2021 is over, and with it has gone all of Liverpool’s near-misses and injury absences of the past 12 months. Definitely. Now on to optimism, glory and fully sustainable fitness levels!
Alright, so maybe the latter is a little ambitious, especially if we’re adding in Covid-related absences.
But there’s still an awful lot to look forward to during the coming calendar year, not just this season but for the medium and long-term, too.
Indeed, it could well be that 2022 is the most unique year in football history.
Here are some big reasons for the Reds and Kopites all over the globe to see spirits soar and belief rise again that good times remain just over the horizon with Jurgen Klopp and his squad.
League Cup semis fast approaching
Not too long to wait for the first of these: a two-legged domestic semi-final is around the corner.
We face Arsenal, at the Emirates then at Anfield, with both games done by 13 January.
Clearly, the aim is to ensure a Wembley final, which would be our first in six years, is on the agenda – and hopefully pick up a first piece of silverware since Hendo did his slightly hampered tapdance in lifting the Premier League trophy.
How do we deal with AFCON absences?
During the semis but before the (potential) final, our Premier League fate itself will largely become clear – because we’ll find out how Liverpool fare without the services of two key forwards.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are off to the Africa Cup of Nations, with midfielder Naby Keita joining them. We wish them all well, of course, but from a Reds perspective an early return wouldn’t leave too many fans shedding tears – as long as no injuries come with it.
We have to navigate at least two league matches, potentially another, as well as three cup fixtures while they are away. No further ground can be lost if we want to be in the running for the title.
Major contract talk to be solved
Keita, Mane and Salah have another thing in common: they are all 18 months away from the expirations of their contracts.
Salah’s is the key, the big one, the most problematic and the most urgent to solve, simply by virtue of being Liverpool’s, the league’s and potentially the world’s best player.
Hopefully he’ll follow the likes of Van Dijk, Fabinho, Trent and a handful of others in extending his Anfield stay, then we can turn attentions to the others we want to renew.
Ox and Firmino are similarly placed and due for renewals if we want them beyond 2023, while this coming summer it’s Adrian and James Milner who are out of contract from the first-team squad.
Signings and strategy
January? Maybe we’ll get a new face. In the summer, we’ll surely get at least a couple. There hasn’t been a whole lot of regeneration around the squad over the last two years or so, just the odd additional face, and it might be time to get a couple of new ones in at once.
There’s more to consider than merely squad balance, ages, salaries and transfer fees this time though – we might have a new, or at least updated or evolved, strategy in mind.
Julian Ward takes over from Michael Edwards as sporting director and while it’s sensible to assume he’s appointed to ensure continuity and following the pattern which has served the Reds so well, he’ll also have his own ideas, his own methods of concluding deals in and out of the club.
Fingers crossed he proves every bit as successful as Edwards has been – he’s certainly highly thought-of within the club and has progressed and been promoted through the hierarchy accordingly.
A triple trophy push – and a parade at last!?
Success, that’s what it’s all about. Too many fans are maybe ready to give up on the league title already – Klopp and the gang certainly won’t be. But even if that proves out of reach in the end, three others are not right now.
Liverpool are very, very, very well-equipped to challenge to win the Champions League. Maybe better there than the title, given fewer games and the style of play.
Plus, the final’s in St. Petersburg, so we’re bound to get to that one…
But we’re three matches away from a domestic trophy too as we’ve detailed already, and there’s nothing to stop us going all-out for the FA Cup too if we get through the early rounds and City remain clear in the league.
Champions of Europe and a triple trophy celebration?
That sort of thing might even be worthy of a really, really long-awaited parade!
Anfield Road End construction continues
Off the pitch, but increasingly important to success on it – Anfield will be getting bigger and better.
We all loved just how impressive and enormous the last extension to the stadium was and now the Annie Road End will be joining the Main Stand in getting a much-needed overhaul.
It won’t be completed during 2022, but we can see above the rough progress the Main Stand had on the same timeline as the ARE will be by the end of the year (pictured above) – with a big chunk of work to be done over summer, then again while we don’t play for six weeks while the World Cup is on.
Next talented youngsters to emerge?
Always a guessing game due to the ups and downs of youth development, but we can no doubt look forward to some of the academy’s brightest and best getting their chance.
If we ignore for a moment those who have already begun to make the breakthrough, who could be next at some stage of the year?
We’d expect, for example, to see Kaide Gordon get progressively more of an opportunity.
After him, James Balagizi has the talent but has to overcome injuries, while Melkamu Frauendorf has shown promise since joining from Germany, too.
Stefan Bajcetic or even fourth-choice goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga are others who may see a debut come their way during 2022 – which promises to be another year of opportunity and excitement throughout the club again.
The World Cup Weirdness
Winter 2022 will be a weird one for all of us. No Liverpool match from mid-November until Boxing Day – six weeks without the Reds at the usually busiest time of the year.
What will be interesting is how those players not at the World Cup are doing during that time. Perhaps they’ll get a couple of weeks rest, but they’ll need to somehow be match fit for the Boxing Day return, so they’ll need to playing somewhere, somehow.
So will that mean friendlies for Liverpool’s non-World Cup players? A training camp is likely. Will there even be a tour of some sort? It will be interesting, and weird.
2022 promises to be a year like no other.
Dates for 2022
- February 6 – Afcon final
- February 27 – League Cup final
- May 14 – FA Cup final
- May 22 – Final game of the season (vs. Wolves)
- May 28 – Champions League final (St. Petersburg)
- June 30 – James Milner‘s contract expires
- June 30 – Salah, Mane, Firmino, Oxlade & Keita enter final year of contract
- August 6 – 2022/23 Premier League begins
- November 2 – Final Champions League group games
- November 14 – Premier League pauses
- November 21 – World Cup begins
- December 18 – World Cup final
- December 26 – Premier League resumes