We are just a few days away from the start of the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League season and the excitement is nearly palpable. Many clubs have brought in new talent in order to push their standing as high up the table as possible. This season promises to be the most competitive in recent memory. I could go through and do a preview of each club, but I will stick with the boys in Red.
Spotlight- Liverpool New Boys: Liverpool have spent money this off season, that much is clear. But they have also done some extremely good business and managed to keep their net spend relatively low (Thanks, Raheem).
James Milner was brought in on a free transfer. This is a lad who has two Premier League winner’s medals, is a mainstay in England’s national side, and has plenty of UCL experience to boot. He is the ideal player to bridge the gap between a Steven Gerrard Liverpool and a Gerrard-less Liverpool. His £150k/week salary is hefty, but since Liverpool paid nothing in transfer fees, his cost is still quite low.
Christian Benteke Christian Benteke is one of Liverpool’s two ‘marquee’ signings this off season. Brought in after Liverpool triggered his whopping £32.5m release clause, Christian Benteke chose to accept the number 9 shirt. So much history lies in that number, and it seems Benteke is not afraid of the pressure a shirt of that stature brings. After a brilliant goal in Liverpool’s final preseason match against Swindon, it’s no wonder Liverpool supporters are excited to see how he works with the first team. Stoke away will be our first glimpse into the future.
Roberto Firmino Roberto Firmino is the second of Liverpool’s ‘marquee’ signings this offseason. Bought from 1899 Hoffenheim for £29m, the 23 year-old will have a substantial price tag to live up to. Likely persuaded by fellow Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino should have no problem settling into the Liverpool family. An extremely technically proficient lad with a nose for goal will only help Liverpool push well beyond the stagnant attack that reared its ugly head most of 2014/15.
Danny Ings Danny Ings represents a decent bit of business. Brought in on a free transfer (more like £5m after tribunal), Ings nicked double digits in the goal column for Burnley in 2014/15. This is no small feat considering the talent (or lack there of) around him during the season. While Ings doesn’t expect to feature much outside of domestic cups and substitute appearances, Liverpool could do much worse at the back up striker position (see; last season). Ings is a good buy.
Nathaniel Clyne Nathaniel Clyne? Another Southampton player, you say!? Surely not! Liverpool have now purchased like 40% of Southampton’s 2013/14 starting XI. Southy may as well change their name to little Liverpool. All jokes aside, Nathaniel Clyne is a tremendous signing. A very talented right back with 3 full seasons of Premier League experience for just £12.5m. Nathaniel Clyne is a technically sound defender who is very comfortable moving the ball forward. He should make an excellent addition to the squad, filling the gap left by the losses of Manquillo and Johnson.
Joe Gomez Joe Gomez is a name most Liverpool supporters have been hearing a lot of in the last week. After a very impressive preseason, Gomez seems to have earned himself a starting spot at left back over Alberto Moreno. While I do not necessarily agree with this decision, it’s hard to argue that Gomez doesn’t show a ton of potential. He seems to be a good deal at £3.5m. Let’s hope the lad steps up early.
While not a particularly flashy signing, it was a necessary signing. Simon Mignolet has cemented himself as Liverpool’s first choice keeper after a slow start to last season. Bogdan has some good experience and has even capped at the international level for Hungary. Let’s hope we don’t see much of him, but if we do I hope he performs.
Spotlight- Returning Players:
Jordan Henderson is in for his first full season as Liverpool’s captain, following the departure of Steven Gerrard. He will have big shoes to fill, but he seems up for the challenge. Hendo has quietly amassed 16 assists over the last two seasons and will look to add to that tally this season. He still needs work on his finishing, but his 6 goals from a deeper midfield position last year are impressive nonetheless.
Philippe Coutinho Philippe Coutinho is coming off a tremendous season. Liverpool’s player of the season for 2014/15 rescued the club in multiple domestic cup matches. And who could forget his winning goal against Manchester City at Anfield? I expect huge things from Coutinho this season. He will be surrounded by several capable attackers, which should ease the burden on him, allowing him to operate more freely in attack. It should be exciting to watch.
Daniel Sturridge The name Daniel Sturridge brings about different reactions from Liverpool supporters. A menace when he’s on the pitch, Daniel Sturridge is a true striker who is capable of changing a match at any time. The issue, as we all know, is Daniel Sturridge’s fitness. Having been injured some 14 times since arriving at Liverpool in January of 2013, it’s no wonder supporters are not quick to count on him. You have to admit, a front line of Benteke and a healthy Sturridge would be one of the best pairings in the Premier League. Let’s hope we get to see plenty of it.
What To Expect:
It’s hard to imagine what to expect of this Liverpool squad. Last year was such an amazing disappointment, it can be difficult to get your hopes up. But each new season brings some level of hope.
Liverpool’s signings this summer look a lot more impressive than last year. I still think management failed to address a weakness at centre back depth, but the rest of the squad seems to have improved. By September, Liverpool could see Sturridge, Benteke, Coutinho, and Firmino leading the attack. While it may not be as potent as Sturridge, Suarez, Sterling, and Coutinho, it is more than capable of yielding a top 4 finish. I believe Liverpool have the players to finish anywhere from 2nd to 7th in the table. But I believe Manchester City makes a substantial drop and United underachieve.