Jack Hallows gives his predictions for Liverpool’s upcoming 2018/19 season including top goalscorer and signing of the summer!
Domestic competitive football is upon us!
Seeing Manchester City beat Chelsea 2-0 in the Community Shield – the first competitive fixture of the English top flight’s domestic season – followed by Liverpool’s final friendly of the summer and first fixture at Anfield has piqued my excitement for the coming season.
Our squad looks in fine shape heading into the new campaign and it looked quite clear for a while that there would be no late incomings although many hoped Fekir or Pulisic would be unveiled.
So, with that in mind – and based on the expectation that Ings, Markovic, Origi and Mignolet will all be moved on – here’s my predictions for the season ahead!
Premier League finish: 2nd
I personally am more than confident to echo early pundit and fan assertions that Liverpool will be Manchester City’s closest rivals for the Premier League this season.
I think that Guardiola’s men will have too much for us over the course of a season once again this year and will achieve the impressive feat of back-to-back titles.
I don’t expect the gap to be anywhere near as large as it was in 2017/18 though and if they do miraculously slip up, then I fully expect us to be right on their tail.
Looking at the rest of the ‘top six,’ Arsenal and Chelsea both have new managers and will require time to fully adapt to new philosophies and styles of play while Tottenham aren’t going to be any worse than last season but also, given their lack of additions, won’t be any better either.
Manchester United were helped to a second-place finish last season by the heroics of David de Gea but given how their pre-season has gone and the likelihood of a ‘Mourinho third season meltdown,’ I expect it’ll be an interesting campaign for the Red Devils… just not in a good way.
The Champions League: Quarter/Semifinals
The Champions League is almost impossible to predict given the tempestuous nature of knockout football.
Last season the favourites were Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City but neither came even close to lifting the trophy and I can guarantee you that no one at the start of the season called a Roma/Liverpool semi-final.
With that said, I will predict that the Reds get out of their group and given how well their high-tempo, attacking brand of football lends itself to knockout football, I can see them taking part in the latter stages of the competition when they come around next year.
Domestic Cups: League Cup sacked off, FA Cup victory
Perhaps Jürgen Klopp’s biggest criticism regarding his attitude towards English football so far has been his willingness to simply ignore the domestic cups.
Despite featuring in the 2016 League Cup final and 2017 semi-finals, the German has been unfairly called “disrespectful” and “arrogant” for choosing to focus on league finishes and European competitions during his time at Liverpool rather than fielding full-strength line-ups in the FA Cup in particular.
It’s my opinion though, that this will be the year that Klopp goes all out to try and win one of the available domestic cups.
I personally believe it’ll be the FA Cup and I can see a good start to the Premier League campaign being the real focus during the first-half of 2017/18, with rotation and a “come what may” attitude taken to the League Cup, before the focus shifts to silverware between January and May.
Top goalscorer: Mohamed Salah (38+)
Was I ever going to go anyone else?
After the Egyptian’s goalscoring quite literally broke records during the 2017/18 campaign, he only looks hungrier to kick on this season and while I’m not 100% sure he’ll bang 44 goals again, he’s going to come close at very least.
While Firmino and Mané are both strong goal scorers in their own right, Salah is arguably the club’s best finisher and his ability to score any type of goal means he’s probably going to outscore his two teammates once again.
The former Roma and Chelsea man could also very well make me look silly and improve yet again, notching closer to the half-century mark or even breaching it!
However, I just get the feeling that rotation of our front three will play a bigger part this season given the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri and pre-season form of Daniel Sturridge.
20-25 in the Premier League, 5-10 in the Champions League and a further 5 in the domestic cups would see Salah end up somewhere between the 30-40 goal region which, despite the heights he hit last season, would still be a truly remarkable feat.
LFC Player of the Season: Naby Keïta
While Salah is likely to gain even more plaudits through his continued goalscoring form, I don’t think a lot of football fans – especially those of other clubs – realise just how good Naby Keïta actually is.
It’s a big statement to say that the little Guinean is going to completely transform Liverpool’s midfield. A big statement but not an absurd one.
While you’ll generally hear him billed as a “slightly more attacking Kanté,” these are just lazy comparisons based mostly on their similar stature and ball-winning abilities.
In truth, Keïta is the perfect box-to-box midfielder.
Sure, just like Kanté, he is dynamic, reads the game brilliantly and is incredible at winning tackles and making interceptions, however, he’s also got an Iniesta-esque ability to glide past players, set up teammates and play piercing through balls to breach opposition defences.
He’s also good for a goal too.
Salah will probably once again outscore everyone at Liverpool this season but personally, I think Keïta will outplay even him.
Most important signing: Alisson Becker
Maybe contradictory given I’ve just said that fellow new-boy Naby Keïta will be our player of the season, however, Alisson is just such a huge buy for the club.
He represents a direct upgrade on Loris Karius sure but in truth, the goalkeeping issues that have plagued this club have been going on for far longer than just last season’s Champions League final.
Finally, the club has invested big, big money into a goalkeeper and for me, it’ll only pay off.
Fans will have to be patient to allow the Brazilian time to settle and get used to the pressure that does come with playing for Liverpool, especially given the weight of expectation that will be on his shoulders after events of the last months.
However, I am confident that when he’s fully settled, the difference that Alisson will make to not only our backline but our team as a whole will be immense.
Surprise package: Xherdan Shaqiri
I was torn between Shaqiri or Wijnaldum for this one given that I think Gini will take his game to another level this coming campaign and really crack on but I’ve gone with our little Swiss powerhouse.
Shaqiri has made all the right noises during pre-season and has translated them perfectly onto the pitch, notching two assists and scoring a screamer in just 135 minutes of football across the summer. Encouragingly, he’s also played in three different positions (as a 9, 10 and right winger) and slotted in seamlessly in all of them.
I was really happy with this signing when it was initially announced that the former Bayern man would be joining, especially for only £13m and I fully expect him to show his true talent under Klopp.
Personally, I reckon he finishes the season with double figures total goal/assists and becomes a proper fan favourite.
Oh, he also takes a good set-piece too!
Other mentions: Robertson, Fabinho, Pulisic & captain Virgil
A couple of other little predictions I have are that the defence continues to improve through the introduction of Alisson and that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, in particular, will take their games to a new level this season.
The introduction of Fabinho will for me, also have a lot to do with this.
The Brazilian’s presence in the holding position will allow Robertson and Trent to push higher up the pitch, offering further width in the final third and allowing Salah, Firmino and Mané to wreak havoc in and around the box where they belong.
Fabinho’s knowledge of how to play in the full-back positions means that like Milner did last season, he will be able to cover for the pair when they pick their moments to overlap while also slotting in between the centre-halves when one is forced wide.
Speaking of the defence, I genuinely think Fabinho, Keïta and Wijnaldum end the season as Klopp’s first-choice midfield trio out of the personnel he has available, meaning no Jordan Henderson or James Milner.
In this case, there’s only one natural choice for the captains’ armband for me and that’s Virgil van Dijk.
Finally, a slightly wilder prediction, Liverpool will strike a deal with Borussia Dortmund in January to bring Pulisic in next summer in a deal structured similarly to that they managed with Leipzig last summer for Keïta.