The 2015/16 Premier League season is only a matter of weeks away and after a disappointing campaign last season Liverpool fans will be keen to see the club bounce back with aspirations of challenging for a Champions League spot. Here, we take a look at which players will be key for Liverpool in the upcoming season.
It was a year of anti-climax for Liverpool fans last season as Brendan Rodgers and his side failed to reach the Premier League title challenge heights of their previous campaign. The departure of the world class Luis Suarez and the long term injury of fellow striker Daniel Sturridge undoubtedly played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s underachievement last season. Now, the fans are hoping that the club can galvanize and prepare itself to push for a top four finish once again this season.
The club has been hit by the record-breaking £49 million transfer of pacey starlet Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, iconic captain Steve Gerrard moving to join MLS side LA Galaxy, and an array of other big name departures including Sebastian Coates to Sunderland, Glen Johnson to Stoke, and Brad Jones on a free transfer.
However, Rodgers has moved quickly to not only cover those players that have made the exit from Anfield over the summer but bring in fresh blood to revitalize a Liverpool squad that appeared stale and short of ideas across the majority of the campaign last season. The £21.3 million signing of Roberto Firmino from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim raised a few eyebrows but there is no doubting the player’s potential quality. The signature of Nathaniel Clyne for £12.5 million from Southampton has been considered a major upgrade on the defensively fragile Glen Johnson in the full back position. The double free transfer additions of James Milner and Danny Ings have also been touted as two of the shrewdest deals of the summer in the Premier League. Full back Joe Gomez from Charlton and goalkeeper Adam Bogdan from Bolton have added depth to a squad that desperately needed more competition for places. The imminent arrival of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke for a massive £32.5 million fee is also all but confirmed.
In amongst all of the incomings and outgoings during the summer transfer window, there will be a squad that will be handed the responsibility of taking Liverpool back to the top of the table. Liverpool will need Simon Mignolet to recapture his form from the 2013/14 season that played such a huge role in keeping Liverpool tight at the back when they came so close to winning their first top flight title since 1990. Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne appear to be the favourites to nail down the full back slots and it will then mean a centre back pairing from Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel, and Mamadou Sakho will be handed the roles in the middle. None of them hit their best form last season and if Liverpool want to build a solid foundation from the back then all four will need to improve on their consistency from last season, particularly the lacklustre Lovren who had performed so highly at Southampton before moving to Anfield last summer. Emre Can did a job at the back for Liverpool and it could be that he remains in the back line for this season.
Undoubtedly, the creative genius of Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho will be where the source of assists comes from. His link play with the incoming Firmino will be fascinating to watch. Captain Jordan Henderson has a lot of questions to answer about his potential. He has shown glimpses of his real quality over the past two seasons but now is the time that he must turn the odd match-winning performance into a more frequent occurrence. The ever-reliable British trio of Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and James Milner will also give some stability and strength to a midfield that looked overwhelmed on more than the odd occasion last season. Then there is the evergreen Lucas who was once considered one of the first names on the team sheet for the Reds. Does he still have something to offer?
Then there is the fire power up top. Last season, the top scoring striker was Sturridge with just 6 goals. If Liverpool are to break into the top four then they will need more goals. Signing Ings and Benteke is a step in the right direction but they are two players that will still struggle to compensate for the influence of former talisman Suarez. However, the returning Divock Origi could be a surprise source for goals at just 20 years of age.
It is this unknown quantity of youth that could prove to be the ace up the sleeve for Rodgers. Origi, Ings, Ibe, Gomez, and Wisdom are all players that still have time on their side and have shown moments of class. If Rodgers can mature them and allow them to perform with freedom on the big stage then he has a secret arsenal of talent that could help push Liverpool to the next level.
A number of questions still remain over how well prepared Rodgers side is for the upcoming Premier League season. The fans’ expectations at Anfield are always high but there is still uncertainty over whether Rodgers is the manager to return the good times to Liverpool and, if he is, whether the players he has at his disposal can perform to the level required to launch a genuine assault on the Champions League spots.
Liverpool are currently being offered at odds of 20/1 to win the Premier League this season with bookmakers and punters favouring Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United to take the title. Improved odds of 11/4 can be found on Liverpool breaching the top four come May and qualifying for the Champions League. OnlineGambling.com lists the options for online sports betting for the League for players across the world. Huge sums are expected to be bet online in the coming season with the major bookies vying for business.
However, it is looking grim for Brendan Rodgers on the job front. He is the current 7/2 favourite to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked next season ahead of rival candidates such as Watford‘s Quique Flores, Sunderland‘s Dick Advocaat, and Aston Villa’s Tim Sherwood. As online sports betting plays a bigger part in football with every passing season, the money punters place at the start of the season could increase the pressure on the managers that are being tipped for the chop.
Ultimately, the success of any team comes from the spine. A commanding goalkeeper, a solid defence, a combative yet inventive midfield, and a clinical strike force. There is no denying the potential is there. Mignolet has been a superb shot stopper for the Reds before so he should be able to produce that level again. There are still question marks over the Liverpool defence. If Can is able to maintain his good form at the back then he could play a key role in helping to stabilize the defence. The midfield pairing of Henderson and Coutinho will offer defensive protection and creativity in equal measure. Then the attacking wealth of Ings, Origi, and Benteke is an exciting proposition provided the three strikers can hit the ground running. It is a summer of change for Liverpool and despite Rodgers and his players set to enter unknown territory with new faces, whilst missing some familiar ones, there is a lot for the fans to be quietly optimistic about.