Group Stage Fan Preview: Liverpool

Year after year, Liverpool fans have seen reasons to hope shattered by one or two events, from the 2014 league loss to Chelsea to the Europa League Final against Sevilla. But this season feels like it will be different. After a positive 2016-17 season that culminated in a 4th place finish and Champions League qualification, and a roller coaster of a summer, Liverpool are looking to remake their mark as a dominant European football club.

New chess pieces at Liverpool are one of the many reasons this season looks bright. The 2017 summer transfer window was one of the club’s busiest windows in recent memory. Beginning with the attack, Jurgen Klopp and co. captured the signing of the electric Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah from Roma. Salah has a lot of offensive tools that fit Klopp’s high pressing style of play. His ability to dribble and run past defenders with pace breaks lines among the defense, which his attacking teammates Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane take advantage of with precision. England youth striker Dominic Solanke was brought in from Chelsea as depth in attack, something necessary for any club that wishes to succeed in Europe. Next, Scotsman Andrew Robertson was bought for a cheap fee from Hull City, giving Klopp a more capable left back than Alberto Moreno and allowing James Milner to move back to midfield. Finally, after getting demolished 4-0 by Liverpool on matchday three, Arsenal sold Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the Merseyside club.

However, as there are positives to look back on from this summer, there are negative aspects. The Virgil van Dijk saga was an embarrassment on a professional level, and led to the club not only missing out on arguably their top transfer target, but missing out on a center back altogether. The lack of depth at that position could have dramatically serious consequences in both the league and Champions League play. Perhaps just as infuriating was the attitude of Coutinho when Barcelona came calling and he requested a transfer mere days away from the start of the Premier League season. The attacking midfielder must show a major change of heart towards the club and its supporters if he wants to stay or go on good terms. While this piece is a preview of the current season, Liverpool’s best transfer this summer isn’t arriving this summer.

To the surprise of many, after thinking the battle for his signature was lost, the club struck a deal with RB Leipzig to buy midfielder Naby Keita next summer after he spends this current season staying in Germany. Keita is the type of smart, diversely-skilled midfielder that can take Liverpool to the top of not just the Premier League, but of Europe. At only 22 years old, his responsibilities in the middle of the pitch are many, and he takes all of them on seemingly with ease. He can tackle, pass, hit through balls, dribble through defenders, and shoot on target as one of the most complete players in the game today. Overall, this summer transfer window may for now be seen as a failure, due to the primary need, center back, not being fulfilled. The likes of Salah, Solanke, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Keita will hopefully change that.

With these new weapons, the attack-focused Klopp has nearly all the tools needed to give Liverpool more than a fighting chance. Even more importantly, nearly every player seems to have completely bought into the manager’s gegenpressing system. At fullback, youth sensation Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson fly down the wings with speed and energy. Should Coutinho ultimately decide to fight for a spot this season- a rather obvious choice- the midfield will have the talent necessary to bring the ball forward up to what is one of the deadliest front three in world football. Salah, Firmino, and Mane have high expectations from supporters and analysts alike, with their ability to execute a quick counter-attack, get in behind defenders, and score an accurate finish. Champions League football returns to L4 this year, and those three will be front and center on the pitch for those famous Anfield nights. The history of Liverpool is one of success. Pride is taken in doing things ‘the Liverpool Way’, and that might be why this summer doesn’t sting as much as it could. The 2017-18 season is the most highly anticipated for Liverpool Football Club since that last UCL season three years ago. We are back.

And we’re doing it our way.

By: William Sinsky

Photo: Getty