Anfield Edition: Season Preview 2019/20

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After over two, painfully long months, the Premier League finally returns tomorrow night, with Liverpool back in action against Norwich City at Anfield. Having reached an incredible 97 points last season out and ending the campaign as Champions League winners, it’ll be a difficult effort to top.

The only way to best last season’s effort would be to go one step further and finally clinch the Premier League title that has long alluded us ⁠— can we go one step further and win it this time round?

We’ve brought together Anfield Edition writers Laurie (@LFCLaurie), Owen (@OwenZonal), Taylor (@TPowlingSport) and Zac (@ZacLBell) to put forward their predictions for the upcoming season and their thoughts going into what should be a gruelling 10 months:

Q: How do you feel going into the new season? Are you happy with the business Liverpool have done this summer or would you like to have seen us be more active?

Laurie: I think I speak on behalf of all Liverpool fans when I say we’re still high off the euphoria of winning number six in Madrid back in June. To finish without a trophy after amassing an incredible 97 points would have been a travesty, so it was fantastic for this group of players to finally win some much deserved silverware.

Having said that though, I’m somewhat disappointed we’ve not kicked on more this summer and brought a few fresh faces in. Adrian is a decent replacement for Mignolet, while Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott could prove to be smart purchases for the future.

We’re the Champions of Europe though. I guarantee any player in the continent who watched the Barcelona comeback or the parade would have jumped at the chance to move to Anfield so we should have looked to improve our depth, especially in attack.

I have complete faith in both Klopp and Edwards and still feel we have a strong squad, but just feel the failure to really push on when we’re at our most desirable could come back to haunt us.

Owen: I’m somewhat confident as we should be going into the season as European Champions. While Klopp and the squad have insisted that this triumph has been moved past, the boost and the gratification of Klopp’s methods on Merseyside will give Liverpool plenty of momentum. 

As for the business side of things, bringing in young talent like Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg is all well and good but a pathway into the first team needs to be established — especially for existing players like Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones and the now-loaned out Harry Wilson. 

The front three have been run into the ground over the last two seasons, making 296 appearances. Failing to sign someone who can compete for places in the frontline or to cover for injury could come back to bite us — Klopp seems to credit Shaqiri as the reason we don’t need to invest. 

I’m rather jealous of Arsenal splashing the cash on Nicolas Pepe but we couldn’t justify such a sizeable fee for someone who wouldn’t necessarily start for us. The same goes for Real Betis, who picked up Nabil Fekir on the cheap; given the reported knee issue, it wasn’t worth the risk.  

Overall, the window shows Liverpool are biding their time for an opportunity that truly benefits and excites the club, like with the signings of Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson and Naby Keita. 

Taylor: After the second half performance in the Community Shield, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about the season ahead than I was before the game. It reminded me how great a team Klopp has assembled. However, it also left me feeling frustrated at our lack of summer business as with one or two additions we could have definitely taken that final step having gone so close last season.

Zac: I’m very disappointed with the transfer window. Liverpool are the Champions of Europe, was there a better time to push on? I’m not so sure. Whilst it’s unrealistic to compete with Manchester City levels of spending, if you take a look at the difference in squad depth — that’s what separates us in my opinion. They have Mahrez, Sane (should he stay), Jesus, Gundogan etc coming off the bench. We have Origi, Shaqiri, Brewster. It’s a massive difference. The gap between our current front three is too large, despite the fact Origi came up trumps at times last season. It would be unfair to expect too much of Brewster too. That said, I’m still optimistic, this squad got 97 points last season and can win the league without a doubt. My only fear: one of the front three getting a serious injury.

Q: Where do you think Liverpool will finish in the Premier League this season?

Laurie: While the optimistic side of me believes we can win the league, I have to say second.

While our starting XI is insanely strong and Klopp is a good as any other manager in Europe, how are you meant to compete with a side that has accumulated 198 points in just two seasons? Man City have taken a side that didn’t drop a single point from January onwards and added Rodri, Angelino and now Joao Cancelo — can anyone predict us to win the league with confidence?

While coming first is certainly a possibility and I feel we’ll still come close, City will just edge us yet again. With quality additions in Ndombele and seemingly Lo Celso, I’d be wary of Spurs also.

Owen: It’s likely to be second again for Liverpool; they are streaks ahead of the competition vying for a top four place with only Spurs looking like a threat behind them. 

While there were plenty of positives to take from Liverpool’s Community Shield performance, City are still the top team in England and it doesn’t look like that will change this season. 

City’s ruthless pursuit to win back-to-back league titles was shown in their response to a 2-1 loss at St James’ Park — 13 straight wins followed. Pep Guardiola will be just as demanding this season and they are arguably more consistent performers at the highest level than the Reds.

While Liverpool only suffered one loss in the league to the aforementioned Manchester City, it’s hard to demand more from a group of players who benefitted from some favourable decisions along the way and slices of luck to make the title race as close as it was.

Taylor: Second. Ultimately, City have strengthened in the area they were they most vulnerable (if you can even call it that) with the signing of Rodri from Atletico Madrid and the return of Kevin De Bruyne from injury is only going to strengthen what was already an outstanding squad superior to anyone else in the league. Tottenham, if they conclude some of the rumoured deals before deadline day could run us close, but I think the gap from last season will be too big for them to catch up in one summer.

Zac: Realistically, I’d put us down to come second. We need to be very lucky with injuries yet again to have a chance of winning the league to be honest. City have enough depth to compete on all fronts, and Liverpool don’t, in my opinion. So, the argument “If City prioritise XYZ, Liverpool have a better chance at the league” is not relevant here. 

Q: What about the cup competitions? With 5 other trophies up for grabs, how many do you think we’ll win? Do you see us replicating our Champions League success again? 

Laurie: We’ve already lost the first “trophy” of the season in the Community Shield on Sunday, but think more were encouraged about the performance rather than losing a game that is effectively a glorified friendly.

It’s clear that Klopp doesn’t seem to care for domestic competitions — we haven’t got past the fourth round of the FA Cup since Klopp’s arrival and haven’t gone past the third round of the League Cup since 2017. I don’t necessarily agree with that mentality and perhaps we’ve been unlucky with draws in recent years, but I don’t see that changing with league and European success clearly prioritised.

I’d back us to win the Club World Cup and Super Cup purely because they should be relatively straightforward.

Retaining the Champions League is notoriously difficult, but I’m tempted to say we can win number seven. There is no worse team to play in a two-legged European tie than Liverpool, especially when the Anfield factor comes into the the equation. And with the final in Istanbul, it’s just meant to be isn’t it?

Owen: Jurgen Klopp has traditionally ignored the cup competitions in favour of the Premier League and Europe — it’s about time this changed. The dismissal of the FA Cup is particularly frustrating considering our rich history in the competition.

The League Cup and/or FA Cup would be a good way of continuing the winning mentality at the club and satisfying the fans. Manchester City will aim to target Europe given their lack of success in that department which means it may be difficult to go all out in cup competitions.

As for Liverpool, you can’t write off a fourth European final appearance in a row as Klopp’s football is so well suited. With the scalps of Germany, France and Spain’s champions in their pocket, Liverpool will have plenty of confidence in going the distance once again.

Taylor: It all depends on the draw. We’re a great knockout team and on our day we can beat anyone, especially at Anfield. With our lack of depth, I can see Klopp giving up the two domestic cup competitions, but I do think we will prevail victorious in the Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Zac: I believe we will win the Super Cup, but if we don’t, do not fret.

In terms of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, I think we will do well in both should we get the luck of the draw. Klopp will send out a B team, hence the need for a good draw ideally. Should we progress into the latter stages of these competitions, you’d expect Klopp to strengthen the side a lot.

However, I think we can all agree Liverpool will prioritise the Premier League and Champions League. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think the squad is equipped to win the league unless we have luck on our side just as we did on many occasions last campaign.

As for the Champions League, this Liverpool squad is a perfect match. The club thrives in Europe. Knock-out competitions favour us and we’ll always be in the mix to win good ol’ big ears. Hopefully we can retain it. I’d much prefer to win the league but I certainly wouldn’t turn down number seven by any stretch of the imagination. 

Q: Mo Salah’s won it for the last two seasons but will we have a new Golden Boot winner this time out?

Laurie: You can’t look past Salah in the race for the Golden Boot and I’d back him to win it again; he looked impressive on Sunday with great directness and always looking to find the back of the net. Arguably selfish at times, but who can blame him when you know what he’s got in his locker?

I don’t expect him to match the heights set in 2017/18, but I’d say he’ll score in the low thirties in all competitions and around 24 in the league.

I’d tip Kane and Aubameyang to be his biggest competition, but of course you have to back Mo to get a third consecutive Golden Boot — who would have said that when he signed?

Owen: It was a strange season for the Golden Boot last year with a three way tie and a traditionally low figure of 22 goals. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane will definitely be gunning for the Golden Boot again, but out and out strikers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane are more likely to run away with it. 

The latter would be my pick should he stay fit — he missed 10 games due to two serious injuries but Spurs will be stronger again this season at the new stadium and have strengthened well.

Taylor: Despite receiving criticism for his lack of clinical edge in front of goal on Sunday, I was really impressed with Mo Salah’s overall performance. Thought he looked very sharp and lively considering he’d only played 45 minutes of pre-season beforehand. I’m fully expecting him to challenge again alongside the usual suspects like Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

Zac: I have no doubt Salah will win the award again — I’m confident about that barring any serious injuries. I reckon he’ll get more than last season, but won’t reach the heights of 2017/18, which definitely isn’t an issue by the way! Those numbers were outstanding — to get even close again will be extraordinary.

Q: Who do you think our player of the season will be?

Laurie: With the huge amount of talent in our squad, you could make an argument for almost every player and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for saying Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Robertson — practically anyone in our starting lineup.

But I’m going to go for Fabinho. He was arguably our best player in the second half of last season and compliments our midfield so well — he wins the ball back, he drives us forward and can really pick out a pass. I don’t think rival fans fully appreciate what he brings to our team and the fact he was left out by Brazil for their Copa America squad was ridiculous.

A fully integrated and settled Fabinho for a whole season? He’s my pick.

Owen: Virgil Van Dijk won last season’s award convincingly and it’s hard to look past our number four again. He was an absolute colossus at the back for the Reds and has made the £85m transfer of Harry Maguire look insane. 

Having transformed the Liverpool backline and improving those around him, Van Dijk will continue to show why he is the best defender in the world. 

What will be interesting to see is whether Liverpool will get figured out defensively; 20 clean sheets last season was an incredible showing and it will be some feat if they manage to replicate it.

Taylor: Virgil Van Dijk. The best centre back on the planet last season and I only can see that continuing this season.

Zac: It’ll be between Van Dijk and Salah. I really think Salah will have a great goal scoring season again but equally Van Dijk will get clean sheets for days. I’m gonna tip Salah to take it back from the big man this season — I really think he’s up for it. I was very impressed with his performance against Manchester City in the Community Shield — he looked incredibly sharp. He’s on a mission and I guarantee he’ll flourish. As an outside shout, Fabinho has become a mainstay in the team and his impact in the second half of the season was incredible. Likeable and puts in a crunching tackle — what more could you want? He stands a chance for player of the season. 

Q: Who’s your player to watch this season or potential surprise package?

Laurie: I really believe Naby Keita will kick on this season — he’s looked sharp in preseason and with an extended run in the team, I fully expect him to have an impact.

I’ll go for Joe Gomez though. I think some people forget just how incredible he was alongside Van Dijk in the first-half of last campaign and the injury against Burnley couldn’t have come at a worse time.

While Matip was surprisingly very good and has cemented the place as his own in the past few months, Gomez will be hungry to win it back. He’s looked fit and his recovery pace is seriously impressive.

He’s got quickness, positional awareness and can put in a crunching tackle — I truly believe he has all the attributes to be one of the best defenders in Europe.

Owen: Having missed almost the entirety of last season, you have to watch out for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who could be set to burst back into the midfield. It’ll be a tough task though with Naby Keita wanting to occupy that creative role in the middle of the park. 

While it feels long ago, the Ox was one of the first names on the teamsheet and was crucial in Liverpool making it to Kiev, especially in that famous 3-0 win over Manchester City. If he makes his way back in, it may be the extra push Liverpool need for an unlikely title win.

Taylor: Naby Keita. Having failed to live up to the expectations that arose following his £52million from RB Leipzig, I’m expecting big things from the Guinean this season. We saw flashes towards the end of last season so hopefully he can endure a less disrupted campaign this time around.

Zac: My player to watch is Keita. He had a disappointing campaign last season and was riddled with little niggles here and there which hampered him. I’m expecting a lot more this time around and I hope he lives up to expectations. He’s still only young and has a lot to prove. I’m also looking forward to seeing Oxlade-Chamberlain back in action, but I really don’t want to see him on the wing -— I think he’s wasted there and I’m not a fan. 

Q: Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how excited are you going into the new season?

Laurie: 10 — how could you say anything else? We’re Champions of Europe and weekends without Liverpool just don’t feel complete so I’ve been counting down the days to Friday since June. Let’s make the campaign a special one!

Owen: It’s a quick and easy answer. It’s a 10/10 — football is back and seeing the Reds’ journey continue has never been more intriguing. 

Taylor: 7.

Zac: A solid 10. The best league in the world is back and I cannot wait! Bring on Norwich.

Summaries:

Liverpool will finish:

Laurie: 2nd

Owen: 2nd

Taylor: 2nd

Zac: 2nd

Liverpool’s Player of the Season will be:

Laurie: Fabinho

Owen: Van Dijk

Taylor: Van Dijk

Zac: Van Dijk/Salah

The player to watch for Liverpool is:

Laurie: Gomez

Owen: Oxlade-Chamberlain

Taylor: Keita

Zac: Keita

How excited are you for the season on a scale of 1-10?:

Laurie: 10

Owen: 10

Taylor: 7

Zac: 10

Make sure you keep up with Anfield Edition throughout the season for previews, news, player ratings, opinions and more!