Season Previews 09/10 – Liverpool

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liverpool

Last Season: 2nd

Say hello to your new teammates: Alberto Aquilani, Glen Johnson, Chris Mavinga.

Close the door on your way out: Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastian Leto, Jermaine Pennant, Sami Hyppia, Jack Hobbs.

Predicted star: Fernando Torres. Lethal when fit, Liverpool will hope that he plays more than 24 games this time round. If he manages 30 games he should be top scorer, given his record of 0.67 goals per game in his Premier League career so far.

Needs a big year: Alberto Aquilani. I mean this in the sense that Xabi Alonso’s boots are hard to fill, especially considering how he played last season. He’s out for 4-8 weeks so will need to hit the ground running once he gets fit. Glen Johnson will also need to justify a £17m price tag.

The number of weeks before he plays.

The number of weeks before he plays.

One to watch: Emiliano Insua. I was impressed by him the few times I saw him play in the latter stages of the season and given that Aurelio is out until mid September he has a great chance to establish himself early on. Rafa surely won’t play Dossena ahead of him? Right?

What they want to happen: A first league title in 20 years and with it sole ownership of the overall record.

Nightmare scenario: Man Utd win number 19.

Plan A: Solid organisation in the back four with two deep lying midfielders ahead of them. Kuyt and usually Benayoun working hard down the wings and Stevie G playing just off Torres. More expansive play down the flanks is planned with the signing of an attacking full back like Johnson.

Plan B, just in case: Let Gerrard shoot from distance late in games and make Andy Gray squeal in delight.

Predicted finish: 4th.

Why? But for seven disappointing home draws last season, Liverpool would have won the title at a canter. Rafa Benitez had finally found a formation that worked and with it stopped the tinkering. Gerrard found in his best position and essentially plays as a second striker these days. Most of all Xabi Alonso resisted Liverpool’s attempts to sell him and had his best season in five years at Anfield.

The defence first policy was also somewhat abandoned and Liverpool were the top scorers with 77 (two per game). The thing is though I can’t see Liverpool repeating the heights of last season. Alonso is a big, big loss and I don’t think Aquilani will offer the same kind of skills (though he be a good player for them). Luckily Liverpool’s start is very easy so it will cover his injury and the need to play someone like Lucas to begin with. As ever, a lot will depend of the fitness of Gerrard and Torres. They both seem susceptible to several niggly injuries a season rather than one big one. Three of four periods of missing a few weeks soon adds up though and it was telling that they only played something like 14 games together.

The wait goes on.

The wait goes on.

Though the first team is very strong, the squad is still quite average I would say and many of the replacements are nowhere near the level required. If you look at some of the other players who have left (Hyppia, Pennant, Arbeloa) you can see that they’re not great but whoever stands to replace them are only going to be at the same level, not an improvement.

Up front especially you just have Torres, two potentially good youngsters in Nemeth and N’Gog and nothing else. A new striker (to replace Keane no less) is definitely a priority. Liverpool will be up there and even though I have them 4th, they will be within 10 points of the title. Glen Johnson will help turn some of those home draws into wins but I think once again, the wait for number 19 will continue.

.

T.

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