Daniel White wonders if top four aspirations are realistic for Liverpool.
The 2016/17 season is a massive one for Jürgen Klopp and his squad, with many big moves happening around the Premier League; Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba going to Manchester United, Pep Guardiola joining Manchester City and Antonio Conte taking charge at Chelsea, the pressure and competition is increasing immensely. Taking that into consideration along with how strong Arsenal and Spurs were last season is it a realistic expectation to be finishing in the top 4?
Liverpool have brought in some good talent that are sure to improve the team, the obvious one being Sadio Mane as his performances against Barcelona and Arsenal show. However, it may not be the personnel that will make the biggest difference for this Liverpool side this season regardless of the massive call from fans to replace and improve certain areas on the pitch.
It would be somewhat disrespectful to Arsenal, Spurs, United, City, Chelsea and even Leicester City to say that Liverpool will definitely finish above them with recent history; however in the same breath it would be wrong to dismiss Liverpool, especially under Jürgen Klopp. There is no doubt that Chelsea this season will be out with a point to prove and with the addition of N’Golo Kante I’m sure will be more solid under Conte. Guardiola and Mourinho are both two of the top coaches in the world today and as usual have had the chance to spend a lot of money on the players that they want.
Spurs arguably have done the least amount of recruiting for this season having only brought in Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen however they could prove to be top signings under Mauricio Pochettino who has drastically improved the Spurs side. United with Pogba and Ibrahimović will certainly want and expect to be challenging for the title, Mourinho has proven he can win the Premier League and will be looking at nothing less however last season also highlighted his ugly side and what can happen if it all goes wrong.
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The question is can Liverpool finish higher than any of those teams? It would be fair to say that this is very unpredictable at the top with Arsenal, Chelsea, City, United, Liverpool, Leicester and Spurs likely to finish in any of the top places. The difference for Liverpool this season, if we are to finish in the top, has to be Klopp getting the best from the players and fully implementing his style which gets high praise.
Liverpool have looked strong in preseason and the squad, including the new signings seem to have taken Klopp’s style like a duck to water. One player in particular is Mane who seems to enjoy the high energy style, and looks dangerous with his lightening pace. Last season didn’t always go to plan for Klopp but the opportunity to have a preseason to really get his message across to the team will surely leave him feeling more confident about this year’s campaign.
Klopp will also hope for a stronger defensive unit, which did improve slightly once Klopp came in, as he won’t want a repeat of some of the defensive lapses that occurred last season against Southampton, Watford or Newcastle. To do that Klopp will need to find out his best back 4, does that include Moreno, with Lovren and Sakho or Matip? That is something Klopp will have to figure out if we are to stand a chance of top 4.
Provided Liverpool can continue to develop from last season and preseason, there is every possibility that a top 4 finish is possible. Something that Klopp will be focused on is making sure that the team is focused in all games. There were times that Liverpool struggled against some of the smaller teams and came away with draws that should have been wins for a team that wants to be challenging at the top. The players, as always, will need to provide the goods on the pitch and adapt their playing styles if needed and thrive under Klopp. Will Liverpool be able to do that? This season will tell, however will need to fight off the other top teams that look very strong.