Saturday 17 November 2018

John Aldridge: After winning the transfer war, Liverpool can now dream of Premier League glory

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

John Aldridge

Liverpool may well be heading into this new Premier League season with the best squad in their history.

That may sound like a grand statement given the club's glorious past, but the depth of the squad Jurgen Klopp has assembled at Anfield during his reign as manager makes for hugely impressive reading.

Even though the Liverpool side that will begin their latest attempt to win a first English top flight title since 1990 against West Ham at Anfield cannot be compared to the iconic teams in the club's past right now, I have rarely felt more confident in what lies ahead as a new season beckons for a Reds squad oozing with talent and depth.

While others have been frustrated, Liverpool have had a great transfer window, with Klopp addressing weak spots in his squad and spending big to try and plug the gaps.

Loris Karius had to be replaced after his Champions League final calamities and the club have gone big with a world record signing for Brazilian Alisson.

Naby Keita is an exciting signing from RB Leipzig and Fabinho gives additional options in a midfield that now looks to be loaded with options and back-up if injuries and suspensions kick in.

Up front, the dynamic trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have support from new arrival Xherdan Shaqiri and if his goal in the pre-season friendly against Manchester United in America last week is a sign of what is to come, he will be a bargain at £13m.

You put the players in this Liverpool squad down on paper and Klopp could pick two very competitive teams that would be capable of winning matches in the Premier League and Champions League on a consistent basis.

That is what you need to challenge for the top honours now, as the days of winning the title using 14 or 15 players are gone for teams that also have the burdens of playing Champions League football.

Back in my time playing for Liverpool, our manager Kenny Dalglish rarely changed a winning line-up and we sailed to the 1988 First Division title with plenty to spare, but squad rotation is a big part of the modern game and Klopp has all the tools to make that work for him this season.

His defence looks strong with Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan to pick from at centre-back, while he has selection issues in the full-back roles with Andrew Robertson, Nathaniel Clyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez all pushing for starts.

The defensive midfield roles will be spliced up between new boy Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Jordan Henderson, with Adam Lallana's return from injury offering additional options.

Goals were clearly not a problem for Liverpool last season and while Salah, Mane and Firmino will lead the charge once again, Daniel Sturridge appears to be back to somewhere near full fitness and young Ben Woodburn will continue to develop.

It adds up to an exciting team and by getting their major transfer business done early, Klopp has had time to integrate his new signings into the squad over the course of the pre-season tour of America.

The money Liverpool have spent both this summer and in acquiring Virgil van Dijk last January has been sizeable, but the snipes from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho suggesting Klopp has joined the big spenders league have been laughable.

Mourinho has spent his entire career buying success by signing the best players for the most money, so he is in no position to have a pop at a manager who broke even on his spending in the last two summer transfer windows and has not spent too much overall when you throw the £142m windfall from the sale of Philippe Coutinho into the mix.

I don't like the way the game has gone in terms of the mega-spending on average players, but Neymar's move to Paris Saint-Germain last summer inflated the market to ridiculous levels and it means that fourth choice left-backs are now worth £20m.

Liverpool had to spend big to give Klopp a chance to compete with Manchester City in the Premier League and to have another go at winning the Champions League and I applaud the club and the manager for showing real ambition ahead of this new season.

City are clearly the team to beat in this year's title race, but Liverpool appear to be in pole position to give them their most potent challenge and while I enjoyed the World Cup this summer, the Premier League is back and I can't wait to get see this show on the road once again.

Herald Sport

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