It took so long to win the Premier League, but Liverpool could not retain their title last season. A bold bid will be made to bring the trophy back to Anfield - but is it a step too far for the Reds?
The 2019/20 season was always going to be a hard one to follow. After the previous near-miss, Liverpool won the Premier League by 18 points and 33 ahead of third place. 2020/21 began with no fans at Anfield, but Liverpool only lost one of their first 16 league games. Ok, it was an unforgettable 7-2 loss at Villa Park, but a successful title defence hadn’t been ruled out.
After all, the Reds still had that incredible home record. No one could have dared suggest that it wouldn’t just come to an end, but Liverpool would lose six in a row at Anfield with only one goal scored. But for the title triumph the season before, Jurgen Klopp may well have been sacked by many other clubs. Nevertheless, their away form remained strong, and 26 points from their final ten league matches took them to third place and back into the Champions League.
However, they finished 17 points behind champions Manchester City. Can they really make that gap up this season? Bookies don’t seem to believe they will. City are 4/6 to retain their title with Liverpool 5/1 to win the Premier League. There are others in contention, too, including European champions Chelsea and Manchester United. Whoever wins the 2021/22 Premier League title will have deserved it.
Last season saw Liverpool score only 68 league goals, their lowest total since 2015/16. Forty-two goals were conceded; that’s the most since 2017/18. Let’s look at that defensive record first. Liverpool just didn’t look the same at the back after Virgil van Dijk was injured.
The Dutchman transformed Liverpool after signing from Southampton. He was one of the main reasons the Premier League title was finally won. Without him, retaining that title just wasn’t possible. Having him back in the team for the new season will be like having a new signing. Ibrahima Konaté has been signed from RB Leipzig for £36 million. Can he help produce a better defensive achievement this season?
Hopefully, Diogo Jota will be fit for all of the season. He did make an impact after joining from Wolves. There are still the occasional rumours on Mo Salah leaving, but Liverpool need to be more active in the transfer window.
It’s going to be a crucial period over the next few weeks. Liverpool have spent that money on Konaté, but what will their title rivals do in July and August? Manchester City are the team to dethrone but will Liverpool be able to do that if City sign Jack Grealish and Harry Kane?
A lot was made of the fact Sergio Aguero left City at the end of last season. He didn’t play many games for them, though, and the 2020/21 Premier League title was won almost without him. The thought of Kane joining them is a frightening one for the rest of the Premier League. Kane isn’t just about scoring goals; he makes plenty of assists too. Just imagine De Bruyne creating chances for him or Kane creating them for Sterling or Jesus. Stay at Tottenham, Harry, or go overseas.
Manchester United finished ahead of the Reds last season, sad but true. They have already signed Jadon Sancho for £73 million, and the spending is unlikely to end there. Chelsea may have won the Champions League (couldn’t finish above Liverpool in the Premier League, though) and are being linked with Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku and Erling Haaland.
The danger is that Liverpool will find their title rivals strengthening a lot more than they have, although the club is rumoured to be eying Franck Kessie of AC Milan. Rather than closing the gap on the Manchester clubs, the Reds may find the opposite occurring. Of course, big signings don’t automatically bring success. A few weeks of a team failing to gel properly could allow Liverpool to take an early advantage in the new season.
Here’s something that isn’t written too often in July. If Liverpool want to become Premier League champions, they’ll need to improve their home form. Six defeats and just 29 goals scored don’t win titles. Of course with an Anfield crowd in attendance this year Klopp will be hoping things return to 'normal' and that last year was just an anomoly.
Liverpool have a tough battle ahead of them regardless of how many superstars their rivals sign. Perhaps better defending and more goals from their strike force will see more points earned, but without further re-enforcements a title triumph might just be beyond them.