Liverpool ended their 30-year wait for a league title last season when Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated their way to the Premier League trophy.
It wasn’t a title race: it was a procession. A club-record 99 points were posted as they finished 18 points clear of runners-up Manchester City. No team had won it with so many games (seven) to spare. The only spanner in the works came from a global pandemic which delayed the celebrations and denied them the victory parade they merited.
The challenge for Liverpool is to keep with the relentlessness they have shown over the last two years that has seen them win the Champions League and the Premier League. For too long, the Reds were the hunters but now they are in the unfamiliar position of being the hunted.
They have set the benchmark for every team hoping to wrestle back the league title from Anfield and the pressure and the scrutiny will only increase in the 2020/21 campaign.
Jurgen Klopp has been insistent that his side will not lose their hunger after last season but other than Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, no team have managed to remain at the top for an extended period of time over the last three decades. To continue the sheer tenacity Liverpool have shown in the last two seasons is going to be mightily difficult.
But that will be the challenge for Jurgen Klopp and his side. They will have to contend with a Manchester City side who are feeling wounded after last season and a Chelsea side who have spent more than £200m in the market. Manchester United, who finished third last season, are also hoping to close the gap to the top.
Done deals and possible arrivals
Kostas Tsimikas – Andy Robertson has been a machine at left-back for Liverpool over the last few years. But Jurgen Klopp wanted a cover in his position and the Reds snapped up Greek full-back Kostas Tsimikas for a fee of £11.75m from Olympiakos.
The defender has been the only addition to the Liverpool squad this summer and Klopp has indicated that he doesn’t want any major signing for his title-winning squad.
They are interested in Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara but negotiations have dragged on for weeks and the club remain undecided on whether to spend €30m on the 29-year-old Spain midfielder.
Confirmed and rumoured departures
Dejan Lovren – The Croatian was likely to be fourth choice centre-back had he stayed at Liverpool and he wanted to play regular football next season. The Reds were happy to sell the defender to Zenit Saint Petersburg for £10.9m in the summer.
Ovie Ejaria – He was never part of Liverpool’s plans and after spending last season on loan at Reading, the midfielder joined the Royals on a permanent transfer worth £3.5m.
Adam Lallana – The England midfielder left the club after spending six years at Anfield once his contract with the Reds expired. He joined Brighton on a free transfer and is likely to play regular football at the Amex Stadium next season.
Nathaniel Clyne – The 29-year-old right-back was released at the end of last season and is now looking for a new club.
Sheyi Ojo – The 23-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Scottish Premiership outfit Rangers, has now joined Cardiff City on a season-long loan deal.
Liverpool are also willing to listen to offers for Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marco Grujic in the ongoing transfer window. The Reds are hoping to raise significant cash from the sales of these three players.
Georginio Wijnaldum is in the final year of his contract at Liverpool and is rumoured to be on his way to Barcelona. The Reds have offered him a new deal and Jurgen Klopp is believed to be in favour of holding on to the Dutchman.
Jurgen Klopp remains the biggest strength for Liverpool both on and off the pitch. His galvanising effect on the club since his arrival has led to the formation of possibly the best team in Europe.
The German has brought back the glory years at Anfield and winning the league title last season was the crescendo. The challenge for the German is to inspire his players to go for more next season and not allow his squad to slack.
He has won back-to-back league titles at Borussia Dortmund and the Reds have a chance of equaling Manchester United’s 20 League titles next season. Getting back on the perch remains the target for the German and Liverpool.
Liverpool’s lack of squad depth has not been an issue over the last two seasons but it is not something they can ignore anymore. Kostas Tsimikas has addressed a problem but Dejan Lovren’s departure means, they only have three senior centre-backs in their squad.
The Reds still do not have much depth upfront. Klopp wanted Timo Werner and he would have solved one key issue. Divock Origi has scored key goals but he can’t be trusted for around 20 games a season. Takumi Minamino is yet to flourish after joining the club in the winter transfer window.
Liverpool also missed Jordan Henderson’s presence when he was out injured at the end of last season. With Georginio Wijnaldum rumoured to be on his way out, they suddenly look light in midfield as well.
Money is tight at Anfield this summer but Jurgen Klopp will need backing from the owners if the Reds are to maintain their relentlessness of the last two years.
Key player for Liverpool
Virgil van Dijk is the defensive pillar who is indispensable to Liverpool. Van Dijk played every minute of the title-winning campaign and his fitness record has been impeccable at Anfield.
Given the lack of cover for that position, his availability is vital to defending the title. A Liverpool side without the Dutchman’s calming influence at the back would suddenly look vulnerable.
While Klopp might still compensate for a loss of one of the attacking players, the Liverpool manager would find it hard to replace Van Dijk if he is injured for any length of time.
Probable Finish – 2nd