The Premier League has had its fair share of shocks and surprises since its inception and given the financial juggernaut it has come to be known as today, it has reinvigorared interest among football players across the globe in truly spectacular fashion.
While it has hit the bullseye in the entertainment domain, it has also led to a prolonged spell of suffering for a host of clubs, some of which now ply their trade in the Championship. Be it poor management or plain misfortune, these once world-beaters now find themselves settling for mediocrity.
The aforementioned points are applicable to Liverpool too. Having dominated the English top-flight and stamped their authority in Europe in the ’70s and ’80s, the Merseyside club have endured an alarmingly dry spell since the turn of the decade, having never won the Premier League and in doing so, being made to swallow bitter pills in their quest for domestic glory. They came agonisingly close in 2009 and 2014, only to be beaten to the title by Manchester United and Manchester City in either season.
Managers have come and gone in that duration and with Jürgen Klopp at the helm now, there is a buzz of optimism surrounding Anfield and Liverpool’s title chasing endeavours. With the club not involved in any European competition this year, Klopp can focus entirely on improving Liverpool’s league position, following a dismal eighth-place finish last season. In his first full season at the English giants, the former Borussia Dortmund coach has revamped the squad by recruiting seven players, namely Marko Grujic, Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Sadio Mane, Ragnar Klavan, Alex Manninger and Georginio Wijnaldum.
There have been a few notable departures too, thereby bringing to the public eye the dynasty Klopp is building at the club. While he has spoken of a four-year spell within which he aims to win the Premier League, does his current side stand a chance against the Manchester giants and London colossi, Arsenal and Chelsea? Given the way proceedings have developed in recent weeks, one might say it isn’t entirely beyond their reach. From a broader perspective though, it is rendered implausible.
For starters, Liverpool have gaping holes in their backline. While Ragnar Klavan has brought a wealth of experience with him from Augsburg, his outings against Arsenal and Burnley suggest he will need more than just a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the English game. The same can be said for Joel Matip and that leaves Dejan Lovren and out-of-favour Mamadou Sakho as the only experienced centre-halves at the club. While they have had their moments at certain stages of their Liverpool careers, their presence doesn’t instill a unanimous sense of confidence among the Anfield faithful.
Goalkeepers Manninger and Karius have been brought in to deputise Simon Mignolet. The former has been on the road throughout his career and at 39, he may not represent the best of options for Liverpool in that designated position. German youngster Karius is a promising shotstopper though and might challenge Mignolet more fiercely than his Austrian colleague this season. It remains a shot in the dark for Klopp though as Karius is yet to feature for the club in a competitive fixture. If Liverpool are to challenge for domestic honours this year, the presence of an established and experienced goalkeeper is necessary and that is another department wherein they fail to fit the bill.
Midfielder Wijnaldum was roped in from Newcastle United for £25 million and has done precious little to justify that price tag thus far. These are early days but if his displays for his former employers are anything to go by, Wijnaldum will have to do a lot more than just pop up with the occasional goal from a speculative position. He was universally panned for his away performances for Newcastle and his outings at Arsenal, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur have
been a testament to that inconsistency. The Dutchman has a lot to work on if he is to foster title-winning form this year.
Marko Grujic has been signed from Red Star Belgrade and has been labelled an exciting talent. While that may swing either way, the one player that seems destined to spark energy and life into this side is Sadio Mane. The Senegalese international has already won over the travelling support with strong performances in North London so far and has Premier League pedigree with Southampton to back his case. In all honesty, it appears Mane is the best out of the seven signings made by Klopp and should things go according to plan, the Merseysiders may yet fancy their chances.
It is a long shot though. Compared to their rivals, Liverpool do not boast a truly brilliant squad on paper and have been marred by fleeting moments of capitulation before. All indications point towards a year of promise and exhilaration but the ultimate prize looks well beyond their reach and we personally believe that the best they can realistically aspire this season is a top-four place.