Pre-season is finally at an end, and now it is time for us fans to get excited for the Premier League once again. But before I move onto the new campaign I have to talk about the Dortmund game on Sunday. What a fantastic performance it was, everybody was just outstanding, even Glen Johnson looked assured in the left back position. That game showed us the potential that our team has to continue to blitz teams in the first 20 minutes, just like last season.
The way Liverpool came out of the traps at the beginning of both halves is exactly what Liverpool fans want to see, the Dortmund players just seemed to be fed up of seeing a Red jersey in front of them. Every single time a Dortmund player turned either Coutinho and Henderson was right on them. If the squad can get anywhere near that sort of standard of pressing this year, then we are in for a treat.
So onto the new campaign and what lies ahead for the Reds, we have a very difficult run of fixtures including City and Tottenham away before the transfer window has even closed. My personal view is that if Liverpool can get through our first 3 fixtures unbeaten then it will be very difficult for any team to slow us down.
Southampton is a must win game, not only because it is the opener, but also because it precedes those two massive games.
If Liverpool produce a strong display in this game, then the league will know that we are no different from last year. Southampton is an ironic choice for our opening game not only because we have purchased what feels like half their squad, but also because we lost to them last season.
They may have lost a lot of first team players over this transfer window but they still pose a real threat to us because the likes of Tadic and Pelle are real goal threats, getting 39 goals and 20 assists between them in the Eredivisie last season.
But Liverpool seem to have added a missing link from last season, Dejan Lovren who is literally a “perfect” signing.
He is a leader and after just two training sessions he looks settled in our back four. Many talked about him having a lot of protection in midfield last year but he does not need it, he was organising the back four so well that the midfield barely mattered in our own half. With him in the centre of defence and Steven Gerrard at the heart of our midfield Liverpool have two leaders in our team for the first time since Jamie Carragher left.
We all know that if we had a Jamie Carragher figure at the heart of our defence last season, we would have most certainly won the Premier League as we would have not been so careless. Liverpool may have added goals last year, but in the absence of Carragher we actually conceded seven more goals than in 12/13 when we finished in seventh place.
I do think we will win against Southampton, because they are yet to replace Lovren and that is enough to prove to be the difference for me. Fonte was made to look good by Lovren last season and I think that Sturridge, Coutinho and Sterling will expose him on Sunday.
I have already said that Dejan Lovren was the missing link from last season, and he could well be the difference this season. But who else is going to be key for Liverpool? I have four other players who I think are very important for the Reds this season that maybe nobody else would rank as high as they deserve.
I think Simon Mignolet has a lot more to offer Liverpool this time around, now he has a whole season under Brendan’s tutelage, which will definitely benefit him.
Mignolet, who started his Liverpool career so well with three consecutive Premier League clean sheets, including a last minute penalty stop on his debut, tailed off at the end of last season by making silly errors and not communicating enough with the back four.
Nobody made more individual errors than Mignolet, who made five that led to goals, and if the Belgian cuts those out then he will have a much better season for Liverpool this time.
But Mignolet still managed to keep ten clean sheets last season, five of which came in games against United, Tottenham and Everton.
The shot stopping ability of Mignolet is something I draw promise from, and I know that he won us points on his own at times last season – especially when he faced an on fire Benteke at Villa Park. Even in games that we dominated like the 4-0 win over Everton, he still made some outstanding saves. If Mignolet performs at that level this season then it will only benefit the rest of the team and add confidence to the defence especially.
Do I even have to explain why our captain is important to our teams success this season? Well, Steven bagged himself 13 goals and 13 assists for Liverpool last season, with most of that coming whilst playing in a holding midfield position for the second half of the season.
Liverpool’s fast paced attacking style was enough to beat most Premier League defences, some teams were well drilled against our style of play but not so against his set pieces.
For example against Newcastle on the final day of the season Liverpool found it very difficult to break the defence down from open play. Step up Steven Gerrard, who in the space of five minutes put two pinpoint crosses into the box for Agger and Sturridge to convert.
Despite not possessing the same pace as before, Gerrard still was controlling games with his passing ability and he kept the team in the opposition half with his good ball retention.
Gerrard had a pass succession rate of rate of 86% which considering he averaged 65.3 passes a game is an exceptional figure. Our skipper also attempted 7.6 long passes per game, more than Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry.
The engine of the Liverpool midfield is one of those rare talents that you find in football. Not only does he cover lots of ground, but he always gets into dangerous positions for the team, and I think losing him against City was a disaster waiting to happen. Henderson covered 359,080 metres last season for Liverpool and he was only topped by Sidwell, Noble and Jedinak.
Notice something from that? Henderson was the only player from the Premier League top seven to make the top 10.
But he also scored four goals and created seven for his team, which is a massive contribution. The ground he covered combined with his other contributions marked him as one of the best midfielders in the league and perhaps only beaten by Yaya Toure or Aaron Ramsey in terms of influence on a midfield.
Which considering Yaya Toure was second in the player of the year award and Ramsey was the reason Arsenal were top of the league so long it really shows Hendersons importance to this team.
Brendan Rodgers has challenged him to reach double goal-scoring figures this season, and judging by the way he was arriving more often in the box during pre-season (and scoring twice), you would hope it is a manageable target.
I think Adam Lallana is going to shock a lot of people this season with what he can offer this Liverpool side. Last season, despite his attacking contributions for the Saints he was actually a fantastic defensive asset.
He was only just behind Henderson in distance covered over the course of the season as well as averaging 1.5 tackles per game more than Raheem Sterling, whom was constantly praised for winning the ball back for us last season.
As well as that he averaged a key interception per game – which is the same as Jordan Henderson – so what makes Lallana so special?
Well it is his trickery that put him in the team of the year and I cannot argue with that. Lallana completed over 70 dribbles last season (1.8 per game) for Southampton, whilst reinventing the Cruyff turn, more than Coutinho, Ozil and Silva.
He also averaged more key passes (1.9) than Henderson, Sterling and Leighton Baines yet he somehow found himself outside of the England first team at the World Cup. How Roy figured that one out, I have no idea.
Lallana is also a leader on the pitch and was the club captain at Southampton. This is something that will definitely benefit the team, because for some players – like Glen Johnson – a player ordering you about is just what you need.
Lallana got nine goals and six assists for Southampton last season and you would expect that tally to rise once he returns to fitness.
This team combines work rate with creative quality and flair, and I think has the potential to be one of the most exciting teams in Europe. This is as a lot of our players are not so well known, and will be wanting to show everybody what they are made of this season on the European stage.
League Prediction – 3rd
I think that Liverpool have a lot of quality in the squad, and we are still looking to add to that but I think that considering we lost our best player from last season a 3rd place finish would be something special.
Champions League – Quarter Final
I do think we can go far in the Champions League because of how good we are on the counte,r but it all depends on who we get in the group stages really. A quarter final place on our return to the competition would be considered a success.
FA Cup – Winners
I think that last year against Arsenal we were the better side, and should have had a few more penalties as well as Sturridge missing a hatful of chances. This year I think we are perfectly set up for a cup run and I think we should expect a visit to Wembley this season.
Capital One Cup – Quarter Finals
It all depends on how seriously Brendan takes this competition but if we avoid the big away draws then I think we are more than capable of winning this competition.
What are your predictions for the 2014-15 season? Let us know your thoughts below.