Liverpool Needs Health On Its Side To Build On Last Season

The running summer finesse for European soccer teams is to play in preseason tournaments and friendly games around the United States and throughout Asia. It’s a great deal for fans, who get to see their team while keeping ticket and travel prices modest. In particular, it was a great deal for this fan, who got to see Liverpool FC without flying to Liverpool itself.

Forget that it was hot and that they lost — it was really cool to see some of the new parts of the team fitting together after a season that exceeded expectations and inspired some high hopes for this upcoming season.

Liverpool finished last year’s Premier League season in fourth, just making the last qualifying position to be in this year’s Champions League for the second year in a row. In the Champions League is where Liverpool really exceeded expectations, making it to the final against Real Madrid, where they lost 3-1.

So, quick recap: Liverpool is trying to add to a team that finished fourth in an extremely competitive Premier League and lost in the Champions League Final to the best European club team. And that talent has to fit into the structure and tactics of Jurgen Klopp’s team, all while exceeding's campaign expectations.

That’s not easy. But there are improvements all over the field for Liverpool.

The most obvious improvements that I saw was in the midfield. Liverpool added Naby Keita, a tireless and tenacious midfielder who’s just as comfortable in defense as he is in attack, and Fabinho, who will help improve Liverpool’s goals conceded record as a defensive-minded midfielder who sits deeper in front of the center backs. The closest thing that Liverpool has had to both of these players is their current captain, Jordan Henderson. More recently, Henderson has been asked to sit deep and provide defense, whereas he used to prowl up closer to the enemy’s box.

Also, Liverpool have made a huge investment in improving their goalkeeper situation by spending a world-record £67million (slightly over $88 million) on Roma’s Alisson Becker. This was the big transfer that Liverpool fans were screaming for after the Champions League Final. Madrid’s second and third goals could both be attributed to errors from Loris Karius. On top of being a better goalkeeper than Karius, Alisson is more handsome than noted Instagram honey Karius.

The last change so far has been in the attack, where Liverpool bought Xherdan Shaqiri at a bargain price of £13 million (about $17 million). He’s going to be an upgrade for the bench and in case one of the wingers picks up an injury during the season — Liverpool was very fortunate in this regard last year — he’d be a better option than they’ve had in the past. His nickname at Bayern Munich was "Der Kraftwürfel" which translates into English as “The Powercube” and he’s a total weirdo so he’ll fit right in.

Liverpool hasn’t purchased any new defenders in this window after buying Virgin van Dijk in last year’s winter transfer window. They could use the depth, though.

On paper, this team is better than last year’s team. I don’t see how the expectations could be lower than second or third, which is on par with oddsmakers' premier league predictions and another healthy Champions League run. I just think it comes down to depth and luck.

Winning the Premier League will inevitably come down to depth, and Manchester City is currently unrivaled in terms of depth. For instance, their attacking options are Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Bernardo Silva. All of those players could fit somewhere into an attack. Liverpool can’t compete with depth like that just yet, so they’d have to be healthier over the course of a 38-game Premier League season and win more often than a team that talented. It’s not impossible. This team is just stupid enough to pull it off, or come close and disappoint all their fans in the end.

I think it’s more likely that Liverpool run it back to the Champions League Final. It’s a smaller sample size and Liverpool can be lucky again. And if they meet Madrid again, they’d have the motivation.

If I have to call it, I’d say Liverpool finish second in the Premier League and make it to the quarterfinals or semifinals in the Champions League.

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