After a dramatic climax to the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Liverpool will look to make their presence felt domestically as well as in Europe in the forthcoming season. They were devastated by injuries but somehow managed to secure UEFA Champions League football by recording a third-place finish.
Liverpool were disrupted hugely by injuries last season and that’s a fact. They somehow managed to stage a turnaround towards the latter part of the 2020-21 season and that’s a massive example of their character, spirit and professionalism. Despite losing six home league games in a row for the first time in their history, their players never gave up and a large part of their belief comes from Jurgen Klopp, who knows how to motivate his troops. You can never underestimate his impact at the club, as a lot of other teams would’ve just petered out from such a position.
Manchester United will undoubtedly be stronger and Chelsea will be in the mix too after winning the UEFA Champions League a few months ago, but Liverpool will be up there as well. I’m not just saying that due to my association with the club, but I genuinely believe they have a decent chance this time around.
They’ve already signed Ibrahima Konate, but who knows if they add to their squad further in the days ahead? I like how quiet it is when it comes to Liverpool’s transfers and also appreciate their business model. Under Hicks and Gillett, they were an absolute shambles, but under FSG’s ownership, the partnership between Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards, the sporting director, has been absolutely superb.
Edwards has done a fantastic job and has worked wonders in the current financial market. That’s why Liverpool have been up there in recent seasons, they are where they want to be currently.
Klopp has a strong squad to choose from, but none of this is rocket science, really. If all the players are fit and firing, this is how I believe Liverpool could lineup for the 2021-22 season.
Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker
Alisson Becker suffered a mini implosion for Liverpool last season but boy did he come through it like a top goalkeeper! He’s been remarkably consistent since joining the club and has made a series of wonderful saves that have been significant to Liverpool’s success over the years.
What he did against West Bromwich Albion with a last-gasp winner – that was just ridiculously dramatic and a goal that could prove to be absolutely priceless for the club. If Liverpool enjoy a deep run in Europe in the forthcoming season, everybody will look back on his goal at the Harthrons as an important moment, much like his save against Napoli when they won the UEFA Champions League in 2019.
They could be up there once again and Alisson is undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet for Jurgen Klopp. With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip back fully fit, I can see the Brazilian getting back to a more consistent level for Liverpool this season.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold should be fresh and raring to go for Liverpool after missing the European Championships due to an injury. There was a lot of talk that he’d be omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020, but he made the cut before unfortunately dropping out owing to a thigh problem.
Ahead of the tournament, he was dropped by the England manager, but I liked how he responded to the setback. It was a massive blow and some players tend to feed off such situations badly, but Alexander-Arnold’s attitude was wonderful. He adopted the ‘I’ll show you’ attitude and produced a string of magnificent displays for Liverpool at the business end of the 2020-21 season.
It’s such a shame he got injured and lost his place in the England squad, but I’d imagine that the determination will be there again for him to prove his worth and nail down a starting spot for his country. As for Liverpool, he’s been one of their most important players in recent seasons and will look to start the season strongly.
Neco Williams is Liverpool’s stand-in right-back if Trent gets injured, but there’s been a lot of talk of him moving away. He started well but hasn’t managed to perform consistently, so the youngster might look to move on in search of regular game time. James Milner and Jordan Henderson have both been deployed in that position in the past and could well emerge as options if the situation calls for it.
Joe Gomez is another option, but I just don’t think he’s comfortable at right back. He seems to misread situations more and his anticipation in that position is just not strong enough. Gomez started off as a central defender at Charlton Athletic and is much more suited to playing at the heart of the backline, so it goes without saying that he’s a much better center-back than a right-back.
Maybe we could even see someone rising through the ranks at the Liverpool academy if Neco Williams is sold or sent out on loan to get some game time under his belt? Only time will tell.
Right center-back: Joe Gomez
I remember tweeting a few years ago that if Joe Gomez can stay fit, he can form a formidable partnership with Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool rearguard. They defended very well as a unit with two incredible athletes playing centrally, as their pace gave them the ability to deal with the counter-attacks that came their way.
There have been question marks about Gomez’s fitness, but he deserves an injury-free career. He’s had three horrific injuries and needs a clean bill of health for a prolonged period to return to his best. If he manages to do that, he can resist the challenge from Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate to nail down a starting spot for Liverpool.
I currently have him in my preferred Liverpool starting XI, but pre-season will be crucial in determining who gets the nod alongside Virgil van Dijk. We’ve seen some tremendous stuff from Joel Matip over the years – he was incredible when Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League in 2019 and I hope he can get back to that level.
Ibrahima Konate is Liverpool’s big-money signing and should get plenty of game time over the course of the season. I watched him in the UEFA Champions League last season and he was super impressive with the ball at his feet, so it goes without saying that there is big competition for the right center-back spot.
Left center-back: Virgil van Dijk
When Virgil van Dijk is in the team and playing well, Liverpool are a much better unit. His loss last season was absolutely ginormous, but he’s back now and his return will be a massive boost for Jurgen Klopp. After an ACL injury, you don’t know the condition he’s in, but he should hopefully be good to go after a full pre-season under his belt.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – he’s an absolute colossus. Jordan Henderson is Liverpool’s vociferous leader, but Van Dijk makes himself heard and takes over at times. He keeps everyone accountable and won’t tolerate anything less than the top drawer – those are the standards Jurgen Klopp has set at the club.
Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson can pretty much stay high up the pitch because Van Dijk is capable of dealing with everything that’s thrown his way. He’s quite quick for a man of his stature and has shown incredible coolness in tight situations, which could be a massive factor in the way Liverpool’s full-backs operate.
He’s a big character, a wonderful footballer and a tremendous defender whose return will be absolutely massive for Liverpool.
Left-back: Andy Robertson
Andy Robertson is another nailed-on starter for Liverpool and is amongst the top five left-backs in world football at the moment. I’m a big fan of him and I’m not just saying that because I played in that position, but he’s got pretty much absolutely everything you expect from a modern-day full-back. The only thing he probably lacks is height, so he’s a little susceptible when it comes to far post duels.
The timing of his forward runs are so measured. He’s very good defensively and has shown over the years that he’s always up for a challenge. Another thing I like is his energy and work-rate – he’s absolutely incessant and keeps running non stop! Jose Mourinho said a few years ago that he felt tired just by watching him play and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve covered a few Liverpool games, so I remember watching him with a microphone in my hand and feeling my hamstrings!
That’s the kind of player Robertson is. He’s got a winning mentality and a tremendous desire about him that won’t let him settle for second best.