David Freeman argues that Liverpool have the building blocks for a title challenge in place.
Liverpool ended their two-year Champions League drought with a fourth-place finish in the 2016-17 season, but Jürgen Klopp will have his sights set on a challenge for the Premier League title in the coming campaign.
The Reds made a significant improvement in the German’s first full season at Anfield, moving up four places in the table from the 2015-16 campaign when they finished in eighth.
However, the term could have been considered a disappointment, with five of their six defeats coming against teams that finished in the bottom half of the table, while the other was against ninth-placed Bournemouth.
Liverpool put forward impressive performances against the elite sides in the division, defeating Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham over the course of the season, without suffering a defeat to any of the top teams in the top eight.
Klopp’s men should be in consideration for the crown, although Oddchecker’s preview of their campaign suggests that the Reds could struggle to match the teams at the top due to their lack of top-tier additions over the summer.
The Merseysiders have signed Mohamed Salah from Roma, who was a revelation in Serie A during spells with the I Lupi and Fiorentina, although he struggled to break into the Chelsea team during his time at Stamford Bridge.
His pace is intriguing, with Liverpool being able to cut teams apart last term with their speed on the break. Their convincing home victory over Tottenham highlighted how dangerous Klopp’s men can be at their best, with Sadio Mané shredding the Spurs’ defence with relative ease.
Should they keep Mané, Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho on the pitch for the majority of the season, they will be able to prove their doubters wrong. However, fitness has been an issue for at least Coutinho and Mané during their time at Anfield, along with Daniel Sturridge.
Injuries could be the decisive factor in whether they can keep pace with the elite teams in the Premier League, with Coutinho and Mané’s absence looming large during a five-match winless run at the start of 2017 that quelled their momentum at a crucial point in the term.
Liverpool’s defence also let them down last season, with Klopp being unable to rely on a stoic back-line to protect his team when Mané and Coutinho were absent. Alberto Moreno’s disastrous form saw him jettisoned from the lineup with James Milner filling in admirably at left-back.
The arrival of Andrew Robertson will allow Milner return to the middle of the park, where with the return to fitness of Jordan Henderson, Klopp should have an embarrassment of riches with Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum also present in the engine room.
The key move for the Reds has not occurred as of yet and may not due to the complaint Southampton made against them at the start of the summer in Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman reportedly wants to leave the south coast and Klopp was willing to part with £60m to acquire his services.
Jöel Matip was solid in his first season in the Premier League, but Dejan Lovren’s issues with consistency were again a huge problem. Should the Reds secure the signature of the 28-year-old they could have arguably the strongest centre-back pairing in the league.
Klopp is moulding a strong team, but his men have to go out and justify their potential by delivering a trophy at the least in the next campaign to believe they can go on to better things in the future.
What do you think? Can Liverpool win the 2017/18 Premier League title or has Jürgen Klopp not reinforced enough yet?