We are hours away from the start of the 09/10 Premier League season, and if you are like me, you are looking forward to the start. It has been a long and painful summer without any decent footy action but all that is going to change starting on Saturday (well Sunday for us).
Going into this season, it is going to be tough for us to match what we achieved last season but I feel if we are able to match what we did last season or even better it, we are certainly taking the title. I believe Manchester United have lost atleast 9 points with the departure of their goal machine Ronaldo. They have not been able to replace him as Valencia will not bag as many goals as Ronaldo, so in my eyes, United have weakened. So too Arsenal, but they were never going to be a threat after loosing Adebayor and Toure and now potentially loosing Fabregas to Barca. If Arsenal finish in the top four this term, they will be very lucky. I even think they could slip up against Celtic in their Champions League qualifier! Chelsea seem to pose the biggest threat to us winning the league this season. They have managed to retain the core of their side but a lot is going to depend on how their new coach manages the team. Some coaches start off very well but some struggle. It will be interesting to see if Carlo can follow in Guus’ footsteps.
Looking at Liverpool, there are a lot of factors that are going to determine how well we do this season. I have been reading a lot of reports of people saying we are going to struggle without Alonso. I will admit, Alonso was arguably our best player last season. His loss is a blow but we can make up for it. Aquilani has been bought in to replace Alonso but he will miss the start of the season due to injury and this gives Lucas the chance to show us what he is made of. I am not Lucas’ biggest fan but I will be 110% behind him as he is more than likely going to be a key player for us whilst Aquilani is recovering.
If you look at our ‘best’ starting eleven from last season we have lost two players from that eleven; Alonso and Arbeloa. I have already talked about the Alonso loss, looking at the Arbeloa loss, we can safely say that we have replaced him with a much better player in the form of Glen Johnson. I was over the moon when we signed Johnson as he is just the kind of attacking right back we need. It has been a very long time since we have had a right back who is capable of going forward. Johnson is pure quality in my eyes and he is going to create a lot of opportunities for us going forward and not to mention he can also score a couple of goals. After all, he had the best goal in the Premiership last season.
I do not expect Rafa to change much in terms of the personal in his best starting eleven. He may just have to tinker a bit with the tactic in midfield with the loss of Alonso. I doubt he will expect Lucas or Aquilani to be capable of playing the same game Xabi played; neither player has the gift of passing that Xabi has. I suspect Rafa will give Lucas and Aquilani a bit more freedom in going forward and making sure Mascherano stays deep to protect the back four. Last season you hardly saw Alonso or Mascherano going forward and the evidence of this is that both of them (Alonso and Masch) only managed to score three goals between them all season.
I believe that Rafa has learnt a great deal from last season, especially after those draws we got at home early on in the season which in the end cost us the title. Rafa is going to have to attack these teams from the beginning. He has the ammunition to do so, so it is just a matter of executing. Which is where I see the addition of Aquilani helping us. Aquilani has an eye for goal and loves to go forward whereas Alonso sat back and rather relied on his long range efforts. You would never see Alonso make a late run into the box like Carrick, Fabregas or Ballack do but expect Aquilani and Lucas to be making such runs this season.
The key to our success this terms hinges a lot on the fitness of Gerrard and Torres. If these two can start 80% of our league games together, I think we have the league in the bag. These two are critical to us being able to score goals as they form one of, if not the meanest strike force in the Premiership. I am still concerned with our lack of cover if Torres gets injured. Okay, Voronin is back but really is he the guy we have to pin our hopes on if Torres is out injured for a month? I still believe that Rafa should have bought another recognised striker. I just hope Voronin proves us all wrong and he replicates the form he showed last season for Hertha.
I was chatting to a fellow Liverpool fan the other day who goes by the name “Moko”, and he seems to be convinced that Ngog is going to pull through for us this season upfront. I am not a fan of Ngog at all but Moko believes that he used last season to settle in and now he is going to find his feet. He reminded me of the former young French strikers who came to the Premier League and what they achieved: just look at Anelka and Henry! If Ngog can turn out to be like either one of those two then we are in business.
Starting the season, our defence is going to be a bit shakey with the injuries Carragher, Agger, Skrtel and Aurelio are carrying. Hopefully the 3 center backs will be fit for the game on Sunday. Yet again, I believe that Rafa should have gone out and gotten someone to replace Sami. Yes we have the young defenders coming through the ranks such as Kelly, San Jose and Ayala but if push comes to shove are these the kind of guys you would want to see defending a Didier Drogba?
As much as I want to see a couple of our youth team players break into the first team this season, I feel that it is a high risk to put youngsters at center back. Any other position they could flourish but center back is a bit tricky.
To sum it up, this has to be the season we win it. We came close last season and we should use that experience this season. If we stick to our goals of not loosing our home games and going away and picking up a win or two at the home grounds of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City then we will be there.
Do I think we will win the league this season? “Yes”