Liverpool head into the 2019/20 season with plenty of optimism but three players will find it tough with the European Champions.
Lovren was Liverpool’s first-choice centre-back from when he arrived for £20m in 2014, until Virgil van Dijk arrived in January 2018. He continued to have a starting role, though, alongside the Dutchman.
But that changed last season. Lovren started a combined 36 games in the Premier League and Champions League over the 17/18 season. That dropped to 13 in the subsequent campaign.
He’s now fourth-choice behind Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip. Gomez should particularly worry him – if the 22-year-old stays fit, Lovren may never oust him again.
And after Matip’s stellar performances en route to European glory, it’s quite difficult to see how Lovren improves his game time. It’s little surprise that he could be on his way out.
Lallana is another who slipped down the pecking order – only his misfortune happened the previous season. He’s played only 25 league games over the last two seasons. That combined total is lower than any single-season total since he broke into the senior setup at Southampton.
There are, by our count, six centre-midfielders ahead of him right now. That’s some drop-off, considering the key role he played after signing in 2014 for £25m. Just two years ago, he was arguably Jurgen Klopp’s main-man.
Injury problems and competition make it very difficult for Lallana to regain that kind of role.
A strange one, seeing as he only joined a year ago for £13m. But then, his 18/19 season was strange, too. Shaqiri barely played at first but then exploded at Christmas, looking like a key player.
We wrote at halfway that he was developing into a key player and, of outfield players, looking like the signing of the summer. And then, out of nowhere, it all collapsed.
Shaqiri barely featured over the second half of the season. It looked, in fact, as though he was bought solely as a rotation option over Christmas. When crunch time came, Klopp left him on the bench every week.
How does he change that? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back, providing competition, while Rhian Brewster has been promoted, too. Divock Origi’s heroics will surely give him a bigger role, limiting Shaqiri’s chances.
If the second half of last year is anything to go by, the 2019/20 season could be tough for Shaqiri.
It’s not to say that these players are dead in the water. They could all have brilliant seasons – Origi and Matip are fine examples of players in this position a year ago who went on to become heroes.
Right now, though, all three are set for difficult campaigns.