Liverpool FC: 15 Bold Predictions for the New Premier League Season
A new season is merely a week away, and after an active summer at Anfield the harsh memories of last season are becoming more and more distant. Manager Kenny Dalglish has seemingly turned the club's fortunes around and the feeling in the fanbase and among the players is that things are looking up.
Big things are expected in Merseyside this year. Liverpool have spent a lot of money to improve the squad, and the team is looking stronger than it has for a long time.
As for the upcoming season, it is difficult to predict what to expect from a new-look team despite the high expectations. Any prediction anyone makes for the 2011-12 season is bound to be bold. Here are the 15 boldest:
15. Raul Meireles Is Sold
Charlie Adam, Steven Gerrard, Lucas, Alberto Aquilani, Jordan Henderson, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Cole, Raul Meireles...the list of world-class central midfielders at Anfield goes on and on. Someone will have to go.
To me, Raul Meireles has emerged as the most likely candidate. Rumours have been circulating around Aquilani all summer, but Meireles has been quietly attracting interest from suitors. He's the most likely option because he'd easily bring in the most money.
Dalglish has been told by the club's owners that he must sell before he looks to add more to the squad. He may have to sacrifice the Portuguese PFA Fans' Player of the Year.
14. Liverpool Enter the Season with No New Left-Back...
Dalglish has been chasing a left-back all summer, but all his efforts have been to no avail. As much as the Anfield club need reinforcements, none of Dalglish's targets have been willing to make the move to Merseyside. It's starting to look like Liverpool's area with the biggest need might go unsolved.
Jack Robinson could well enter the season as the No. 1 choice, but it's likely Fabio Aurelio takes that role. The 31-year-old Brazilian occupied the left side for most of last season, before losing his place to a hoard of youngsters.
Liverpool will head into the season with weakness at the left defender position.
13. ...But Leighton Baines Signs in January...
Just because Dalglish is unable to sign a new player in the summer doesn't mean he won't continue looking. Baines has been linked with his cross-city rivals and Liverpool would love to have him. There's a good chance they pull the deal off.
Baines has developed into one of the best left-backs in the world in recent seasons, and he wouldn't just be an improvement, he would make the Liverpool left flanks one of the best in the league. At 26, he still has his best years ahead of him.
Everton have been holding out for £20 million, but Liverpool should be able to pick him up for around £15 million.
12. ...As Does James McCarthy
As mentioned, Liverpool have no shortage of elite centre midfielders, but James McCarthy is one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League and Dalglish would love to sign him.
The 20-year-old became one of Wigan's most important players last season as they managed to stay up, and Liverpool have been linked with the Irish international for ages. He has developed quickly, and if he can continue that, he is crucial for Liverpool to pick up.
He plays a very similar game to Anfield hero Steven Gerrard, and projects as a potential long-term replacement in the heart of the Liverpool midfield.
11. Martin Kelly Becomes Key Player
Martin Kelly has developed really well at Liverpool, and has been knocking on the door for a starting XI spot for a while. Last season, he seemed to have it under Roy Hodgson, but injuries held him back.
This season, Liverpool come in with a thin defensive corps, and Kelly's versatility is welcome. If Daniel Agger is injured, there is a good chance Kelly starts at the central defender position alongside Jamie Carragher. If Agger can stay fit, Kelly could be put next to him to create an intimidating 6'3" pairing at the heart of Liverpool's defense.
Either way, Kelly is ready to step up big for Liverpool this season. Look for him to break out and become a star in the Liverpool red.
10. Alberto Aquilani Emerges as Fan Favourite
When Alberto Aquilani joined Liverpool from Roma two seasons ago, he came in heralded as Benitez's best signing and as the new Steven Gerrard. Unfortunately, he struggled with injuries his first season and fell out of favour with the Liverpool faithful, prompting Hodgson to send him out on loan back to Serie A last season.
Now, he comes back with a clean slate. He has impressed in preseason, displaying some really good chemistry with new signing Charlie Adam and forcing Dalglish to think twice about sending him out on loan again.
When he's fit, Aquilani is a world-class midfielder and Liverpool fans need to remember that they are very lucky to have him. If he's given a chance this season, he will prove himself in every way and become a favourite among the Kop.
9. Stewart Downing Busts
I don't know why, but something tells me Stewart Downing won't be as successful as he's expected to be at Liverpool.
The 27-year-old winger joins Liverpool after two seasons at Aston Villa for a fee believed to be around £20 million. Because of the price, he already has lofty expectations on his shoulders. He comes into the squad expected to solve the team's left wing problem immediately. More pressure.
There is no doubting that Stewart Downing is a great player, the only question is whether or not he can overcome all the pressure that will be on him from the Anfield faithful, the management and his fellow players.
Only time will tell.
8. Raheem Sterling Becomes Youngest-Ever Liverpool Player
With his seemingly endless talent, Raheem Sterling could probably have played in the Liverpool first team last season, but his involvement has been severely hindered by the fact that he is still in school. The only games he's been able to play are games in Europe where he has been able to travel during half-term.
Liverpool did sign Stewart Downing in the transfer season, but the first reserve appears to be 16-year-old Sterling. He's a quick winger with lots of energy and will be an effective substitute this season.
Raheem Sterling will become one of the youngest-ever Liverpool players to play in the Premier League. Though he is still 16 until December, he will be given an opportunity behind a Liverpool team that is low on depth at the wing position.
7. Liverpool Do the Double over Manchester United
Since the 28th of April, 1894, Liverpool and Manchester United have been engaged in an epic battle and have exchanged blows 118 times. Liverpool have won 58, Manchester 60. United have been controlling that rivalry recently, having won the Premiership four of the past five years, but Liverpool fans are hoping that will change soon.
This seems like a team built to beat Manchester United. Liverpool are very strong in attack, and United are strong in defense. If Liverpool sign a new centre-back in the remainder of the transfer season, the opposite will be true as well. The result? It will likely come down to a midfield battle, an area where Liverpool are significantly stronger.
Don't be surprised to see Liverpool wrestle United to defeat twice this season.
6. Domestic Cup Domination
Liverpool haven't won a major trophy since the 2006 FA Cup. It's time.
Kenny Dalglish has a track record of excellence in domestic cups, with a career total of two FA Cups and four League Cups. This season will mark his first shot at a cup as new Liverpool manager, and with a significantly strengthened team, there's no reason to think the sky isn't the limit for Liverpool and Dalglish.
5. Luis Suarez Is PFA Player of the Year
At times last season, Luis Suarez looked invincible, the best player in the league by far. He dominated with his speed, dynamic dribbling and smarts. Imagine what he could do with a full season at Anfield.
Suarez projects to be a forward playing alongside striker Andy Carroll. The two could create a deadly partnership, with bulldozer Carroll holding up the ball for Suarez and the latter racking up goals and assists. Liverpool's prospects in attack look really, really bright, and Suarez is the key to that.
Liverpool's success next season will largely rely on Suarez. If he has a strong season and Liverpool look good because of it, Suarez will certainly be in contention for a host of awards at the end of the season.
4. Andy Carroll Wins the Golden Boot
Andy Carroll had a remarkable scoring record during his time with Newcastle United, but with all due respect to the Northerners, he did it largely on his own.
Now, he comes to a club where he'll have plenty of support. As mentioned, he'll likely play with Luis Suarez up front next season, and with the speedy Uruguayan providing crosses and through-balls to the big Carroll, no goal total is out of the realm of possibility.
Personally, I am super excited to see what this dynamic duo can produce together.
3. Back to Europe
The situation for Liverpool fans isn't as bad as it seems. It is simply made worse by the pain of not making the European competitions for the first time in so long. The truth is, Liverpool only just missed out in a hugely disappointing season, and the team is now improved with a better manager and better players and they will undoubtedly be back in the Champions League soon.
2. Plans for a New Stadium
Anfield has been Liverpool's home since their formation in 1892, and we all love the ground, but it is time for the club to move on and find a new stadium.
There has been talk of a new stadium for a while, and with the new owners willing to spend money to bring Liverpool back to their glory days, it is likely the new plans will be made this season.
In the event that a new stadium is designed, a good measuring stick for its size can be found in Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. It opened in 2006 and holds over 60,000 fans. A new Liverpool stadium would likely have the same size.
1. Liverpool Finish in the Top Three
As mentioned, Liverpool come back to the 2011-2012 season with a significantly improved team to last season. They look like a team that is back to its best after a traumatic couple of seasons.
This prediction is purely mathematical. Kenny Dalglish took over on the 8th of January 2011, and was in charge for 18 league games. Out of a possible 54 points in those games, Liverpool took a total of 33 points at 1.83 points per game. In a full season, that would mean 70 points, and would have put Liverpool in fourth place last season behind Manchester City and ahead of Arsenal.
With Kenny Dalglish in charge for a full season, and the better squad, there is no reason to assume Liverpool won't be able to put up a few more extra points and move back into the top three.
A bright season is ahead.