We're at the edge of the open plane once again, parachute strapped to our backs, screaming that we're not ready. This roundtable is the deep breath before the jump.
The summer transfer window isn't closed yet, but Liverpool have already made a ton of moves. Which one stands out most to you for better or worse (and why)?
The sale of Luis Suarez is this summer's headliner, but it was a move that we saw coming immediately after he bit Giorgio Chiellini. So for me that's not the move that stands out most. I think the purchases of Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, and Alberto Moreno all stem from the right line of thinking from Liverpool's brain trust - buy players with the potential to be stars who can also produce right now. Out of those three, I'm most excited about Moreno because he plays left back and Liverpool showed excellent persistence to get their man at the right price after a prolonged transfer saga. (Dan)
The Emre Can move is the one that stands out most to me. I thought it seemed like a great bit of business from the start, and I had never even seen him play. Having seen him play in the preseason, I think he could turn out to be the best signing in this window for us. His versatility should allow him to get a good amount of playing time, even in a crowded midfield, and I have high hopes that he will impress in his first season with the club. (blunatic)
To me, it's the two wing halves and Dejan Lovren. Everyone knows we need work in defense, and Dejan Lovren looks to me like he could stay and be the rock of our defense for another five years. Plus, all of our wing backs have looked really tired as of late. Enrique's injury is still taking time, while Glen Johnson in my opinion, has looked very lazy, especially over the last 18 months. Manquillo (aka Butters) and Moreno could likely displace them both by Christmas.
As for long-term, it's Can and probably Origi. I've said since we signed him that Can looks a little like Jordan Henderson with a bit of skill, and he impressed me in most of the preseason games he featured in; plus, I love my Germans. Origi looks like he could live up to the hype, and I wish him well at his final season at Lille. (JAceKopite16)
Liverpool have had a great window, bringing in seven quality rotation-worthy players for 2014. However, the one that stands out the most for me is the one that won't help Liverpool this year at all; Divock Origi. I'm hoping this is the first of several transfers of this vein over the next few years as Liverpool start to adopt the Chelsea model of buying young talent early and farming them out. This looks like it might be the best bet of finding one or two true superstars in the FFP-era. (ArunK)
Do you think the defense will be much better this season with Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo, and Dejan Lovren added to the team, or are you concerned that Liverpool still haven't done enough to strengthen in the back?
The defense almost has to be better than last season. Mamadou Sakho is too good to have another year like the last one and with a season in England under his belt I expect him to develop into the anchor of Liverpool's back four, which on its own will propel our defense beyond last year's performance. I'd like to think that one of Lovren/Agger/Skrtel/Toure can find a good run of form alongside Sakho, and Jon Flanagan will hopefully continue his emergence into a solid Premier League fullback. Most importantly, I expect Moreno to instantly improve the left back position, and with Flanno likely to move over to play right back, there should be fewer Glen Johnson sightings. (Dan)
Honestly, I think the defense would have been much improved this year even without any of those signings. I think last year was a bit of an anomaly. The defenders we had are too good to have continued to be that poor defensively. Also, with Suarez's departure, I wouldn't be surprised to see the team revert back to Rodger's preferred possession style game which should help the defense out quite a bit. Now, having said all that, I love the defensive additions we've made. Lovren gives us 4 very solid center backs, but Manquillo and Moreno are the ones that really excite me. Their additions hopefully mean I won't have to suffer through more of Glen Johnson, and that makes me so happy I could cry. (blunatic)
Heh. Simple. I kinda addressed this above, so I'm gonna say yes. With three of our defenders speaking fluent French I think the obvious pairing will be Sakho and Lovren. And as Dan said above, I expect Sakho to come good this year after getting settled in. (JAceKopite16)
Don't think Liverpool could have really done much more to strengthen the back. I really do like all three defensive signings, especially Lovren who does look to have walked straight into the system. I'd like Lovren better if Brendan played him on the right against Dortmund, alongside Sakho, but I fully expect Lovren to play both sides this year. Centreback is the deepest position on the team now and if Enrique is healthy that's five solid fullbacks that Liverpool have (or four if you want to leave out Glen Johnson) and a good balance between left and right. Still though, as much as I love Stevie, I'm not sure how good the defense will ever be with Gerrard as the starting defensive midfielder. Emre Can might be the biggest factor on how good the defense will be this year if he plays alongside Hendo in the middle of the pitch. (ArunK)
Which player do you see taking the biggest leap forward this season?
This is hard because there's multiple players who look ready to break out. While Coutinho had his moments last season he wasn't the shining star many pegged him to be after his incredible 2012/13 second half, but after a brilliant preseason it's hard not to think that he's about to fulfill his promise. And Sakho is someone who lots of people are sleeping on for some reason, and I think he'll show major improvements in his second season with the club. (Dan)
I have to go with Coutinho. I'll be honest, I was a little down on Phil last year and going into the offseason, but boy was I wrong. He looked unstoppable in every one of the preseason games. Even when the rest of the team couldn't get much of anything going, Coutinho was garnering all sorts of praise. If he continues to build off of his recent run of form, it could go a long way towards making up for the loss of Suarez. (blunatic)
I'm leaving out all the new signings here so definitely Coutinho for me. Without Suarez he now becomes the creative fulcrum of the attack and I'm looking for him to become a superstar this season. Watching him and Sterling grow together will be fun. In terms of wider public opinion (ie: not just Liverpool fans) I think Sturridge takes the biggest step up. He'll need to be the one finishing off a lot of the moves from this superb midfield behind him and if he stays healthy I think Liverpool will have a 30 goal striker for the second straight year. Hopefully this time, one we'll keep....(ArunK).
With a crowded midfield, who's most likely to get Luis Alberto'd this year and struggle to see enough playing time?
There's more fixtures to go around, but it's still going to be near impossible for Brendan to give every midfielder enough playing time. While Lucas and Suso both have unique skill sets, they'll need to impress in the minimal time they get as the season begins and parlay that into more playing time later in the season. (Dan)
I really hope I'm wrong, but I think it's going to be Suso. I just get this feeling that he is going to be the odd man out most of the year. Suso has a ton of potential, but I worry if he doesn't start getting some meaningful playing time he's going to want out. (blunatic)
Joe Allen. He found it kinda difficult to get a game last year, and hasn't really lived up to his price tag. But then you also had the emergence of Hendo and Sterling last year, so that could have been a factor, but Liverpool have made many more midfield signings this summer which displaces him further. It's sad, but likely to happen. (JAceKopite16)
As Liverpool now have four competitions and with the lack of Suarez you'd expect a lot more five midfielder sets, I don't expect anyone to be fully Luis Alberto'd, thankfully. Agreed with all three above though, Lucas, Suso and Joe Allen are going to struggle to get a run of games, simply because of the talent ahead of them. (ArunK)
Out of the other 19 teams in the league, who concerns you most?
There are teams that concern me head to head and teams that concern me generally over the course of the season. Head to head Chelsea worry me the most because out of all the big teams they're the most different from Liverpool in how they play. The Reds are at least within their element against the fluid teams like Arsenal and Manchester City, but Chelsea and their defensive football force Liverpool to find avenues to victory that aren't needed for practically any other fixture. But I think Manchester City are better suited to demolish the bottom half of the table than Chelsea, and that for me puts them a notch ahead in terms of best team in the league on a weekly basis.
Definitely Chelsea. Last year they showed that Mourinho's terrible park the bus style works pretty well against us, and without Suarez I see it being even harder to create anything against them. (blunatic)
Two teams. We all know City are gonna be challenging, Man U, if they can get past the first few games without much trouble, will also contend. And that's to be expected.
Last year, Chelsea were our kryptonite. It worries me to no end. But also, Everton. My personal hope is a top four finish with getting to at least the Quarters in Europe. The Blue Half are going to be our main challengers for that spot in my opinion. (JAceKopite16)
Short answer is the whole top-third of the league. Chelsea scare me the most; it's second year in Mourinho's system and I think they've gotten a lot better in this window. Man City have quietly strengthened, Man United will be back under Van Gaal, and Arsenal have added the player I wanted Liverpool most to get to a side that looked like the best of all last year until everyone (inevitably) got hurt for them. Spurs have had an extra year to let all the new signings gel and they have a much better manager in Pochettino. Everton have not lost anyone of vital importance and their young core is a year better. The EPL is hard, folks. (ArunK)
What's your confidence level heading into the new campaign?
I don't know whether to listen to the part of me that's still buzzing over last season or the pessimistic side that felt repeated disappointment to the point of numbness during the Hodgson and Dalglish eras. I'm confident that we can achieve top four and potentially even three as I fully expect there to be a couple nose dives between Arsenal, United, Tottenham, and Everton. But a title challenge might be beyond us, although that's what we thought last season too. (Dan)
I would say I'm cautiously optimistic. I think a title challenge is probably expecting a little much, but it wouldn't completely catch me by surprise like last year. I think top four is still achievable, and I fully expect us to not only challenge for the top four, but finish top four. Anything less than that will be a big disappointment in my opinion. I think our season is going to depend very heavily on Sturridge. I have confidence in Sturridge's ability, but I worry that he may struggle for a while without Suarez. Luis' presence alone made Studge's life a hell of a lot easier, so I'm interested to see how he adjusts to being the focal point. If he struggles early and loses his confidence, I think it could be very bad for us, but if he can adapt quickly and be effective right out of the gate, we should be just fine. (blunatic)
As I said, top four is a decent season for us. We already have the XI to do well, but now we have a bit of depth. But we do also have more games to play, which is why we signed all those players. If we sign another striker who can produce 20 goals a season, we can challenge for the title, but I'll be happy with a top 4 finish. And I'm confident of that, too. (JAceKopite16)
I'll take top four if it comes with a run to the quarters in the Champions League. Would be nice to get a first trophy for the Rodgers-era, that might happen in the FA or League Cup now that Liverpool have added credible depth to the superb starting lineup. Liverpool certainly could challenge for the title again, but more importantly I expect Liverpool to be in the picture for the next 10 years now that we have all this young talent growing up together. You have to be in it to win it, and as long as we stay in it we'll win one of these races. All of us Liverpool fans 24 and younger have never had a championship winning side in our lifetimes, but I think that's going to change sooner rather than later. Maybe as soon as this season. (ArunK)