of the Champions League in 2017/18, they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first attempt, reached only the 4th round of the FA Cup and only finished fourth in the Premier League. A major reason for this was because Jürgen Klopp’s squad wasn’t strong enough to compete on all fronts. However, this summer, Liverpool have spent big to try and change that. The Reds had already agreed to sign Naby Keita from RB Leipzig before the transfer window opened, but they’ve also brought in Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Alisson Becker, taking their summer spending to a total of around £170 million. Bringing in players of this calibre sends a clear message of intent to Man City.
For many years now, fans of the Premier League have known that Liverpool’s Achilles heel has always been their rather shaky defence. But, this may now be a thing of the past. In the 2nd half of last season, following the signing of Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk, in January and Andy Robertson nailing down the left-back spot at around the same time, at the back, Liverpool improved dramatically. 2018/19 will be Van Dijk and Robertson’s first full seasons as stalwarts of Liverpool’s back four and if they both can produce the same, consistent performances that they did in the last campaign, the Reds should be in good hands defensively. Furthermore, Joe Gomez recently made his comeback from ankle surgery and with players like England youngster Trent-Alexander Arnold and World-cup finalist Dejan Lovren at the club, Liverpool’s defence now has an obvious depth to it. Finally, if Liverpool’s back-line were to be breached, Klopp’s team could still be in safe hands because of their new goalkeeper, Alisson Becker. The Brazilian was the most sought after keeper this summer after an impressive spell with Roma was backed up by solid displays at the World Cup. Liverpool beat clubs like Real Madrid to attain Alisson’s signature and as a result of Simon Mignolet being unfancied at Anfield and Loris Karius’ high-profile mistakes potentially costing Liverpool the Champions League final in May, Alisson will look to be the man who will put an end to the Reds’ goalkeeping woes.
Captain Jordan Henderson will aim to build on his improved performances in 2018 with both Liverpool and England, at the heart of midfield and will likely be partnered by new boys Fabinho and Keita. These two new additions will add energy and flair to Jürgen Klopp’s side and make the midfield more creative and well-rounded. Then, you look at Liverpool’s deadly front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The trio managed a remarkable 91 goals between them last season and if they can produce anywhere near the same sort of attacking output in 2018/19, Liverpool will have a great chance of challenging in all competitions. Along with their first-choice midfielders and attackers, the Reds can also call upon the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri from the bench to make an impact, showing that Liverpool have a greater strength in depth in these areas as well.
Although the majority of Liverpool fans are happy with Jürgen Klopp as manager, since he was appointed in October 2015; the club are still yet to win a trophy, having lost all three of the finals that they have featured in. Despite this, Klopp remains positive about the situation and believes that his side can end their wait for a trophy. "I am confident we can build on last season,” said the German. "We need to be ready for the big challenges, the big goals, we have to be this angry, aggressive, greedy team full of desire that wants to win each game.” If Klopp can instil this type of belief into his charges and if the fans can get behind his team in the same way they did last time around, Liverpool will fancy their chances of mounting a serious assault on City’s title defence.
Can Liverpool go all the way? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!