Premier League Season Preview: Liverpool

Ollie Irish

11th, August 2010


By Ollie Irish

Can Uncle Woy take the Reds back into the top four?

Goalkeepers – Pepe Reina is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won’t be leaving Liverpool any time soon. He’s also a real cheerleader within the team and a very popular figure in the dressing room. Diego Cavalieri is a solid enough back-up – not that Reina ever seems to be injured. Hodgson is reportedly keen on signing Australian keeper Brad Jones too.

Defenders – How much longer can Jamie Carragher repel invaders at the heart of Liverpool’s defence? A couple more seasons, probably, but Hodgson will be desperate for Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel – Carra’s understudies – to remain fit for a whole season, so at least Carra can take the occasional breather. Sotirios Kyrgiakos is more than just a useful squad member too. He adds a real physicality to Liverpool’s back four, and has proven himself to be one of Rafa Benitez’s better value signings. New signing Danny Wilson is a fine young prospect and will be eased into the first team slowly, I imagine.

Whilst Liverpool are brutishly strong at centre-back, they look much less solid at full-back. There is a rather lightweight feel about players like Glen Johnson, Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio. All three can be great going forward but less secure on the back foot. That’s why Hodgson is trying to sign Luke Young, as cover for Johnson. Youngster Stephen Darby, who rarely makes mistakes for Liverpool’s reserves and did okay on loan at Swindon last season, may get the odd game at right-back too – if he stays at Anfield this year. I don’t know who the first-choice left-back will be. Insua has been linked with Fiorentina and, more recently, Genoa, but I’m not sure Hodgson sees Aurelio as his No.1 LB, so if Insua did leave, expect someone more prosaic, like Paul Konchesky, to arrive. Liverpool’s defensive corners need more stability, that much is clear.

Midfielders – Like most Premier League clubs, Liverpool have a lot of midfielders on their books. Check this out: Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano (at time of writing), new signing Joe Cole, Alberto Aquilani, Maxi Rodriguez, Damien Plessis, Jay Spearing, Nabil El Zhar, Jonjo Shelvey. And of course Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel can play in midfield too. That’s a dozen players right there. So, quantity is not an issue, but quality might be.

Even though he flopped in the World Cup – though not as badly as some England team-mates – Gerrard is still a very, very good footballer, especially for his club. The midfield will be built around the captain, again, with Lucas, Mascherano/new signing Christian Poulsen (having a medical this week) doing the dirty work. Gerrard seems to love Joey Cole and they may well prosper in tandem, while the likes of Aquilani and Rodriguez have yet to convince the Kop of their worth – this is especially true of Maxi, who has done little since he arrived.

What Liverpool need is more cutting edge on the flanks. Rafa tended to shove Kuyt and Babel out there and tell them to run around a lot, but the Dutchmen aren’t true wingers. Perhaps Hodgson will look at bringing in someone he’s worked with before in this position – like Damien Duff? Just a thought. Wigan’s unsettled Charles N’Zogbia would also be a good buy.

Forwards – The good news: Fernando Torres is staying. The bad news: After Torres, who is hardly the most reliable striker in the world (in terms of fitness), the cupboard looks a bit bare. David Ngog flits between brilliance and incompetence, but at least he’s getting better and will score goals this season. Milan Jovanovic is a squad player, not a match-winner, and he may end up playing left midfield anyway. Woy’s wild card is Daniel Pachecho. The 19-year-old Spaniard, signed from Barcelona in 2007, is a brilliant talent and this could be a breakthrough season for him. Hodgson can also experiment with Babel and Kuyt in more advanced roles – if Torres breaks down, he may have no choice.

Formations – Hodgson has already dabbled with a 4-4-1-1, with Joe Cole in the hole behind the lone striker. It worked against Rabotnicki, but will it work so well against Premier League opponents? I don’t see why not – it’s a good role for Cole, as it gives him freedom in a central area. If Poulsen arrives, the gaffer may feel tempted to trial a 4-2-3-1 formation (Rafa’s favourite), with two from Lucas/Mascherano/Poulsen as the DMs sitting behind a trio of more attacking midfielders: Aquilani, Gerrard and Cole, say. I wouldn’t mind seeing how Barcelona/Chelsea’s 4-3-3 plays – Poulsen-Gerrard-Lucas behind Cole-Torres-Kuyt, for example. But based on Hodgon’s past form, Liverpool fans may have to get used to a fluid variation on two banks of four.

Verdict – Liverpool’s squad is talented and enigmatic, with obvious weaknesses (at full-back and in attack), but under the calming management of Hodgson, they will surely finish higher than last season’s seventh place. With expectations on the Kop now adjusted down, no one would be too disappointed with fourth or even fifth. However, I don’t see how they plan to finish above any of Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham, all of whom have significantly better squads.

Prediction – Sixth

Where do you think Liverpool will finish?

Arsenal preview

Chelsea preview

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  1. Isaac says:

    I’m saying fifth. Not enough depth to the squad for my liking.

  2. PhilandoTorres says:

    Sticking my neck out – 4th.

  3. Red Army says:

    I think your pretty much right about our strengths and weaknesses but I would disagree about the finishing position and not just coz I support LFC. Spurs and Villa will struggle to compete on the four fronts of the domestic cups, the league and Europe, they have little experience in their squad when comes to competing on this many fronts and would expect them to lose points this years. Pressure may also be a factor with spurs.

    On the City front, who knows but it is going to be very difficult job for the manager there, if they have a bad start it could get a whole lot worse. And I dont see Chelsea, Arsenal or Utd really improving at all this year.

    My prediction is 3rd for us.

  4. Dan says:

    “while the likes of Aquilani and Rodriguez have yet to convince the Kop of their worth” – Maxi was signed on a free so just appearing for Liverpool prooves his worth, plus he’s done more than £20m signing Aquilani.

  5. Donner Meat says:

    Scouse Liverpool fan here, still think its going to be 5th this year.

  6. John6780 says:

    You forgot about Martin Kelly as cover at right back who is very solid and promising. In terms of numbers in their squad liverpool are behind totenham but behind in quality? Not a chance. In Cole Gerrard and Torres I think that is arguably the best front three in the world.
    Liverpool will finish above Tottenham this season, Ive no doubts about that at all and man city may well finish behind liverpool aswell given the amount of changes in the squad. They wont gel overnight and I dont think the right man (mancini) is in charge there. I would be very confident liverpool will get atleast fourth this year and should be aiming to finish as close to the other three as possible, you forget that this team (minus alonso) nearly won the league a little over a year ago! I actually think everton are liverpools biggest threat to fourth place this year

  7. nikhil says:

    Liverpool definitely going to win the league

  8. OMAR says:

    I’D SAY 1ST YNWA!!!!!!!!!


  9. Ollie says:


    “In Cole Gerrard and Torres I think that is arguably the best front three in the world.”

    John, bless you for that. You just made my year. Your bias is understandable and very sweet.

  10. Mike says:

    Ollie you are a clown

  11. daboy says:

    Theres a few ifs Roy has not finished recruiting so it is hard to say a position.
    With a little better luck with injuries and providing Aquilani proves his worth 3rd place is my guess way better 1st 11 than Tottenham.

  12. gaptooth says:

    it all depends on the 1st 2 games – if we win one and draw the other (preferably beating arsenal) confidence will be so high that anything above 5th is possible

    if we get beaten by both arsenal and man city – and beaten badly – mentally we will suffer and it could be another tricky season, 6th at best

    the first month is vital

    I also think that ollie has grossly underestimated our squad – last season players like maxi and aquilani played below their level – if they play to their level, they are as good as any midfielders in the league. The same goes for Aurelio – who’s delivery at left back is up there with anyones – if he plays to his level – we have a decent back 4

    What the reds need the most is that surprise package ( a luis garcia in 2005 or G. bale for tottenham last year , maluda for chelsea (also last year) robert pires in 2001/2 season ) a player who will massively OVER PERFORM and score goals in the process. I look at the squad and i see Milan Jovanovic being the sort do exactly that – and being so much more than just a squad player .
    With Rafa gone and the shackles off – their could be the right kind of environment for free flowing and courageous football – the type that allows suprise packages to blossom.

    but as i said before – its all about the first few games

  13. megaman789 says:

    Well you described the strength and weaknesses right but got the verdict wrong.
    What I believe is that last season was just an unlucky fluke and this season, liverpool are gonna perform pretty well in the league. Considering only this transfer season, I believe Liverpool have gained the most except maybe man city(but those have no chance mostly bcuz of the manager)

    My verdict is 3rd or 4th but if liverpool perform really well(and other teams don’t) they could even finish higher than that. Remember Liverpool’s 11 is still a great one particularly even like a champion one.

  14. Luke says:

    If Stevie/Cole and Nando manage to pop in 20-25 each then 4th

  15. Liam says:

    LFC will finish above City lmao.

  16. Donner Meat says:

    “In Cole Gerrard and Torres I think that is arguably the best front three in the world.”

    I swear people come on here pretending to be Liverpool fans. Make us all look ridiculous.

  17. Pete says:

    I’m saying 4th or 5th, maybe even better. In Roy we trust. ;)

  18. dc says:

    most of the goals last season against liverpool, as i remember them, were usually related to emiliano insua’s complete inability to remember how to play football at the position of left back. why no one at the club or anywhere else noticed this, i dont know, but as a united fan, ill just shut my mouth and hope i can continue to enjoy watching a young argentine make attractive dashing runs down the flank for pool this season.

    that being said, i have a lot of respect for roy hodgson (a shame he got with liverpool, i dont know whether i want him to succeed or pool to fail) and i think he’ll make the smart decision.

  19. The 100% Greek says:

    If they have Torres in a good shape and their defence is solid enough they will qualify for the Champions League,if not……..

  20. Anonymous says:

    ‘In Cole Gerrard and Torres I think that is arguably the best front three in the world.’

    For God’s sake

  21. Anonymous says:

    top 4

  22. MerseysideScoundrel says:

    Ollie if you believe any true Red fan would ever be happy with fourth or fifth place you are sorely mistaken mate.

  23. Montesquieu says:

    “My prediction is 3rd for us.”


    You’re having a laugh.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Roy Hodgson’s a good manager although i would have preffered Martin O
    did you see gerrards goal against hungary…the man was born to play in the centre of the park…not out on the flanks or behind torress arse
    He is too good defensively(not to undermine his abilities going forward…and lucas or pulsen(with mascherano leaving)will allow him to express himself freely
    And with Hleb(hopefully) coming in we will get the creativity in the wide areas we have lacked under benitez(who basically used to play his strikers out wide….remember harry Kewl…eben Dirk Kyut used to be a striker..the best…in Feye_whatsitsname)
    N’gog and Pacheco seem to be developing…and if not this season then within two years…Roy will lead us to the promised land

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