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The Liverpool Offside 2021-22 Premier League Season Preview Roundtable

After last season’s struggles and a quiet summer, is it reasonable to think Liverpool remain the top challengers to Manchester City in the Premier League?

Liverpool FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Following a brief summer break, the 2021-22 Premier League season kicks off this weekend and Liverpool start their push for number twenty against newly promoted Norwich City following a compressed, injury-plagued 2020-21. For manager Jürgen Klopp, the Reds’ injured stars from last season are either fit or close to it, and getting fans back in the stands will provide a further boost.

Liverpool’s rivals for the title and top four have strengthened, though, some of them significantly, and not everyone who’s watching is entirely convinced this side has what it takes to win the biggest silverware. In light of that, we asked the team at The Liverpool Offside to talk us through their expectations for the coming season—and to predict the finishing order for the Premier League’s top six.


Gabe

Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United are throwing money around like Financial Fair Play doesn’t exist and most of the professional pundits are picking that crew to finish ahead of Jürgen Klopp and his Liverpool squad. And I, for one, will take it. We all know Jürgen loves playing the underdog, no matter how strong his team actually is.

I think we can all agree that last season was an aberration due to circumstance (covid, injuries, fixture congestion). Now, the is squad back to (almost) fully fit and the players look rested and hungry. The crowds being back benefits Liverpool more than any of their rivals, too. Put it together, and I think Liverpool will go on a tear this season, getting back into the 90+ point range.

There are legitimate questions about replacing Gini Wijnaldum (and especially his minutes) in midfield, but when healthy a midfield of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, and Thiago is quite formidable, with the likes of Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, and Harvey Elliott all waiting in the wings.

Sadio Mané finished last season on a hot streak, while one-season wonder Mohamed Salah will be looking to record his fourth straight season with 20+ goals in the Premier League. Roberto Firmino looked sharp in a limited preseason, and Diogo Jota has proven to be a lethal finisher who can rotate in for any of the front three. And while everyone is mentioning the Africa Cup of Nations, there are only two league games Mané and Salah will miss.

It really is hard not to feel giddy with this team, despite only signing Ibrahima Konaté to this point.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Leicester City
  4. Chelsea
  5. Manchester United
  6. Spurs

Mark

The club’s biggest rivals for the Top 4 spent all summer splashing the cash to make their teams better because they know that a fully fit Liverpool are top of the pops. The 2021-22 Liverpool squad is better than the 2018-19 and 2019-20 squads. And those squads got 196 points and won four trophies, including a first league title in 30 years and the club’s 6th European Cup. All the pundits want to talk about how there’s so question marks around this squad, but most of them have obvious answers. So if this team is better than the team that won 26 of their first 27 premier league games in 2019/20, what’s possible? Everything.

Jürgen and the boys never got the chance to tour the city of Liverpool with the Premier League trophy because of Coronavirus. That’s all the motivation they should need to win it again.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Chelsea
  5. Leicester
  6. Aston Villa

Noel

For as bad as last season was at times, and for as much as Chelsea and Man United have clearly strengthened, I’m feeling perhaps unreasonably bullish right now. It feels as though half the Liverpool fanbase has already written off this side, and most of the pundits as well, but I can’t help looking through the squad and thinking this Liverpool side is the only one capable of really challenging City in the Premier League. At least if everyone stays healthy.

As for everyone staying healthy, I know that after last season there isn’t a Liverpool fan who’s not at least a little nervous on that front. But last season’s injury crisis was truly unprecedented, and as long as this group can get through the coming year with just a somewhat normal amount of injuries they should be if not outright title favourites—because, you know, City—then at least not far off them as second favourites. And if they’re second favourites, the fan in me says it’s entirely reasonable to think that another league title is within reach.

Because why not? Write down the presumed starting eleven and nine bench players and there’s hardly a club in England or Europe who have clearly better options at any position. Not the forwards or midfielders or defenders or goalkeeper. If everyone mostly stays fit, there will be a couple of players from amongst the likes of Joe Gomez and Joël Matip and James Milner and Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott and Takumi Minamino who won’t even make the bench as often as not. That’s at the very least title challenging quality and depth.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Chelsea
  4. Leicester City
  5. Manchester United
  6. Arsenal

Dex

I’m absolutely loving all the social personalities and pundits casting Liverpool as the fourth best side in England right now as though we live in a world where new signings have no teething issues and will be 100% integrated from the start. Maybe I’m just choosing to be blindly optimistic, but the last time we had a quiet transfer window, Liverpool only wrecked the league and won it with the most games left.

The current team also had large stretches of last season (mostly in the first half and final stretch) where they played like a title-winning team. The giant crater in the middle of the season is obviously not ideal, but that took a crazy amount of injuries, and even then the team showed tremendous [Brendan Rodgers voice]character[/Brendan Rodgers voice] to steer their way into third place.

Look, transfers are fun. But with a team this complete, there simply aren’t many holes left to fill. Thiago and Jota both proved they have lots to offer to this team, and I’d expect them to play much bigger roles this year. Hell, Kostas Tsimikas will get his chance, too.

Plus there’s always a chance that at the deadline, after Liverpool shift some players on, Mikey Edwards will come off the top rope at the last minute with some absurd robbery of a midfielder or attacker signing who won’t play much for the first half of the season and then prove vital in the second half. All that said, at this point I simply trust Jürgen Klopp to do what he does best: tune out the outside noise and extract the best out of every single player in that squad

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Chelsea
  5. Leicester City
  6. Aston Villa

Steph

Call it pre-season optimism, but despite the incredible amount of cash that our rivals have spent, I still think that Liverpool are in the best place as a squad. I know that it’s a cliche to say a player returning from injury feels like a new signing, but after the injury crisis that marred last season, seeing those familiar and welcome faces back on the pitch in pre-season didn’t just feel like Liverpool got in new signings—it made it feel like they’ve got a whole new team.

I will say that the one thing I’m a little concerned about this season is AFCoN and Liverpool going a month without Mane, Salah, and Keïta. I remain hopeful that this gaping hole in our offence will be filled in these last few weeks of the transfer window. Other than that, if Liverpool’s players avoid another mass, catastrophic injury crisis, at the minimum these Reds have a high calibre attack to go with the best defence in the league and possibly all of Europe.

Something good we can take away from last season is the incredible character shown by these players. When it mattered most, the more fringe players stood up, the kids stood up, and they all did what they had to do to get Liverpool across the line and into Europe. That makes me really hopeful that with a full squad they have the capacity to compete on many different fronts, including the league but also the domestic cups.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Chelsea
  4. Manchester United
  5. Leicester City
  6. Arsenal

Will

On the surface it seems strange to feel as optimistic as I do given what happened last season and our quiet transfer window, but Liverpool were on title form outside that mid-season crater. On paper they have a squad that can match anyone’s, and they will start the season with the benefit of not having to integrate a slew of new players.

On top of that, the whole squad is sure to be as hungry as ever given the disappointment of last year, and I wouldn’t bet against Sadio Mané bouncing back in a very big way. There are a lot of reasons to feel very good about Liverpool’s chances to get number 20, and they’re setup better than ever to challenge in every competition.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Chelsea
  4. Manchester United
  5. Leicester City
  6. Tottenham

Tito

I share the masthead’s optimism going into the season, especially after seeing just how strong the Liverpool “second team” was that started against Osasuna in Monday’s final preseason warmup was. However, to win a second Premier League title, Jurgen Klopp and the Reds might need to approach a level of perfection possibly unseen to this point.

Manchester City’s title win in a pandemic-addled 2020-21 was a function of depth rather than quality, enduring to the end despite notable holes in the side. But with the Abu Dhabi Public Relations Vehicle bringing Jack Grealish to Manchester and rumoured to be returning with a £127m bid for Tottenham’s Harry Kane, those deficiencies in last year’s squad are being ruthlessly dealt with.

If anything, I personally like odds of a seventh European title better than a league title: you can always count on Pep Guardiola to outsmart himself across two legs, Julian Naglesmann is talented but could take time to bed in as Bayern Munich manager, and Paris St. Germain could experience gelling problems, even with Lionel Messi (or especially because of Messi).

Back in the Premier League, and as in 2019-20, Liverpool are the team best suited to run City to the end. As arguably the most primed side in the big 6—with a full preseason for the majority of the squad under the belt—the Reds will need a fast start to the campaign and an early lead. They will then need to find a way to conquer the January dip in form that has plagued most Klopp’s sides and weather the losses of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Naby Keita to the African Cup of Nations.

Like in 2019-20, remain immaculate at the back, potent up front, and consistent to the last and Liverpool are in with a shout. However, unless John Henry suddenly discovers oil in his backyard, it’s hard to call them favourites to return to the Premier League summit.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Manchester City
  2. Liverpool
  3. Chelsea
  4. Leicester City
  5. Manchester United
  6. Tottenham (Aston Villa if Spurs lose Kane)

Zach

I have nothing smart to add other than that the team that gets more points than City are going to win the league. Liverpool remain the only team to accomplish that feat in the past few seasons, and so I’m tipping them to do it again, this time in front of the fans. There are no more empty stadiums to exploit—other than City’s own. Anfield is going to be rocking, and if there’s just a reversion to the mean when it comes to injuries and VAR decisions, Liverpool are going to be back competing at the top of the table where they belong. Bring on number twenty. And number seven, too, while we’re at it.

Top Six Prediction
  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Leicester City
  4. Chelsea
  5. Aston Villa
  6. Southampton