Players Guide Season 2009-10: Liverpool
The Reds are keen to end their title drought this season. After narrowly missing out on the title last season, Liverpool are expected to come stronger this time around and win the Premiership title.
Sami Hyypia and Jermaine Pennant departed at the end of last season. Alvaro Arbeloa just made a switch to Real Madrid and Andrea Dossena looks likely to be shown the exit as well.
Liverpool's lack of squad-depth was seen as the primary reason why Liverpool failed to wrestle the title from Manchester United last season. So, do they have the players to challenge for every major honours this season?
Steven Gerrard: The Key
Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard has signed a contract extension that will most probably see him ending his career in Liverpool. And the only thing remains missing from his trophy cabinet is the Premiership title.
Steven Gerrard has always been Liverpool's most important man since Rafa Benitez took charge in 2005. The talismanic skipper did miss a few weeks here and there due to recurring injuries last season. With him fully fit throughout the coming season, anything is possible.
The 29-year-old versatile player is expected to continue playing as a second-striker to Fernando Torres, a combination which has worked out so well whenever both of them are fit.
Fernando Torres: The Goal Machine
Last season wasn't the best for Fernando Torres. Injuries scarred his season and only 17 goals were scored, compared to the 33 goals he scored on his debut season.
So can you imagine the number of goals he can score if he stays fully fit for the whole of the coming season? Therefore, Liverpool will be relying heavily on both Torres and Gerrard to score the goals needed not just to win the Premiership title, but also every possible trophies.
Arguably one of the best strikers in the world, the 25-year-old has vowed to win trophies with Liverpool.
Dirk Kuyt: More Than Just a Workhorse?
Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt has made the right-wing position his own after spending an impressive season in that position. His never-ending energy and work rate had seen him played every Premiership games last season.
Dubbed as Mr. Duracell by Rafa Benitez, Kuyt is more than just a hardworking player. He was Liverpool's highest goal scorer after Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard last season. In fact, he has never failed to hit the double-digit goal figure since joining Liverpool in 2006.
Therefore, his presence will be vital for Liverpool next season as he is capable of sharing the goal-scoring burden with both Torres and Gerrard. The 29-year-old is close to hit his peak and the best of him is just around the corner.
Glen Johnson: The New Spark
Currently Liverpool's only major signing this summer thus far, Glen Johnson was undeniably England's best right-back at the moment. Rafa Benitez had to battle many clubs for his signature.
Although the price to obtain his service is rather heavy, Johnson's inclusion in the team can bring a new dimension to Liverpool's play. He is a contemporary full-back very good at going forward, helping his offensive teammates to tear stubborn defenders apart.
Rafa Benitez has tried him on both sides of the back four so far in pre-season games.
Emiliano Insua: The Rising Talent
Argentine full-back Emiliano Insua began cementing his place in Rafa Benitez's plan last season, successfully making 13 appearances despite the presence of Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena.
With Aurelio set to miss the opening games of the new season and Dossena increasingly likely to leave, young Insua is expected to be involved more regularly this season.
Aged only 20, Insua can only get better and featuring more will only aid his development as a footballer.
The Defensive Unit: The Reliable Ones
Liverpool's defence has always been a key to Liverpool's success in recent seasons. Liverpool have always been very good defensively with very good centre backs to choose and a very good goalkeeper to guard the goal.
Daniel Agger was among the players who penned contract extensions and will compete with veteran Jamie Carragher and tough Martin Skrtel for a place in the starting line-up.
Young Martin Kelly is expected to enter the fray after the departure of Sami Hyypia.
Three times Golden Gloves winner, Jose Manuel Reina, completes Liverpool's defensive unit with Diego Cavalieri as a reliable back-up.
Xabi Alonso and Javier Masherano: The Spinal Discs
Both Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have been heavily linked with moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Rafa Benitez has been reiterating his desire to keep the duo but the former has reportedly handed in a written transfer request.
Losing any of them would be a major blow to Liverpool. Mascherano is the man who kills of attacks even before they reach the defenders. Alonso is the man who creates plays with his superb passing range.
Therefore, it is fair to label the brute and the deep-lying playmaker as Liverpool's spinal discs, components that hold the pieces of spine together.
Andriy Voronin and Philipp Degen: Out to Prove Something
Andriy Voronin was sent out on loan to Hertha Berlin last season. Philipp Degen was spending nearly the whole of last season on the sidelines.
Both have similarities. They both arrived on free transfers and more importantly, both have something to prove in the new season. It will be interesting to see how the duo perform this season.
Voronin was pretty impressive during his loan spell in Bundesliga last season and he seems to be the safest gamble as a back-up to Fernando Torres. And Arbeloa's sale will only give Degen more playing time next season, providing when he is fit.
Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel: Time to Step Up
Lucas, the player fans put blame on since his arrival in summer 20007. He is to blame every time Liverpool perform below par and his name is always among the first ones to pop up whenever fans talk about players to sell.
Honestly telling, how many midfielders in the world at the moment can look good playing in the same team as Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, and Javier Mascherano?
The 22-year-old Brazilian hasn't been doing bad at all since his arrival from Gremio. He has been improving consistently and his attitude is top class. Lucas revealed spending extra hours in gym since his arrival and hopefully, that can help him to be a better player this season.
Ryan Babel had a rather successful first season at Anfield. However, Albert Riera's arrival limited his chance to start last season. Most of his appearances last season were as substitutes.
The 22-year-old Dutch winger, who can also operate as a striker still has a lot in him. Babel is still regarded as a youngster with high potential and hopefully he will have a good season this time.
Yossi Benayoun: The Secret Weapon
Yossi Benayoun was also rewarded with a new contract this summer. The Israeli captain is Liverpool's secret weapon in a bid to win the Premiership title and other trophies.
Capable of playing on either flanks as central attacking role, the 29-year-old playmaker has come on from the bench to score goals on numerous occasions. He has the ability to break down opposing defenders, creating opportunities for players around him.
Whether or not he starts on a regular basis, he is sure to be someone to watch this season. Even if he plays a game for only a minute, his presence will still be felt.
The Young Reds: Finally Ready For First Team?
Rafa Benitez has been using several youngsters in the pre-season games thus far. Peter Gulacsi, Daniel Pacheco, Jay Spearing, Krisztian Nemeth, and Martin Kelly have played in most of the pre-season games so far, if not all.
Rafa Benitez has spoken about his delight at the improvement of the youngsters and does is signify that the youngsters will be given chances to impress in first team games next season?
Krisztian Nemeth and Daniel Pacheco are tipped by many as the two that will make their first team bow this season. Nemeth is a clinical striker and he scored twice in the 5-0 win over Singapore. Pacheco is a flexible forward who can beat defenders with his skills and speed.
Apart from them, Stephen Darby, Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing, and Damien Plessis will be hoping to add to their first team appearances count after making their debuts in previous seasons.
Possible New Faces: Necessary?
Glen Johnson might not be Rafa Benitez's last major signing this summer. With Xabi Alonso and Andrea Dossena increasingly likely to leave, replacements are needed.
David Silva has been rumoured with a move to Anfield since the end of last season.
Alberto Aquilani is also a possible replacement for Alonso, if he ends up being sold to Real Madrid.
Englishmen Lee Cattermole and Michael Turner are also being monitored.