Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Despite losing in the final of the Champions League just a few months ago, Liverpool enter the 2018/19 riding atop an enormous wave of optimism.
Having blown countless teams away with their fast-paced, electric attacking football last season, Liverpool have attacked the transfer market just as relentlessly this summer.
The Reds were the biggest Premier League spenders in the transfer window by some distance, spending around £160m so far on incoming transfers to add to the £75m they paid to land Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January.
As exciting as the recruitment drive will be for Liverpool supporters, financial investment of that magnitude comes with heightened pressure. It’s the kind of spend that turn hopes of success into expectations and even demands.
Really, the 2018/19 season is a crucial juncture in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool project. With the problem areas in his team addressed and key positions strengthened, there are no more excuses to hide behind for the Merseysiders.
Having failed to win a major trophy since their 2012 League Cup win, it’s vital that Liverpool end this season with silverware of some description.
Position last season: 4th
Top scorer: Mohamed Salah – 44 goals.
Fabinho – Monaco (£40m)
Naby Keita – RB Leipzig (£48m)
Xherdan Shaqiri – Stoke City (£13m)
Alisson Becker – AS Roma (£66.9m)
Yan Dhanda – Swansea (Undisclosed)
Ovie Ejaria – Rangers (On Loan)
Emre Can – Juventus (Free)
Jon Flanagan – Released
Adam Bogdan – Hibernian (On Loan)
Harry Wilson – Derby (On Loan)
Paulo Alves – Wolves (Free)
Danny Ward – Leicester (£12m)
Andy Firth – Barrow (Undisclosed)
Ryan Kent – Rangers (On Loan)
Taiwo Awoniyi – Gent (On Loan)
Shamal George – Tranmere (On Loan)
Allan – Frankfurt (On Loan)
Ben Woodburn – Sheffield United (On Loan)
Player to Watch
Liverpool made Alisson Becker the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when they signed the Brazilian international from Roma this summer. Alisson arrives on Merseyside with an enormous reputation having established himself as a commanding figure in Serie A last season.
Manchester City’s Ederson made a huge impact on the Premier League in 2017/18 with his dazzling reflexes and laser-like distribution, but Alisson keeps him out of the Brazilian national team starting XI – that’s testament to the quality Alisson possesses. With Alisson between the sticks, Liverpool’s goalkeeping nightmare might finally have come to an end.
The Season Ahead
Dropping the “draw specialists” tag
Liverpool drew 38% of their Premier League fixtures last season, finishing the campaign with 12 draws in total. Only Brighton, West Brom and Southampton drew more often than Jurgen Klopp’s men in 2017/18.
Out of those 12 draws, 7 came at Anfield and Liverpool were held at home by inferior opposition far too often last season. Two the league’s relegated teams, Stoke and WBA, took a point from their respective visits to Anfield in 2017/18. Only Brighton drew more games than on their own turf than Liverpool last year.
Remarkably, Liverpool were the only club to remain unbeaten at home for the entire 2017/18 Premier League campaign, but due to the septet of draws, they only collected the 4th highest total of points at their own ground.
Turning more of those draws into wins this season should help Liverpool push harder for the Premier League title.
Fabinho – Henderson’s replacement or partner?
The answer to that question is probably – both. Playing at the base of Jurgen Klopp’s three-man Liverpool midfield, Jordan Henderson has performed admirably, though his limitations as a player are often exposed in bigger games.
Tasked with screening the space in front of Liverpool’s back four Henderson was also responsible for orchestrating play from a deep role through simple distribution of the ball.
The England international averaged 1.9 tackles per game last season, which seems a little meagre for a player occupying the role of midfield ball winner. His average pass completion rate of 84.4% only puts him in the middle-range of Liverpool’s best passers last season.
Interestingly, new signing Fabinho beat Henderson in both metrics for Monaco in 2017/18. The Brazilian averaged 3.4 tackles per game and completed an average of 86.3% of his passes.
Henderson does bring an energy to the team that Fabinho might not be able to match however and there are concerns that the Brazilian lacks the dynamism and pace to be effective in certain situations.
In trickier fixtures, Henderson and Fabinho could be deployed as a more defensive minded duo and the pair certainly have the traits to complement each other’s games.
The Trio of Terror
Liverpool’s three-pronged attack of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane absolutely terrified Premier and Champions League defenders last season. Their combination of slick, interchanging passes and inexhaustible running proved almost impossible to combat.
On the continent, Liverpool smashed the Champions League record for most goals in a single campaign, by hitting the net a staggering 47 times.
Domestically, Liverpool finished at the Premier League’s 2nd top goalscorers in 2017/18 behind runaway champions Manchester City. Salah, Firmino and Mane were the main protagonists in the lethal patterns Liverpool wove in attack, racking up 57 Premier League goals and 24 assists between them over the course of the campaign.
Averaging 16.8 shots per ninety minutes, Liverpool were the second most threatening team in the Premier League behind Man City (again) last year. The Reds also scored more goals than any other team on the counter attack in 2017/18, blitzing teams with rapid efficiency 9 times in total.
If Liverpool are to fulfil their lofty expectation this season, Salah, Firmino and Mane will have to match or surpass their efforts of last season – the trio have the talent to do just that.
A Premier League title challenge should be the target for Liverpool this season, alongside another lengthy run in the Champions League. With the weaknesses in the squad finally addressed, Liverpool now have the quality and crucially, the depth to do great things in 2018/19. Expectations are understandably sky high. It’s time for Jurgen Klopp to deliver.
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