Liverpool – From Pretenders to Contenders?05.08.2018 03:25:38
A lot of things have happened since Liverpool last won the English top-flight title back in 1990. Great Britain has had six different Prime Ministers and the United States has gone through five Presidents. Brazil, Germany and France have all won two World Cups each.
Perhaps most importantly, bitter rivals Manchester United have claimed 13 Premier League trophies to make it a total of 20 and overhaul the Merseysiders’ previous record of 18. That will be the one which sticks in Scousers' craws the most, but having reached the Champions League final last season and made some exciting acquisitions over the summer, are Liverpool now equipped to win back the prize that has eluded them for so long? Is it finally "their year"?
The New Fab Four?
Alisson Becker (Goalkeeper)
The most expensive goalkeeper in history at £66.8million, Alisson Becker has a lot to live up to in comparison to the man who last held that mantle – Gianluigi Buffon. However, the Brazilian was by far the best goalkeeper in Serie A last season with Buffon still around and on top form himself. Alisson was pivotal in Roma's memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals with some crucial and spectacular saves throughout. He was also one of Brazil's better players in what was ultimately a disappointing World Cup for the Seleção.
Alisson is not only an excellent shot-stopper but is confident with his feet too and models his game on the archetypal "sweeper-keeper" of the modern era, Manuel Neuer. Perhaps most importantly for Jurgen Klopp, he fills a massive void in his team which has been gaping for many years now. The German coach often rotated between Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, both of whom never looked convincing in the No.1 role. That was most notable in the Champions League final when Karius dropped a couple of clangers to cost Liverpool the game against Real Madrid.
Fabinho (Defensive Midfielder)
The versatile Brazilian may go down as Liverpool's most unheralded signing of the summer but he could end up being the most important. The £45million that the club spent on him shows how highly regarded he is at Anfield.
Fabinho started his career as a right-back and can still operate effectively in that role. However, he was able to reinvent himself as a defensive midfielder at Monaco and developed into one of the best around in that position. The 24-year-old won the most tackles and aerial duels for Leonardo Jardim’s men in Ligue 1 last season but has shown that he’s far from simply a destroyer in the middle of the park - Fabinho also made the most passes for the French club. All in all, it illustrates a player who will not only win the ball back for his team but has the ability to keep it. Additionally, he has chipped in with goals and assists, including 15 out of 15 penalties scored in his time at Monaco. The loss of a player of Emre Can's ability would hit most squads hard but Liverpool may well have actually upgraded here.
Naby Keita (Midfield)
A potential superstar in the making, Keita's meteoric rise came whilst playing for sister-clubs Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig. In Austria, he won two domestic doubles in a row and was named the Player of the Season in his final campaign before making the move to Germany. His upward trajectory didn't stop and he was pivotal in achieving European football two years in a row for newly-promoted RB Leipzig. The Guinean was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season for 2016/17 and then the Europa League Squad of the Season the following year.
A powerful and quick box-to-box midfielder, the 23-year-old may well be the best to grace Anfield in that role since a certain Steven Gerrard. Those are big shoes to fill but Keita has all the tools at his disposal to become one of the best midfielders in Europe. Along with his physical attributes, he also possesses majestic technical quality, with a wide range of passing vision and the ability to read the game effortlessly. After the crushing news that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely miss most of the season, Liverpool fans can console themselves with the fact that Keita is the perfect replacement and potentially an improvement.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Forward)
Perhaps the wildcard in all of Liverpool's summer transfer business, Shaqiri is certainly a gamble for Klopp & co. It's amazing to think that the Swiss is still only 26 years old, having already played for some of Europe's top clubs. Christened as "The Alpine Messi", that tag seemed to weigh too heavily on him in his stints at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan where he never quite managed to show his true potential.
A shock transfer to Stoke City in 2015 finally allowed the diminutive forward to be the star in a fairly modest team. He has always had fantastic ability with his quick feet, incisive passing and eye for a goal – often spectacular ones as he showed on his debut for the Merseysiders in a pre-season friendly against Manchester United recently.
The question marks with Shaqiri come with his work-rate and attitude. He has often been derided for shirking his defensive responsibilities and was very outspoken about a "lack of quality" in the Stoke squad before they were relegated last season. It is unlikely that Klopp will pick him in the starting eleven regularly but he is the kind of maverick-style player who will often be able to conjure up something special coming off the bench. He might end up being the surprise package for the Reds this season.
All in all, it's undeniable that Liverpool have done some excellent business in the summer transfer market and there could be yet more to come with the immensely talented Nabil Fekir constantly being linked with a move to Anfield.
For now, Jurgen Klopp has addressed arguably the biggest headache he's had since being at the club with the arrival of a world class and definitive first choice goalkeeper. He has strengthened in attack, midfield and defence if we include the January acquisition of Virgil van Dijk who has been an instant success. Add that to the core of players who are already at the club and this is surely the best Liverpool squad in many a year. Klopp’s men beat Manchester City three times last season on the pitch and they now look as though they are ready to topple them at the summit of the Premier League.
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