We are now - in America, anyway - one sleep away from Liverpool’s first match of the Premier League season. With all things on Merseyside generally up beat and positive, Reds across the globe will be looking at anticipation and excitement for a good performance against newly-promoted Norwich City on Friday.
An area of mild concern, for some corners of the Liverpool fan base, is that as the transfer window closed earlier today, Liverpool found themselves largely where they began it. With no major signings over the summer, Jurgen Klopp will largely be relying on the same set of charges that he had at his disposal last season.
That’s not to say, though, that the team lining up on Friday will look exactly like last year’s squad. While we generally roll our eyes at the indication that long-term injured stars returning to the pitch are “like new signings,” it’s hard to argue against that - and avoid ruminating on what could have been - if Jurgen Klopp had a full and complete squad on hand for the entirety of last season’s Champions League trophy-winning campaign.
No one can know for certain, but one must think that having the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita available for the full run-in might have made a difference. At the very least, it would have provided tactical and rotational coverage over the course of the campaign and might have nicked the necessary two points that was the difference between finishing second and hoisting that elusive Premier League title.
To that end, Jurgen Klopp is looking at the new season with optimism and commented specifically on the return of The Admiral himself:
“[Keita] looks completely different, this pre-season looks completely different. He was now only the last two weeks in but you could see already that he’s much more settled in the team: completely different body language and everything is different. We expect a lot and he expects a lot and rightly so.”
That expectation, of course, isn’t misplaced: Naby was unfortunately injured just as he’d looked increasingly settled and comfortable in the team’s set up. His influence in matches was increasing and, from my vantage point, we were seeing the type of influence a player of his caliber should have on any given match.
Having him in to round out the pre-season and fit for tomorrow’s match - for which I might expect a start for him - is a little gift, then. Because there is the tantalizing idea of what a squad, built entirely on Jurgen Klopp’s conception of a complete football team, might look like week-to-week.
Not to suggest that the previous season wasn’t exactly that, per se, but given the outgoings and looking at the availability of players both on the bench and coming up from the Academy, one can sense that this might be the most Jurgen Klopp-ish Liverpool side yet.
And to see this side with The Admiral in full command of that midfield is likely to be an incredible treat. Buckle up, Reds. That future starts now.