Liverpool season preview: Could this be the year for Jurgen Klopp?

In our Liverpool season preview, we discuss three challenges facing the Reds as they dream again of winning the Premier League…

Last season: 4th
Title odds: 4/1
Relegation odds: 2000/1
Major ins: Naby Keita, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alisson Becker, Isaac Christie-Davies
Major outs: Emre Can, Jordan Williams, Jon Flanagan, Danny Ward
Key player: Mo Salah

If the Champions League final defeat was deflating, Liverpool’s summer business soon put a spring back in supporters’ steps and hopes are high that Jurgen Klopp can do what he did at Borussia Dortmund and win the title in his third full season in charge.

Naby Keita finally completed his long-awaited transfer and with Fabinho also coming in from Monaco, Liverpool’s midfield has been transformed. With Alisson also becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in history, Klopp has been backed to end the wait for silverware.

With Mohamed Salah the obvious superstar, there is already a lot right about this Liverpool team. But how do they go to the next level? Here, we take a look at the three issues that could be the difference between success and failure in 2018/19…

Strength in depth for rotation

It is not just that the new signings add quality but they add depth too. Keita and Fabinho can expect to go straight into the starting line-up but Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum are staying and that means Liverpool can keep things fresh in midfield without the quality levels dropping. That will be just as crucial in the forward line too.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino are unlikely to miss only three games between them again and that will put the onus on others. Daniel Sturridge, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings managed four goals and two assists in 1279 minutes between them last season but more will be needed. Could Xherdan Shaqiri be a game changer in that respect?

Breaking down deep defences

Klopp’s record against big teams is good but he has struggled to break sides down. Seven home draws, including a stalemate with West Brom, was too many last season, while the away defeat to Swansea exposed their recurring problems against deep defences. Does Klopp finally now have the squad to be able to properly address this issue?

Keita, in particular, could have a key role here. He is a player with that bit of creativity in midfield – both with his dribbling and passing – that could unlock things for Liverpool when Salah and the rest are denied space to run into. It gives Liverpool another way to win and the hope is that this could be the difference over a 38-game season.

Getting the defence in order

Klopp’s men outscored everyone except Manchester City last season but they also conceded 38 goals at the other end – more than the three teams that finished above them in the table. In fact, it was only one goal better than Burnley in seventh. It is a balancing act, of course, but Liverpool’s leakiness could still prove costly if it is not properly addressed.

The signing of Virgil van Dijk went some way to providing a solution – Liverpool conceded fewer than Manchester City following his arrival – and while Loris Karius saved his worst moments for other competitions, expect Alisson to bring assurance in goal. But Klopp needs others to improve too if the defence is to be an asset rather than a hindrance to their hopes.

Phil Thompson’s verdict

I like what Jurgen Klopp has done by trying to strengthen the players behind the front three and get more goals from that area. That part of the team is where you win titles and Fabinho, Shaqiri and Keita can provide that additional firepower. Lallana is also back. With one more centre-back, Liverpool can be a real force; I’d be looking at snatching Harry Maguire from under Manchester United’s noses.

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