It is nearly 28 years since Liverpool last won a top-flight title in English football and it is fair to say that the club have struggled to match the exploits of their illustrious past during the Premier League era.
Supporters have had to be content watching from afar as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have come to dominate the top flight of English football whilst Leicester City fans will take every opportunity to highlight their own unexpected title triumph three years ago.
It would be fair to say that Liverpool have not necessarily offered many genuine challenges for the Premier League title over the last two decades. Yes, there were near misses during the reigns Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, but those exploits have been the exception rather than the rule.
The Reds have undoubtedly made significant progress under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp over the previous two years and there has been a sense around Anfield that the charismatic German has been building a team capable of reaching the pinnacle of the domestic game.
Reaching the Champions League final last season, although ultimately ending in defeat, highlighted how far the team have come in a relatively short space of time.
However, there has also been a sense that Klopp has been missing a couple of crucial pieces of jigsaw as he developed his new-look Liverpool side.
His team produces exciting, dynamic and fast flowing football that results in plenty of goals and entertainment, yet this has often been undermined by defensive frailties.
Ask any supporter which two positions have needed strengthening and you are likely to receive the same two answers – central defence and goalkeeper.
The purchase of Virgil van Dijk in January for £75 million was a definitive signal of intent and more than adequately fulfilled the need for a dominant, commanding central defender.
The Dutchman was increasingly impressive during the second half of the season and everyone could acknowledge the positive impact that he had on the defensive unit.
The need for a goalkeeper was ruthlessly highlighted in the Champions League final in May.
Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet had shared goalkeeping duties over the previous two seasons but it was the German stopper that had emerged as the club’s number one.
However, two crucial mistakes in Kiev ultimately gifted Read Madrid the Champions League trophy whilst firmly highlighting Liverpool’s need for a world-class goalkeeper if they had any intention of challenging the best clubs in Europe.
Therefore, the arrival of Brazilian stopper Alisson this week from Roma in a £67 million deal comes as little surprise.
The 25-year-old was the leading goalkeeper in Serie A last season, no mean feat considering the presence of Gianluigi Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma in the top flight of Italian football.
He was also first choice for the national team in the summer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he was selected ahead of Manchester City stopper Ederson, further underlining how highly he is rated.
The final piece of the jigsaw?
Jurgen Klopp has now addressed the two key issues in the Liverpool team by purchasing the best goalkeeper and central defender that money could buy – both are world record fees for players in their position – in the last two transfer windows.
Is Alisson the final piece of the jigsaw that will facilitate a genuine title challenge from Liverpool this season? Supporters are certainly hoping imagine so.
The Reds now have a squad that is full of creativity and goals whilst also now, following the arrivals of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, being built on a strong defensive foundation. You already sense that there will be a much greater balance to the Liverpool team next season.
It is also worth noting that the importance of having a world class goalkeeper is often understated in the media.
Whilst a star striker who scores goals on a regular basis may be a more appealing sight, a good stopper is worth their weight in gold and can easily earn their side an extra 10 points per season if they produce crucial saves at vital moments.
It is hard to think of a Premier League winning side that did not possess a quality goalkeeper.
Last season Manchester City had Ederson. During their most successful period Chelsea had Petr Cech in his prime. Further back, the title successes masterminded by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United were based on the goalkeeping greatness of Edwin van der Saar and Peter Schmeichel.
Liverpool have undoubtedly made rapid progress under Klopp over the previous twelve months and the German has spent over £400 million since his appointment to build a team in his own image. Alisson is the final missing piece.
Manchester City may well have waltzed to the Premier League title last season but Liverpool have positioned themselves as the club most likely to challenge the champions in the forthcoming campaign.
Liverpool round-up: Champions League blow; Mignolet departure nears; Fabinho discusses challenge
Liverpool are left waiting to see which seed they will be in the Champions League draw
Liverpool will be hoping that PAOK will beat Portuguese side Benfica in their Champions League qualifying play-off as victory for the Greek side will see the Reds through to Pot 2 in the Champions League draw ahead of the Iberian outfit.
The draw will take place in Monaco on August 30, with Liverpool currently the highest ranked team in Pot 3 but behind Benfica, the only remaining Pot 2 team in qualification. It comes after Swiss side FC Basel were shockingly knocked out, allowing Liverpool to take up the spot of first in line to join Pot 2.
Simon Mignolet’s agent has spoken about his future
Simon Mignolet has been strongly linked with a move away from Anfield as he has fallen even further down the pecking order following the arrival of Alisson Becker, and it now seems that he may be third choice on Merseyside. Napoli are the latest club to be linked with a move before the transfer window shuts in Italy on Friday.
“We are in discussions with Napoli, but there is no agreement yet. In the end it is in their interest to find a solution. Liverpool want to keep Simon, but he wants to play in matches – and he should. He deserves to play for a big club. Simon is the best option for Napoli in terms of quality, even though there is a financial aspect to it.”
With time running out, all parties will have to get to work if they are to come to an agreement to allow the Belgian to leave. Much could depend on the future of second choice shotstopper Loris Karius, who has also been linked with an exit.
Fabinho has discussed the challenge of adapting to the Premier League
Summer signing Fabinho was only on the bench for the Reds on Sunday as they overcame West Ham United with a 4-0 win and the Brazilian has discussed the challenge that he faces having joined from Monaco.
“I think my performances have been good. It’s a different playing style than at Monaco; there were two of us in midfield there and here at Liverpool there’s three… I knew [my role] would change and I feel I’ve adapted well. When I came to Liverpool I knew this competition would exist in midfield and I think it’s really good for the team.”
Some fans were not convinced by his pre-season form but it remains early days in his Anfield career with plenty of opportunities ahead to prove himself in a holding midfield role.
One to Watch: Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold oozes confidence vs West Ham
The 19-year-old picked up exactly where he left off last season.
He simply picked up from where he left season, oozing confidence as he patrolled the right side – camping himself in West Ham’s territory as Liverpool dominated the match.
The Englishman’s exceptional passing ability was the main feature of his performance.
He touched the ball 99 times and completed 58 of his 69 passes, with one delightful line-breaking pass standing out.
This ball, played through to Naby Keita as Liverpool broke forward in the build-up to their first goal, highlighted how dangerous Alexander-Arnold’s passing range when he is given time to raise his eyes and play diagonal balls through midfield.
This diagonal pass split West Ham’s entire midfield open, sending Keita on a burst that culminated in Salah putting the Reds 1-0 ahead.
It was symbolic of the mentality Klopp instils in his players, making them feel confident taking risks to set attacks in motion.
In this instance, the 19-year-old could easily have recycled the ball to a centre-back, but his team were rewarded for his courage in possession.
Defensively, he was also quite active, completing four of his five tackles and making a solitary interception.
Again, having West Ham camped in their own half suited Alexander-Arnold as he was able to press up the pitch and win the ball early in typical Liverpool fashion.
He continues to prove why he is so important to this Liverpool team, and highlights why Nathaniel Clyne cannot get close to first-team football.
Liverpool round-up: Klopp’s West Ham reaction; Klavan bid rejected; Lovren latest
Liverpool opened their Premier League campaign with a record equaling win over West Ham United thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane twice and Daniel Sturridge. The victory took the team straight to the top of the table with one game played and 37 more to go.
“A very good start, for sure. Yes, it’s a start – perfect as well because we won the game. For us it was not perfect, but really good. West Ham will play for sure a good season, but they are not then the Uniteds, Citys and all that stuff. That’s how it is, they know that and we know that and we have to be ready week in, week out for all the different challenges. Expectation – ours is the highest, but that changes nothing.”
The Reds were dominant up against Mauricio Pellegrini’s Hammers, who were never at the races. Having taken a two goal lead before half-time, Mane added a second before Sturridge scored with his first touch despite coming on as a late substitute.
Newcastle wanted Klavan
News has emerged that the Reds turned down a deadline day bid from Newcastle United for Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan. The report comes from The Chronicle, who say that former Anfield boss Rafa Benitez was keen on the central defender as a cheap option to strengthen his squad.
However, Jurgen Klpop decided that the team could not do without the 32-year-old, who is currently unavailable for selection due to an injury problem. That is despite the fact that his contract is set to expire in 2019, though Klopp has previously said he would like to retain his services.
Lovren set for weeks out
Dejan Lovren returned from the World Cup suffering from a stomach problem and remains sidelined by the issue, as Jurgen Klopp has now confirmed. The German revealed that the Croatian was already struggling towards the end of the season but played through the pain expecting that it would clear up when he had time off after the summer break.
“I am pretty sure it will settle in the next one, two or three weeks. In that time he can probably for sure train already, but not the full programme, so that will then take time. In the end, it is serious but not that serious, so it’s not that we need to be afraid that it will take him until whenever. In the moment he is not available, that’s true.”
However, that has not been the case and the coach has now revealed that he faces one to three weeks on the sidelines with the issue. Joe Gomez excelled in his place on Sunday and looks set to retain that position.
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