Liverpool must be sick of the sight of Manchester City. Were it not for their rivals from across the northwest of England, Jurgen Klopp’s side would be one of the teams that have won the Premier League title the most. As it is, the Reds still have only one championship crown to their name since the top flight of English football was rebranded in 1992. City, meanwhile, have won four of the last five titles. Their most recent success came thanks to a slender one-point advantage over Klopp’s men in 2021/22.
Recent years have shown there is little to choose between the two teams, and this iteration of Liverpool is undoubtedly one of the strongest sides the Premier League has ever seen. Yet Klopp will know as well as anyone that more silverware is necessary to cement this team’s legacy. Liverpool won two domestic cup competitions last time out, but they fell short in the Premier League and Champions League, the two most coveted prizes.
Getting the better of Manchester City this time around will not be easy, but Liverpool are in with a shot of being the best Premier League team in 2022/23. Their squad is, at the very least, the equal of City. Klopp is on a par with Guardiola. But the Reds will need to ensure they hit the ground running. No team in the division accumulated more points in the second half of last season, but Liverpool’s relatively slow start left them with too much ground to make up.
Indeed, dropped points in meetings with Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea (twice) turned out to be fatal. The occasional draw never used to matter too much, but such is the relentless pace City have been setting, it is no longer enough to win your home Premier League fixtures and pick up a point on the road. Liverpool must strive to be even better this term.
Predicted XI (4-3-3)
Alisson Becker; Trent-Alexander Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson; Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Naby Keita; Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz.
Aside from their triumphs in the FA Cup and League Cup, the event from last season that was most celebrated by Liverpool fans was Klopp’s decision to extend his contract with the club until 2026.
Assuming he sees out that deal, it would take the German up to 11 years at the helm at Anfield. He already belongs in the pantheon of legendary Liverpool managers, alongside Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish. Another Premier League title or two would only strengthen his standing, both in the red half of Merseyside and beyond.
It is hard to overstate the magnificence of Klopp’s work since 2015. He took over a team that was low on confidence and out of the Champions League. Change did not happen overnight, and in his first couple of campaigns in charge Liverpool’s defensive vulnerability frequently proved costly. But when everything came together, the result was spectacular. Liverpool are one of the best teams in the world again; more than anyone, they have Klopp to thank for their reclamation of that status.
With his heart-on-sleeve passion and left-leaning political views, Klopp is the perfect Liverpool manager. Guardiola may have won more Premier League titles, but fans of the Reds would not swap their coach for anyone.
Player to watch
Sadio Mane has called time on his Liverpool career after seven years at the club. The Senegal international was out of contract at Anfield in 2023 and felt the time was right for a new challenge. He will be a big loss. Mane was not only a frequent supplier of goals and assists; he was also the player who set the tone for their ferocious pressing, while his hard work and selfless movement brought out the best in those around him.
Mane moved from the left to the centre of Liverpool’s front three after Luis Diaz’s arrival in January. He will be replaced in the latter role by Darwin Nunez, a €75m purchase from Benfica. The Uruguay international arrives on Merseyside with a promising track record and a burgeoning reputation, and it will be fascinating to see how he gets on.
Nunez is a different type of player to Mane. At 6ft 2in, he is taller, stronger and more of a conventional centre-forward. He is a player who comes alive in the penalty area, as a return of 34 goals in all competitions last season attests, but he will also contribute outside the box too. If the Uruguayan can adapt quickly to the Premier League, Liverpool could be the early pace-setters.
Fabio Carvalho (Fulham), Darwin Nunez (Benfica), Calvin Ramsay (Aberdeen)
Loris Karius (Released), Divock Origi (AC Milan), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Takumi Minamino (Monaco), Neco Willliams (Nottingham Forest), Ben Davies (Preston North End)
Our Premier League score card
Alisson Becker is not only the best goalkeeper in the Premier League right now, he is not far off being No.1 in the division’s history. The Brazilian has no notable weaknesses. He is not quite in Ederson’s class when it comes to playing out from the back and pinging diagonal passes to his side’s forwards, but his distribution is nonetheless excellent.
He is a commanding presence inside the penalty area and is adept at plucking crosses off the heads of opposition strikers. And most impressive of all, he is fantastic in one-versus-one situations, regularly denying those who break through on Liverpool’s goal.
Caoimhin Kelleher showed last season that he is an able deputy, although Liverpool’s title prospects would be harmed if Alisson was ruled out for a lengthy period. The former Roma custodian cost Liverpool €72.5m in 2018 – a then-world record fee for a goalkeeper – but he has proved to be worth every cent.
Virgil van Dijk remains the cornerstone of the Liverpool defence and the best centre-back in the world. There were fears that the Dutchman might not be the same player after he suffered a serious knee ligament injury in 2020, but he returned to his best in the second half of last season. Physically dominant, positionally smart and good on the ball, Van Dijk’s presence in the heart of the backline would improve any team in the world.
He will be partnered this season by either Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konate, with Klopp likely to rotate between them depending on the opposition and other circumstances. Joe Gomez is Liverpool’s fourth-choice centre-half but would be a regular starter for most clubs in the Premier League.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are the best full-back duo in the division. The former is a playmaker in defence, and those who criticise him for not being the second coming of Paolo Maldini rather miss the point. Robertson’s surges down the left wing are a key part of Liverpool’s attacking strategy.
Thiago Alcantara came into his own last term. The Italy-born Spain international was in dazzling form after the turn of the year, as his passing range and creative spark added another dimension to the Liverpool midfield. Thiago is one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League, although a patchy injury record throughout his career could be a cause for concern now that he is on the wrong side of the 30.
Fabinho is a master of the holding midfield role and will continue to start whenever he is fit. The Brazilian anticipates the play expertly, patrolling in front of the back four and breaking up opposition attacks. He is also an accomplished passer and can even drop into the defence if the situation calls for it.
The only question mark over Liverpool’s midfield relates to that third spot, which is likely to be filled by either Jordan Henderson or Naby Keita. The former is now past his best, while the latter has largely been underwhelming since his move from RB Leipzig.
The exit of Sadio Mane and the addition of Darwin Nunez will change the dynamic of Liverpool’s attack. It might take a few weeks for the Reds to recalibrate, and it will be interesting to observe the relationship between Nunez and Mohamed Salah, two players who are used to being their team’s chief goal-getter, and who will both expect to be among the Premier League top scorers.
Salah is one of the best players in the world right now, although his form dipped dramatically in the second half of the 2021/22 campaign.
Luis Diaz made a stunning impact after his arrival in January, immediately forcing his way into Klopp’s starting XI. The Colombia international could be one of the division’s standout performers this season.
A few years ago, Manchester City had the strongest squad in the division, but Liverpool have now overtaken them in this area. Klopp has an embarrassment of riches to choose from up front, with Fabio Carvalho, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino backing up the first-choice front three, although the latter could be on his way to Juventus.
Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain help to provide competition for places in midfield, with Calvin Ramsay, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas supplying cover at the back. It no longer feels like disaster would ensue if Liverpool suffered two or three injuries to regular starters.
Final score: 48/50
Our scoring system places Liverpool level with Manchester City, which should not come as a surprise given the fact just one point separated them after 38 rounds of Premier League games last season. Liverpool probably have greater squad depth than Pep Guardiola’s side and their goalkeeper is one of the top two in the world, but City might just pip them to the title again.