We haven't taken it upon ourselves to do too much in terms of season previewing---we figure most of you are already up to speed on how this is the season that Joe Cole makes his impact and the restorative properties of Christian Poulsen's alice band. By force of habit, though, we've put together a few assorted ramblings; Noel wrote this non-preview for SBNation a few days ago and organized a roundtable with other Liverpool bloggers earlier today, so this will serve as my supplement to those posts---you'll notice a few similarities between the questions asked and answered in this and the roundtable post, so go ahead and chime in wherever you'd like.
1) Are Liverpool done in the transfer market?
With the fee for José Enrique agreed earlier in the day, it seems like Liverpool are closer and closer to wrapping up their summer activity, at least on the way in. At the outset, there was general consensus that the club needed strengthening in the wide areas and at the back; bolstering the midfield and attack were secondary considerations for most, with a lack of depth and reliability in defense causing concern.
As it turned out, we got the bolstering of the midfield first, with Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam joining, followed by the signing of Stewart Downing from Aston Villa and back-up keeper Doni from Roma. Today sees the need for consistency at left back addressed with Enrique's arrival, and there's talk of either Scott Dann or Gary Cahill arriving soon as well.
There's been far less activity going the other way, with only Milan Jovanovic and Paul Konchesky confirmed as exits. Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, and David Ngog have all been part of the discussion, with more urgency surrounding the former pair. Talk has thankfully died down about Raul Meireles' exit, although the club did apparently turn down a bid from Udinese. Outside of that, it's been a summer surprisingly lacking in major exit talk, which either means nothing's happening or the next few weeks are going to be busy.
2) What's the best eleven?
Many of you have already shared your thoughts in previous posts, and other picks were posted earlier in the day, but I figured that I might as well open things up again and include my own preferred eleven. Ignoring current fitness concerns, a first-choice matchday squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique
Meireles Lucas Gerrard
Kuyt Suarez Downing
Bench: Doni, Skrtel, Kelly, Aurelio, Adam, Maxi, Carroll
I don't think Alberto Aquilani will be around for too long, even considering his recent statements, and I'd given up on Emiliano Insua's Liverpool future even prior to the Enrique signing. In terms of personnel I think this is the strongest in terms of ability and experience; Aurelio and Enrique may prove interchangeable if the Brazilian stays fit, and there's no question that Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll will have more than a fair share of starts. Any way you pick it, Liverpool are going to have a matchday squad full of talent, and depth will be more than just a pipe dream. At least until everyone gets injured.
3) Do any of the summer signings have a major impact?
This will go a long way towards determining the answer to the first question---of the five that have arrived so far, the lowest expectations are for Doni, and that's more a product of the role for which he was brought in rather than ability. Jordan Henderson is the promising and expensive youngster, Charlie Adam is the impact player looking to transition to a bigger club, Stewart Downing is the answer to the club's need for a talented and reliable wide man, and José Enrique is the left back to cure Liverpool's ails of the season gone by.
Which all combines to set the bar relatively high for the new boys, each of whom will be looking to simultaneously settle in and assert themselves as capable of having an impact. The easiest choice out of the gate is Stewart Downing, who's a nailed-on starter for most, and who also has the least competition for a spot. The others are certainly capable, and may prove to be plenty influential in their own right, but as far as potential goes, Downing's shown the most thus far.
4) What does Kenny Dalglish do with a full season at the helm?
We saw the recovery effort last year---replacing Roy Hodgson after a dismal winter saw the club slip further and further down the Premier League table, struggling to find footing in the first few matches, and ultimately guiding the club to the second highest points total from early January through the end of the season. Late losses to Spurs and Aston Villa saw the club knocked out of European contention, but on the whole it was a remarkable turnaround.
With a full season to look forward to, you'd hope for more of the same, and that the personnel additions will all have their fit into whatever system Dalglish and Steve Clarke plan to use. In January Dalglish spoke about the need to be removed from the romanticism that accompanied his return, and while some of that faded by season's end, the start of the coming season is the perfect time to see the emphasis shift from being content at feeling good to challenging at the top.
5) What happens in a season without off-the-pitch drama?
It's almost a foreign concept to consider a season without high drama for Liverpool. The football's unfortunately been relatively benign over the past two seasons, but it's taken place in the midst of ownership struggles and managerial turnover. Over the past few years it seems like we've yearned for the days of being able to focus solely on the actual matches; the first few months of last season saw a drawn-out transition in ownership followed by a change in manager at the turn of the new year. Both necessary, and both welcomed in their own way, but both things that served to distract our attentions.
The 2011-2012 season serves as one of the first in recent memory that, unless I'm missing something major, we don't need to account for how the club survives some sort of off-pitch psychodrama. Now's the time to get the answer to the question about what Liverpool can achieve when all the front office pieces are settled---the owners, manager, and staff seem to be perfectly placed, leaving our focus firmly placed on the football.
As usual, this'll be relevant until the first match, at which time everything changes and we re-write the script. But for now, we'd love to hear your thoughts and any other questions you've got rattling around, and remember to visit Noel's preview at SB Nation, and the earlier roundtable with Mike from Avoiding the Drop, steven. at Paisley Gates, and nate over at Oh You Beauty.