As I provided pre-season predictions for both The Tomkins Times and Anfield Index, I thought I would post them here too for people to see. I might delete this before the end of the season depending on how the predictions are looking though!
The Tomkins Times
Where will the Reds finish?
With a new manager (and a different one for the fourth season in a row), it’s very hard to call. Whilst I think fourth is possible, I think just missing out is more likely. I’ll go for fifth; to get that Liverpool will have to out-perform one of (most likely) Spurs or Arsenal, so that’ll do for starters before we reel in another team in 2013/14.
How many points will the Reds finish with?
I think we were a better side than our 52 point showing last season, so even a return to an average level of finishing and ‘luck’ will see an improvement. Rafa’s final season saw 63 points accumulated, and Kenny’s form in 2010/11 equated to 69, so somewhere between the two would certainly be satisfactory. I’ll go for 65.
Who will be our most important player?
I’m sure many would say Lucas, but I think the difference will be made up front; the Reds gave away the fewest shots on target in the Premier League last season, despite missing Lucas for most of the season and playing in a far more open style than Rodgers chooses to, so the defensive aspect of the team is already strong.
For me, it has to be Luis Suárez; he scored the most goals and created the most chances for Liverpool last season (plus the joint-eleventh most chances per game in the division too). His performances dipped whilst the racial abuse charge hung over him, so hopefully he can focus on his football for all of 2012/13, and the Reds can reap the benefit.
Player to be phased out or sold?
I find this one difficult to answer – Kuyt and Maxi have been phased out and sold, and I’d have kept both of them! I guess my main hope would be that Carragher is left out in favour of Coates as 3rd choice centre-back. Unless more players come in, I’m not sure we can afford to sell anyone else!
Who needs to improve on last season?
Anyone in Red who is in front of goal! I read on WhoScored that Liverpool missed the target more times with shots inside the area than any other side in the top five leagues in Europe last season. It was largely that profligacy that cost Dalglish his job; Rodgers cannot afford to see such wastefulness repeated.
Position in XI that still needs addressing?
I think the strongest starting XI is capable of competing for fourth (when everyone is fit), so the greater issue for me is the understudies; a top quality back up for Lucas, and players capable of pressurising Enrique and Reina for their places would be a good start. Dare I say it, but perhaps the twelfth man at Anfield could do with upping their game on last season too?
Surprise package? Which player will push on more than expected?
I sincerely hope that Fabio Borini can be our surprise package. He scored more regularly than any Red did last season, and in a more defensive league, so if he can bamboozle a few defences we’ll be laughing. His rate of a goal every 122 minutes last season equates to 28 league goals if he had played every minute in the league and continued his scoring rate. Sounds good to me!
Young player to make 1st team Premier League debut?
Whilst he made his debut last season, I am hopeful that Raheem Sterling will make his first start in the league during this campaign. As Alan Hansen is quick to remind Match Of the Day viewers, defenders hate having to deal with fast attackers, and as Liverpool are not currently blessed with too many speed merchants, he can hopefully make a difference.
Prediction for top 6, in order:
How should the Reds treat the 2 domestic cups and the Europa League?
Primarily as an opportunity to give youngsters competitive football, especially in the league cup and Europa League which start early in the season. If managed properly, these competitions could actually prove to be really interesting and important; as a fan who attends quite a few Carling Cup games, I’d much rather see the club’s exciting young prospects in action, rather than an aging squad player who is being given a run-out for the sake of it.
Champions League Winners:
Whilst Barcelona are always the obvious choice, they will be keen to reclaim their La Liga crown, and their new manager is a bit of an unknown quantity. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Special Mouth may take Old Big Ears for the third time as Real Madrid win it this year.
Premier League Champions:
It’s hard to look past Manchester City, isn’t it? They might have left it very late last season, but they were deservedly champions based on the season as a whole. Not sure where Jack Rodwell fits into their team though….
Premier League Top 4
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
Again, no real surprises there. Despite what I’ve said above though, I think Arsenal could grow as a team in response to van Persie leaving, and despite a jammy Champions League win, I still think there’s question marks over Di Matteo; after all, his league performance was worse than Andre Villas-Boas’.
Of the promoted teams, Big Sam’s ale house football should ensure that the Hammers stay up, but I think Reading and Southampton might struggle; the Saints were a League One side about twelve months ago, so this may prove a step too far. As for the third relegation slot…it’d be lovely to see Stoke’s rugby team go down, but I suspect it might be Norwich.
Player to Watch This Season
As I hadn’t heard of him before Thursday, I’ll be keeping an eye on Oussama Assaidi to see if he’s any good or not! Seriously though, I have a sneaking suspicion that David Silva will be crowned player of the season in 9 months time.
Best Value Transfer Signing
It’s kind of impossible to answer this at this point. For instance, if United sign van Persie for £24m, and he scores 30 goals as they win the league and Champions League, then that’s fantastic value (albeit a horrible thought). Closer to home, hopefully Fabio Borini can fire in the goals that Liverpool so sorely lacked last season. He scored every 122 minutes in Serie A last season; more regularly than any Red did, and in a more defensive league. Fingers crossed he hits the ground running (and scoring).
Surprise Package this Season
I have a feeling that Aston Villa will do better than people expect; not anything crazy like a top four finish, but they can be around the Europa League qualification spots. They have a mostly young side with a year of experience under their belts, and a good manager in Paul Lambert.
Looking forward to in 2011/2012?
Luis Suárez being allowed by the FA to play in every game, and if he’s deemed guilty of something, actually being proven to be guilty of it.