Where will we finish?
It’s hard not to be drawn into being somewhat optimistic in these moments of anticipation for a new season. The slings and arrows of the misuse of outrageous fortunes have not yet worn me down to the point where I don’t look for more uplifting suggestions for the season to come when I poke through the footballing tea leaves of a summer’s work.
I realise this leaves me open to that familiar feeling of a poker player losing a hand that a voice in his head told him he was mad to be chasing in the first place. The problem with constructing a world of wonderful gingerbread cottages is when, in the first match of the season, reality bites and Ryan Shawcross knocks you out whilst Charlie Adam eats the aforementioned house.
We’ll score a shedload more goals, the additional dynamism and defensive graft will somewhat stem the bleeding at the other end and we’ll sneak 4th place. Definitely. Ok; possibly.
I'll cement my reputation as a blurry-eyed optimist by predicting we’ll finish 3rd. Liverpool have bought well, strengthened the defence, can score from a number of positions and have the depth to cope with a busy season. The jury is out on some of our rivals for top 4. United don’t look stronger than last year. Pellegrini will be under immense pressure after last season. I'd expect Arsenal to finish 2nd with Chelsea walking it again, but I'm betting 2014-15 was an aberration and the ‘real’ (2013-14) Liverpool will stand up. We’ll cruise into an automatic Champions League spot.
I actually think we'll finish fifth but I can't bring myself to enter a season with such cripplingly mediocre expectations. Therefore, I'll go one better and say fourth.
A Champions League berth for Liverpool is achievable if we get a bit of luck and the wheels fall off a couple of the teams above. This would preferably include Manchester United. As it stands I'm doubtful whether we can make up ground on last season's top four. However, if we manage to get off to a good start like we did in 2013/14 confidence will grow and there's a chance we can kick on.
The defence remains a major concern for me. We desperately need at least one of the new strikers to hit the ground running. Hopefully we can mitigate the damage at the back and pick up enough points to grab that fourth place spot.
I really don’t have a clue what to expect this season. Pretty happy that we signed three players with solid premier league pedigree, all 24 or over. Benteke Ings Origi and Firminho on paper offer more goals than Sterling Ballotelli Lambert and Borini, so that should help.
I can still see us leaking goals for fun though, as the Manager, Goalkeeper, Left back, Centre back or Holding midfielders haven’t changed. I don’t think we have improved the squad enough to overtake last seasons top 4, and the Europa League Thursdays nights could be a burden.
So I reckon fifth.
In my view we'll finish fifth. I've no doubt we'll significantly improve from the previous debacle, but numerous new players won't all immediately click or even ultimately come good. Throw in the awful early away fixtures, the spending of the incumbent top four and Spurs having finished above us in four out of five seasons, and top four looks tough.
Of course, there are flaws above us and Benteke's goals will add ten points assuming he hits even half decent form. However, I think there's too much for us to do with too many potential barriers in our way - the Europa League especially - to get CL qualification. I'd be delighted to be wrong though because that'd be huge for us.
That all said, in the unlikely event of Daniel Sturridge quickly returning to peak form and fitness, all bets are off - he's that good.
I think we've bought very well so far and unlike last summer, there appears to be a sound strategy to what we're trying to do. Have we done enough? Not for me. I still think we're missing a top class centre half and a top class defensive midfielder, but Rodgers isn't going to change his mind on that. He's rightly beefed up our attacking options and he'll live or die by that.
If Firmino and Benteke do as they should then I think we have an opportunity to finish in the top 3. I don't buy the Mancs at the moment (although they might yet spend) and I think Arsenal and Man City are still there to be got at. We could finish in the top 4, easily, but we could equally implode with our tough start and finish 6th or 7th.
But if that's the case we'll have a new manager. And then anything could happen. I'm going to try being optimistic for once and say we'll finish 4th.
We're basically battling with Spurs for 5th/6th right now, and they've bested us more often than not in the last few years. I can't see us cracking the top four because they've all gotten better. You could argue that United are vulnerable as they're light on strikers but the window is still open and they have a penchant for splashing the cash recently. The other three have improved (Arsenal) or were better than us anyway (City, Chelsea).
This is a dark time to be a red, no one seems to have any real confidence in the manager and the team still has issues in the same areas. Maybe Benteke can provide the goals we need but there's still a lack of leadership and questionable defensive issues. Plus we have the burden/increased workload of the Europa League, and Rodgers seems to struggle with two games in a week. I'll go 6th because my optimism meter is running on empty.
We’ll be better than last season because we’ll score more goals. We might concede the same or improve a bit, so how well we do depends entirely on how good Benteke is (and to a lesser extent Firmino). If he gets 20-25 goals then we’ll make the top four. If he doesn’t, it will be a real struggle, unless Sturridge sorts himself out.
To me it’s a battle between us and both Manc clubs for the 3rd and 4th places. As bad as we were last season look at how close we were to both of them going into the final ten games or so before we lost to Utd and then quit. They aren’t that good, neither are we, so anything can happen. I’ll go 4th but it could just as easily be 3rd or 5th as it’s wide open.
If we can stay in touch with top four after the first difficult batch of away games then there is no reason we can't go on a run from December onwards and make a good fist of claiming 4th place. Last season our dreadful start left us with too much ground to make up and the good middle third of the season counted for little in the end.
Chelsea and Arsenal will be the top two but we could take advantage of possible uncertainty at City with Pellegrini looking insecure and United looking like they may lack a bit of firepower right now (transfer window still being open notwithstanding of course). I will predict a tight 4th placed finish at the expense of City or United as things stand right now but possible/probable signings from those two in the coming weeks will force an opinion change again.
I think we’ll be ok this year, maybe even pretty good. Transfer business has been solid (for once). We’ve added goals, experience and a full back capable of defending. We’ve got a decent team with decent depth. However, I don’t see us making any huge strides forward and that Thursday-Sunday schedule could kill us early on.
I don’t think Sterling’s departure will even remotely affect us (especially with Ibe), but Steven Gerrard’s will. It feels like the heart has been ripped out and there’s not one proper leader at the club now, including the manager, and that’s a worry. Fourth is definitely achievable, but we’ll finish fifth.