Janet Yoxall takes a look at Liverpool’s start to the 2016/17 season, predicting a very dominant start for the Reds’ Premier League campaign.
Liverpool start their Premier League season away at Arsenal. In the last six head-to-head games, Liverpool have won one, drawn three and lost two. Last season both games ended in stalemates. The 3-3 tie saw Firmino bag a couple with Allen getting a late equalizer. In reply Ramsey hit the back of the net while Giroud scored a couple before the fifty-six minute.
Wenger likes to play 4-5-1 with Özil playing off Giroud. The French manager is looking for versatility with their new signing Takuma Asano, the Japanese striker. Clyne will have to work hard if Asano plays as he is powerful and pops up everywhere with great heading skills and could nick a goal with either foot too. There are rumours of Van Persie returning to the Emirates along with interest in Lukaku and Lacazette which shows Arsene is pushing for the Premier League title.
Klopp will be ready for Arsenal. The Liverpool lads will be in the best condition physically. My personal opinion is that Coutinho will link up with Firmino and Sturridge with Origi coming on around sixty minutes in. Henderson or Grujic will boss midfield with Can getting forward often. Mignolet may have a wobble but the final score will be 3-1 with us bagging 3 goals in the first 25 minutes Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge quick off the blocks. Origi will crowd the midfield when he comes on for Sturridge to suppress any Arsenal attacks.
Our second game is at home against Burnley but Anfield’s main stand won’t be finished so it has been agreed by the clubs that it will be played at Turf Moor.
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In recent fixtures against Burnley, Liverpool have come out on top winning five, drawing one and losing one. Sean Dyche will need to bolster his midfield with David Jones and Michael Kightly both 30 or older. Dyche likes to play 4-4-2 but against Liverpool I think he will play 4-4-1-1 to try to close down the space in behind their defence making it more difficult for the Reds to counter attack.
We all know what Sam Vokes is capable of after seeing him in the Euros but there is also Stephan Ward of the Republic of Ireland. He is a versatile player who can play as a striker, left back or left midfielder. I am not sure if Michael Keane will still be a Burnley player because Leicester have had two bids rejected already for his services.
If Benteke is still a Liverpool player this would be an ideal game for him to play in. He could serve as a target man, holding the ball up for his team mates to get forward. Origi would play off Benteke and controversial as it seems I’d take Benteke off in the 80th minute and put on Balotelli if we haven’t sold him to a Chinese super-club yet.
Add Adam Lallana who is good at opening up defences with superb passing skills with Clyne, as well as Moreno belting down the wings putting crosses into the box for someone to header into the net. I would play Sakho with Lovren in the back four and sub Moreno for Milner with 25 minutes to go. I predict a comfortable 4-0 win to us.
Away at Spurs will be a very tight game. If you predict the game based on recent fixtures it will be a close game with 3 out of the last 6 games between Liverpool and Spurs ending in a stalemate.
Last season, like with Arsenal, saw both Premier League fixtures ending in draws. This will be our toughest test of fitness, strength and passing accuracy. Eriksen is a lethal playmaker and everything going forward goes through him. He reads the game well and picks a pass without thinking. Liverpool must close him down to stop him playing.
Kane and Ali didn’t perform at the Euros for England but you can bet they will for Pochettino. Real Madrid are rumoured to be after Lloris which would weaken Tottenhams’ defence but as of yet nothing concrete has been decided with the Frenchman still in his native country as France made it to the final of the Euros. With Dembele out for the first four matches after being banned for scratching Diego Costas’ face, Victor Wanyama has been brought in from Southampton to tighten up the Londoner’s midfield.
Klopp would be wise not to have an out-and-out striker but playing Origi as a false number 9 in order to stifle Spurs when they are on the attack would have its merits. This game will be won on speed of attack so I would think with Firmino, Mané and with Sturridge on the field we could outpace Spurs on the counter attack. Emre Can’s patience and awareness wouldn’t go amiss where as Milner’s work rate would get him in the starting line up. I’d keep Sakho and Lovren in defence with options on the bench. I’m hopeful we have Dahoud in the squad before we go to Spurs. He would be a great partner for Can. I presume a draw is a fair result for this match. 1-1.
Our fourth match of the campaign is against Leicester. This will be our first home game after the completion of the new stand. In recent fixtures we top last season’s champions winning three out of 6. This will be an open game where Leicester will be quiet happy to let Liverpool have the lion’s share of the ball. It’s all about waiting for their chance to break. Leicester have signed Nice midfielder Nampalys Mendy; a French defensive midfielder who lacks consistency along with Luis Hernandez from Sporting Gijon. Raneri is looking at Ahmed Musa and Robson -Kanu who we saw score a terrific goal with a Cruyff turn against Belgium. Leicester is likely to use a 4-4-2 formation but will have 10 men behind the ball when they concede possession.
I would argue Leicester will not match the great heights of last season although they will be a tough team to play. Klopp may go for strength with Liverpool playing 4-5-1. I’d like to see Mané, Sturridge and Benteke in an attacking line up with Millner, Dahoud and Can providing service along with our fullbacks. Karius should be in the team by then and I’d give him his chance in-goal. I predict a 2-1 win to Liverpool with Sadio Mané getting in on the score sheet for the first time as a Liverpool player.
On the 17th of September, Liverpool go to Stamford Bridge, where on our last visit we won 3-1. Chelsea had lost their way. Coutinho had a blinder with two goals left foot. It’s unlikely we will have it so easy this time round with Liverpool’s head to head against Chelsea not so great. Having won lost three times and drawn once against the Londoners, the Reds will not work hard for the win. Hazard looked a different player at the Euros full of fight and fire again. Conte has bought Michy Batshuayi, a Belgium international who has scored 44 goals in 120 games. He’s big and strong is a powerful header of the ball and he likes to get in the box as he is a goal mouth poacher. Conte may well play the 3-5-2 formation which will allow Hazard a licence to roam.
Klopp knows the quality in depth that Chelsea possess so he will aim to match it with quality and strength. Origi will play up top with Mane and Lallana who will drop off to regain the ball. Milner, Henderson and Can will add weight to the midfield with options of Coutinho and Dahoud on the bench. Karius keeps goal in this one which I see being another draw possibly 1-1.
Our sixth match is against newly promoted Hull at Anfield who we last meet in 2014/2015 season which ended 0-0. Steve Bruce has a team with several well-known names. Huddlestone has just signed a two year extension to his contract, Michael Dawson plays in defence while Robert Snodgrass plays as an attacking midfielder. Abel Hernadez is their danger man with 20 goals last season. Bruce will get them playing really tight to our players to let them know it’s going to be a rough game.
Klopp will control the tempo and possession of the game where free kicks will go Liverpool’s way. Then play high tempo counter attacking football. Ings may get the nod for this one with Coutinho, Lallana and Origi to provide the killer pass or blast one in. Joe Allen the Welsh Pirlo would be a perfect fit for a tough match making runs from the centre of the park with Lucas in the holding role. I would bring Joe Gomez in against Hull to play along side Lovren. Liverpool should win comfortably with Joe Allen to score a late goal.
A start like this would leave us with us 14 points out of a possible 18 which wouldn’t be a bad start for Klopp’s first full season in charge.