The Blog FC are previewing every English Premier League side ahead of the 2015-16 season. Who’s arrived? Who’s departed? What do they need this coming season? Who will be the key man? All of that, and more, is answered below, as The Anfield Wrap’s Neil Atkinson previews Liverpool Football Club’s season ahead.
By Neil Atkinson
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Captain: Jordan Henderson
Ins: Joe Gomez (Charlton), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Roberto Firmino (1899 Hoffenheim), Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), James Milner, Adam Bogdan, Danny Ings (Free Transfer), Divock Origi, Tiago Ilori (End of Loan).
Outs: Steven Gerrard, Brad Jones, Glen Johnson (Free Transfer), Sebastian Coates (Sunderland), Iago Aspas (Sevilla), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Ward (Aberdeen, Loan), Luis Alberto (Deportivo La Coruña, Loan), Kevin Stewart, Lawrence Vigouroux (Swindon Town, Loan), Javier Manquillo (End of Loan).
Last season: 6th
European Competition: UEFA Europa League
2014-15 was… Dreadful. A hangover, followed by a really good run, followed by a collapse back into dread. A bunch of things happened early that Liverpool didn’t need – Sturridge’s injury, Gerrard getting exposed, Lallana’s run of injuries and a collective loss of both brain and bottle (see Lovren, Mignolet, Balotelli). Most of all, the manager, who had never really taken a backward step while in charge was suddenly taking a ton of them. The reality that Liverpool hadn’t bought the goals they needed to given Sturridge’s injury record and Suarez’s departure took its toll, and even when winning Liverpool never really recovered. In almost every game they played, Liverpool scored one goal fewer than they should have. They became a middle-third team and a middling middle-third team at that.
The side stabilised with a really gutsy midseason run when Liverpool shifted to a back three before going to bits again as the reality of carrying inept forwards led to a collapse in trust between the players and the manager.
So yep. Dreadful. Still had some great days out though so you know. Swings and roundabouts.
2015-16 will be… God knows. A tightrope walk. Liverpool are the most “could go either way” side in the division right now. Practically every player has something to prove. Benteke and Firmino need to show they are ready for the step up; Milner for his central berth; Clyne that he can nail down right back. That’s just some of the players signed this summer. Normally when people say “player x has question marks” they mean “I don’t really rate him”, but I do rate Lallana, Markovic and Emre Can but they’ve all got massive question marks. Sturridge has them around his injury. So does Mamadou Sakho. Mignolet can’t have another three-month dip or his chances of being a top ‘keeper are effectively over. Henderson has to deal with becoming Liverpool captain. Every player I’ve mentioned here has the potential and talent to be exceptional for Liverpool this season. All have the possibility of letting the side down. It’s alright though. Because Liverpool have also changed the backroom staff and the manager goes into the season with a significant section of Liverpool supporters sceptical of him and another section of idiots downright abusive. All the best.
And yet, this is exciting; stupidly, giddily exciting. Watching this side every week will be a voyage into the unknown. It settling down quickly and Liverpool playing football at a high tempo with emphasis on winning the ball back high up the pitch and getting it into the opposition net and anything is possible. Absolutely anything. Liverpool play thirty games against sides they should beat. Whether the season is a success or not will be clear in how many of those thirty games they win. The other eight only become relevant if at least twenty-two of those thirty games are won. Liverpool have bought in a manner which suggests this is the plan. It needs executing.
Key player: It’s probably Benteke. If Sturridge was fit it would be him. Firmino might need a bit of time. I expect Milner to impress. But it is Benteke. If he can fit and gel quickly with the players around him then he should get the chances he needs to show himself to be the dead-eyed finisher he looks to be. If he stutters and cannot play the sort of football Liverpool need to play then, well, have a look above at the talk of 2014-15. Things could get messy. He’s started alright though.
What, or whom, do Liverpool need? Liverpool need relentlessness and arrogance and certainty in one another in front of goal. They need Brendan Rodgers to be at his best and to make them be at their best. They need no more crises. They need a bit of luck. They need to win the first game at Stoke. They need to get naked and have a disco. They need to batter Bournemouth. They need to play zipless, seductive, demonstrative football. They need to make every ball theirs and spend thirty-eight games making every ball theirs. They need to know that backward steps don’t suit them, never suit them, can’t suit them. They need to know that they can’t moonwalk but man alive can they strut. They need to know that every game stands alone and that they can win all thirty-eight of them. They need to know that they won’t win all thirty-eight of them and that is all right. They need to play and play and play and play. And win and win and win and win. Liverpool need to hate Nottingham Forest and they need to hate Everton too.
They need to know that all plots lead to death and Liverpool need to know that trying to win the league and failing to do so is far better than trying to come fourth. They need to know that there are thousands of people in Liverpool and millions of people the world over who are seduced by braveness and boldness and that the greybearded in soul and ethos can and should be ignored and dismissed. Liverpool need to get the ball. It is their ball. They need to score goals. It is the purpose of the enterprise. They need to know they have no choice, not with this manager, not with these players. Liverpool need to go forward, forward, forward. Liverpool need to be by far the greatest team. Liverpool need to be coming up the hill. Liverpool need to be handily placed at Christmas.
Liverpool need to know that it is here and it is now and there is no long term plan that works and there is no project, there is thirty-eight games and then a break and then another set of thirty-eight games.
Liverpool need to have it be a joy to be alive that day my friend. Liverpool need to set fire to a city again.
The Blog FC predicted finish: 5th
Neil Atkinson is a Liverpool local and hosts the award-winning podcast, The Anfield Wrap, as well as a number of shows on their recently-launched TAW Player – the closest thing you’ll find to an independent radio station run by fans. You can check out The Anfield Wrap website here, or subscribe to their free weekly podcast here. You can follow Neil on Twitter here.