Owner John Henry has stated this week that a top four spot is a priority for Liverpool this season. After two seasons of falling, the club is once again on the way up. Perhaps too soon to be challenging for the league, but with the odd addition here and there, a bit of luck with injuries and players striking form at the right time, who knows. It seems pretty obvious which teams will be in Liverpool’s way, but here’s a brief run down on the runners and riders for 2011-12.
What a difference a year makes, the doom and gloom hanging round the club has given way to optimism and hope. The ill fated reign of previous owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, coupled with manager Roy Hodgson, has been replaced by Fenway Sports and John Henry, with fan favourite Kenny Dalglish taking the role he left twenty years ago. Dalglish was the last Liverpool manager to win the league and he has a huge task if he is to repeat this feat, at least this season. More realistically a top four place has become a priority for the owners who have splashed the cash to bring in much needed strength in Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson. Like Man Utd their policy seems to be buy young and British. With the players already having Premiership experience they should settle quicker than most. Coupled with the big January signings of Andy Carroll and Copa America winner (and player of the tournament), Luis Suarez, much will be expected of the side that finished last season so strongly, with Champions League qualification an absolute must.
Last season’s champions must start as favourites once again. Love him or hate, most rational supporters can’t help but admire the manager, Alex Ferguson, who wrings every last ounce of talent out of his players. Winning the league last season and also reaching the final of Europe’s premier event, only beaten by Barcelona. Barca were probably unbeatable on that night and were rightly lauded as one of the best ever sides. United have strengthened well, but like Liverpool, seemingly overpaid for British talent, (with Ashley Young and Phil Jones joining Spanish ‘Keeper David De Gea). The retirement of Edwin Van Der Sar has left a huge hole, and De Gea will need to hit the ground running. Paul Scholes has also hung up his boots, with Wesley Sneijder his possible replacement. With Sneijder in the ranks they would look a formidable outfit but this transfer is far from a done deal. Top scorer from last season, Dimitar Berbatov seems to be on his way out but with a strong influx of youth team players coming through it will take a concerted effort to stop them winning the 20th title.