Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Liverpool

liverpool

Image: Daily Mail

Liverpool’s success in the transfer window cannot be judged until the window closes. The club are desperate to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho, but it will be hard to resist a substantial bid from Barcelona with their newly acquired riches from Neymar’s move to PSG. There is also the issue of Virgil van Dijk, who the club had to publicly apologise for tapping up earlier in the summer, however the player seems determined to force a move. Of the business that they have done, Mohamed Salah has come in from Roma, a much-improved player to the one that failed to break through at Chelsea. Salah joins a threatening front line of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. At the back, Liverpool will have a natural left-back this year, as Andrew Robertson has come in from Hull, meaning that they will not have to shoe-horn James Milner into defence. Up front is an issue for Jurgen Klopp. Roberto Firmino operated there last season, whilst Daniel Sturridge is unlikely to feature regularly this season, whether through injuries or because he does not fit in to Klopp’s philosophy. Added to that there is Divock Origi, Danny Ings, and new signing Dominic Solanke, who has been impressive in pre-season, netting three goals. After not having European football last season, Liverpool managed to claim a Champions League place, so the extra matches this season could be the difference between matching last season’s achievements and missing out.

Key Player: Saido Mane. With Coutinho looking likely to leave, Saido Mane would be Liverpool’s main threat going forward. The attacker was Liverpool’s joint top-scorer with 13 goals last season, and Liverpool’s form significantly dropped off when he went to the African Cup of Nations. Mane’s pace is a key feature in Klopp’s philosophy, and paired with Salah on the opposite wing, this could be Liverpool’s real attack threat this season.

One to Watch: Ben Woodburn. The Welshman broke in to the Liverpool side last year, and has reportedly had several loan offers for him rejected this summer. This implies that Woodburn is a part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans this season. Woodburn netted in the friendly against Athletic Club, and became the club’s youngest ever goal-scorer after his FA Cup strike against Leeds last season. Woodburn can operate up front, on the wing or behind the striker, making him perfect for Klopp’s system.

Last Season: 4th

Predicted Finish: 5th

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Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Liverpool

Liverpool-v-Villarreal

Daniel Sturridge scored three times in Liverpool’s Europa League run, including in the Final against Sevilla. Image: Mirror Football

Liverpool’s season last year would have to go down as a disappointment, finishing in eighth. Jurgen Klopp having a full pre-season will be key in him imposing his philosophy on the squad. Liverpool fans will generally happy with their dealings this summer, as they have shipped out a lot of dead wood and strengthened some key positions. Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Joe Allen are among the fringe players that have been shipped out, with the Reds recouping around £46m. Klopp has gone out and spent that money, with £36m spent on another Southampton player, Saido Mane. Although Mane has proven his quality in the Premier League, notably against Liverpool last season, he is very inconsistent and will often have to be carried by his new teammates. Loris Karius has joined to challenge Simon Mignolet in goal, whilst Ragnar Klavan coming in at the back. Question marks will be raised over the £25m spent on Georginio Wijnaldum, who although showed signs of talent in his season at Newcastle, lacked the application over the whole of the season. Goals weren’t a problem for Liverpool last year, putting seven past Man City alone, and with five players hitting double figures in all competitions. The lack of European football could be an advantage to a Liverpool side that will already potentially be fitter than some of their rivals for Champions League football.

Key Man: Daniel Sturridge. Despite having an injury hit season, Sturridge managed eight league goals last season. If kept fit by Klopp, the England striker could easily challenge for the golden boot, especially given the service of Coutinho and Firmino.

One to Watch: Sheyi Ojo. The winger made a handful of appearances last season as Jurgen Klopp rotated his squad in the league, but he certainly didn’t look out of place. He made four assists in his eight games and direct running was great to watch. There is heavy competition for places in the Liverpool attack, but the 19 year old will be able to step up if called upon.

Last Season: 8th

Prediction: 8th

Premier League Season Review: Part 2

The second part of this season review will focus on the teams that were competing for the Europa League places. Manchester United narrowly missed out on Champions League football, while Southampton and West Ham’s excellent seasons will see them join United in the Europa League. Liverpool managed to play their way out of the Europa League places, finishing 8th.

Manchester United – Final Position: 5th – Prediction: 3rd

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Image: Daily Mail

Manchester United have had a season to forget in the league. The football that they have played has been, at times, abysmal. United only scored one more goal than 17th placed Sunderland, with only Anthony Martial reaching double figures in the league. To make matters worse, United’s big summer signings, Depay, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, all failed to live up to expectations. The only real positives for United fans will be the strength of the young players that stepped in this season, with Rashford, Fosu-Mensah, and Borthwick-Jackson all impressing.

United failed to kick on this season as I had expected, instead dropping out of the Champions League. Wayne Rooney failed to step up as the key goalscorer, partly down to the role that Louis Van Gaal was playing him. Jose Mourinho will have a tough job on his hands next season.

Southampton – Final Position: 6th – Prediction: 7th

mane

Image: The Guardian

Southampton’s season can be summed up by one word: inconsistent. A dodgy start was followed by a good run, before the Saints fell away around Christmas. But only Leicester picked up more points in 2016 than Ronald Koeman’s side. Their early exit from the Europa League possibly aided their league form, as Saints’ small squad was rarely stretched. The return Fraser Forster was one of the main positives of the season, Whilst comeback wins against Liverpool and Spurs will live long in the fans’ memories. It will be interesting to see whether Saints can replicate this season with a new manager next season, whilst it will remain to be seen whether the Europa League group stages will be enough to keep hold of the likes of Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama.

Southampton surpassed all expectations in recording a club record sixth place. Instead of battling with the other higher mid-table teams, as predicted, a place in the Europa League looked fairly comfortable for the Saints.

West Ham – Final Position: 7th – Prediction: 14th

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Image: Sky Sports

West Ham have had an amazing season this year, only falling out of the race for the Champions League places very late in the season. Dimitri Payet really set the Premier League alight with his remarkable free kicks and 12 assists, whilst Andy Carroll managed 9 goals despite an injury hit season. Draws turned out to be West Ham’s undoing, as they picked up the joint highest amount of draws, 14, in the Premier League.

Slavan Bilic and West Ham were an unknown quantity going in to this season, and they have pleasantly surprised everyone. Following ‘Big Sam’ was always going to be a tough job, but the future is looking bright for the Hammers.

Liverpool – Final Position: 8th – Prediction: 6th

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Image: Sky Sports

It is difficult to judge Liverpool’s season this year, as very early on it became clear that the focus had switched to next year. The appointment of Jurgen Klopp in October showed a real sign of ambition, and it would not be right to judge him until he has brought in his own players and had a full pre-season with the club. Only Roberto Firmino hit double figures this season, and this really demonstrates how poor Liverpool were. A 4-0 derby win over Everton will be a highlight of this season, as well as beating Manchester City 4-1 and 3-0. Eighth place will probably be what Liverpool fans will be most happy with this season, as it means that they will be able to play without any European distractions next season, but they will be disappointed that their ‘Europa League or bust’ strategy was thwarted by Sevilla in the final.

In my pre-season predictions, I highlighted the importance of October on the course of their season, and this proved to be the case. On paper, Eighth will not look good for a side with the expectations of Liverpool, but you can expect them to challenge for the Champions League places next season.

Hodgson names Euros squad

Roy Hodgson has named his provisional 26 man squad for Euro 2016, with the inclusion of Marcus Rashford proving the biggest talking point. Jack Wilshere has also made the squad after making just one Premier League start this season.

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Rashford was supposed to be on Under 21 duty this summer. Image: Manchester Evening News.

Rashford has scored 7 goals in 16 since breaking in to the Manchester United first team, but his inclusion has surprised many due to his lack of experience. Fabian Delph is another surprise call up, alongside Newcastle’s Andros Townsend.

Leicester have two representatives in the squad, Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater, whilst there are five players from both Spurs and Liverpool.

Theo Walcott is perhaps the biggest name to miss out, with Hodgson citing lack of first team football for his omission, whilst Jermain Defoe also misses out despite his 15 league goals for Sunderland. West Ham’s Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell have also missed out after good seasons.

The final 23 man squad has to be named by 31st May, meaning that 3 players will face an agonising cut.

Perfect weekend on Merseyside as Chelsea slump continues

Jurgen Klopp has his first Premier League victory after his Liverpool side came from behind to beat Chelsea 3-1. Chelsea had taken the lead through an early Ramires goal, but Philippe Coutinho equalised just before the break. Coutinho put Liverpool in the lead with a deflected effort, and substitute Christian Benteke sealed the win. Both sides could have had a man sent off, with Lucas committing a professional foul whilst already booked, and Diego Costa kicking out at Martin Skrtel.

Philippe Coutinho's brace ended a run of 710 minutes without a Premier League goal. Source: dailymail.co.uk

Philippe Coutinho’s brace ended a run of 710 minutes without a Premier League goal. Source: dailymail.co.uk

The Blue half of Merseyside will be equally happy, after their 6-2 demolition of Sunderland. Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Kone put the Toffees 2-0 up. Sunderland pulled level though, as Jermain Defoe’s shot deflected past Howard and Steven Fletcher headed the equaliser. Everton then took the points with three goals in quick succession, as Sebastian Coates diverted a cross in to his own net, Romelu Lukaku scored a fine individual goal and Kone added his second. Kone completed his hat-trick late on with a header to complete the rout.

Manchester City remain top after a nervy win over Norwich. Nicolas Otamendi gave them the lead with a powerful header, but Joe Hart spilt a routine cross for Cameron Jerome to tap in with just minutes to go. But there was still plenty of drama left, as Russell Martin was sent off for handling the ball with John Ruddy well out of position. Yaya Toure converted the penalty, a feat the Aleksandar Kolarov could not equal as City were awarded a second penalty in stoppage time.

Arouna Kone netted his first Premier League hat-trick against Sunderland. Source: dailymail.co.uk

Arouna Kone netted his first Premier League hat-trick against Sunderland. Source: dailymail.co.uk

Arsenal kept up with City with a 3-0 win over Swansea. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring, and Laurent Koscielny doubled the lead despite Swansea claiming that Fabianski was impeded. Joel Campbell sealed the win with his first goal for Arsenal. Leicester moved up to third with a thrilling 3-2 win at West Brom. Solomon Rondon headed the hosts in front, but a Riyad Mahrez brace gave the Foxes the lead. Jamie Vardy made it 8 consecutive games in which he has scored, joining Ruud van Nistelrooy and Daniel Sturridge, with a well placed finish. Rickie Lambert ensured a tense finish with a late penalty, especially as Christian Fuchs appeared to commit three late fouls in the area which all went unpunished.

Southampton overcame Bournemouth in a South coast derby. A Steven Davis volley and a Graziano Pelle header gave Saints the lead in the first half, but Victor Wanyama was sent off in the second half for picking up a second yellow card. Odion Ighalo scored both goals as Watford beat West Ham. In a game of shocking defending, his first came courtesy of Andy Carroll failing to clear his lines, whilst his second was an impeccable finish after an error from James Tomkins.

Crystal Palace and Manchester United played out a goalless draw, United’s third consecutive stalemate, whilst Jack Butland almost single handedly held Newcastle at bay, producing six saves to keep the game goalless. On Monday night, Tottenham host mangerless Aston Villa, although Remi Garde will be in the stands prior to his expected appointment.

Hammers pile on misery for Mourinho

West Ham continued their impressive record against the top sides as they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Upton Park. The match was a heated display, as Chelsea had Nemanja Matic sent off, had five other players pick up bookings, as well as having Mourinho and his assistant sent to the stands. Mauro Zarate gave the Hammers the lead as Chelsea failed to clear a corner. Chelsea came within centimetres of equalising, as a Zouma header was scrambled off the line. Cesc Fabregas also had a goal ruled out before Matic recieved his marching orders. Gary Cahill equalised in the second half with a powerful finish from a corner, but Andy Carroll headed the winner with just ten minutes left.

Source: Daily Mail

Source: Daily Mail

Harry Kane will hope his hat trick against Bournemouth will kickstart his season. Moussa Dembele and Eric Lamela also scored as Spurs recovered from a first minute Matt Ritchie goal to win 5-1. Sunderland continued their fine derby form, smashing 10 man Newcastle 3-0 at the Stadium of Light. Adam Johnson opened the scoring from the spot just before half time after Fabricio Coloccini was controversially dismissed. Billy Jones and Steven Fletcher completed the rout in the second half, lifting the Black Cats above their rivals.

Source: Daily Mail

Source: Daily Mail

Arsenal beat Everton 2-1 at the Emirates. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring with a deft header, and Laurent Koscielny doubled the lead two minutes later. Ross Barkley pulled one back before half time with a heavily deflected strike, but Arsenal saw the game out comfortably. Gareth Barry was sent off in stoppage time for a second booking.

Both Ayew brothers scored as Swansea beat Aston Villa. Jordan Ayew gave Villa the lead, but Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised with a free kick. Andre Ayew scored in the 87th minute to give Swansea the win, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Villa boss Tim Sherwood.

Zouma's header was just millimetres from crossing the line. Source: bbc sport

Zouma’s header was just millimetres from crossing the line. Source: bbc sport

Troy Deeney netted his first of the season as Watford shocked Stoke. Almen Abdi completed the scoring as he took advantage of Mark Wilson being caught in possession deep in his own half. Jurgen Klopp is still searching for his first win as Liverpool boss after a 1-1 draw with Southampton. Christian Benteke thought that he had won it for the Reds with a powerful header, but Sadio Mane bundled in to equalise late on. Mane was subsequently dismissed after picking up two needless bookings in stoppage time.

Jamie Vardy has now scored in seven consecutive games, helping Leicester to a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Salomon Rondon’s close range header saw West Brom to a 1-0 win at Norwich. The Manchester derby ended up goalless, a result that saw City stay on top of the table on goal difference.

McClaren safe as Toon hit six

After much speculation about his position, Steve McClaren looks a lot safer after his Newcastle side thumped Norwich 6-2. Summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum scored four, with strikers Ayoze Perez and Aleksander Mitrovic also netting. Dieumerci Mbokani had pulled the Canaries back to 1-1, and Nathan Redmond kept them in with a shout by making it 3-2 at half time. The result catapults Newcastle above rivals Sunderland, and they are now just two points from safety.

Source: the guardian

Source: the guardian

Manchester City brought their total to 11 goals in two games with a 5-1 demolition of Bournemouth. Raheem Sterling netted a first half hat-trick, with Wilfried Bony also scoring, whilst Glenn Murray had given the visitors hope with his strike making it 2-1. Bony completed the scoring late on to prove that City could perform without Kompany, Silva or Aguero.

Arsenal sit in second after a second half salvo at Watford. The hosts had held the Gunners at arms length, but three goals in 11 minutes, courtesy of Sanchez, Giroud and Ramsey, secured Wenger’s side the three points. Manchester United are in third after ending their Goodison Park hoodoo. Morgan Schneiderlin opened the scoring with a tidy finish, with Herrera and a rare Rooney goal sealing the win.

Source: the guardian

Source: the guardian

West Ham overcame their old boss Alan Pardew at Selhurst Park. Carl Jenkinson opened the scoring for the visitors, but Yohan Cabaye equalised with a retaken penalty. The game changed as Dwight Gayle was sent off for Palace, allowing Lanzini and Payet to take advantage in the dying minutes. Leicester produced a magnificent comeback at St Mary’s, with Jamie Vardy nabbing a second half brace. Southampton centre backs Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk had given Saints a half time lead, but the Premier League’s top scorer netted the equaliser in stoppage time.

Chelsea remain in the bottom half of the table despite a 2-0 against Aston Villa. The returning Diego Costa and an Alan Hutton own goal saw the Blues through. Saido Berahino netted the only goal as West Brom beat bottom of the table Sunderland, and an early Bojan penalty was the only action of note in the Monday night game as Stoke won at Swansea. Jurgen Klopp’s first game as Liverpool manager ended in a 0-0 stalemate at Spurs.