It was somewhat of a rollercoaster season for Liverpool fans during the 2016/17 campaign with Jürgen Klopp guiding them back into Europe. Anfield will now, once again, play host to Champions League football.
The German manager had the Reds playing some of the best football in well over a decade. And the 49-year-old reinvented a number of players, giving them a new lease of life.
However, his biggest achievement was turning doubters into believers. The cynics may have returned over recent months but for a period he had them dreaming of a first title win in over 25 years.
His third season at the helm will throw up different scenarios. If he's to be a success he's going to have to answer the following six questions.
Who is his number 1?
Liverpool head into the season not really knowing who Klopp prefers between the sticks.
It appears as though Simon Mingolet will get the nod but is he going to be the long-term choice between the sticks or will Loris Karius and Danny Ward, both of whom impressed in pre-season, relegate the Belgian to the bench at some stage next season?
“We have three goalkeepers and they can all show what they are able to do, and then we will see who will start,” Liverpool manager Klopp told the club’s official website at the beginning of pre-season.
“That's very comfortable for the manager, three really good goalkeepers. It is like it is and nothing is decided, they can all show how good they are. I don't want to bring doubt so that they start doubting.”
It’s true that competition breeds quality. But it can also breed resentment and the Reds could end up in quite the predicament if things don’t go their way in the upcoming campaign.
The Reds need to have a clear first-choice ‘keeper and Klopp has a big decision on his hands.
Has he developed a Plan B?
At the start of the season Liverpool played some scintillating football. They went from 0-100mph in a matter of seconds and the opposition couldn't cope with the electric pace of Sadio Mané, the creativity of Philippe Coutinho and the movement of Roberto Firmino.
It was the perfect storm and for it to work effectively the conditions had to be perfect. Any slight change and the team went from destructive to dormant.
Mané went to the AFCON with Senegal in January and Liverpool lost their edge. Klopp persisted with the same system despite not having players. Coutinho fell victim to an injury and Firmino was shifted to the left.
The dynamic of the attack shifted but the system stayed the same. When Mané was injured against Everton, Firmino was shunted to the right.
It was a poor impersonation of the frontline which had terrorised teams earlier on in the season. It wasn't until the match against West Ham United, when injuries forced the German manager's hand, that Liverpool switched it up. The 4-3-3 system was shelved and the 4-4-2 diamond was used.
The change worked wonders and the Reds romped home to a 4-0 victory.
Klopp needs to have two or three systems he's confident in so that the team are able to switch it up if necessary. The arrival of Mohamed Salah will no doubt help that but they can't simply rely on pace.
Can he juggle European football and the Domestic cups?
Liverpool were able to concentrate on the Premier League last season without the distraction of European football. The Reds were also helped by having no cup involvement after January.
They reached the semi-finals of the EFL Cup before losing to Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers ended their FA Cup hopes in the fourth round. A top four finish would paper over those disappointments but next season fans won't be so forgiving.
Two positive results against Hoffenheim in the Champions League play-off will see them appear in the group stages, meaning they would have to juggle midweek action alongside Premier League commitments.
Does he have a squad capable of competing on all fronts and, if he does, will he manage to keep them fresh?
Can he ensure his players deliver consistently?
Taking points off your rivals is, on paper at least, the hardest part of the season. Liverpool perfected that skill.
The Reds were undefeated during 2016/17 against Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs, Arsenal and Everton. It's that sort of form which you can build title challenges on.
Yet Liverpool found themselves 17 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Why?
Quite simply they weren't able to do the job against so called ‘inferior' opposition. Sunderland, Swansea City, West Ham, Hull City, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace all took points off Klopp's team last season.
Inconsistency has plagued Liverpool under the former Borussia Dortmund manager and it has to be third time lucky this year.
Klopp has to find a way to ensure his players treat the matches against the relegation strugglers as they do the matches against rivals.
Does he trust Sturridge?
During the 2016/17 season Liverpool toiled in the absence of Mane. The AFCON deprived Liverpool of the former Southampton speedster throughout January and Liverpool, with Sturridge in attack, looked blunt.
Sturridge was the scapegoat, despite him not being at fault for Liverpool’s poor attempt of piecing together a potent attack without the Senegal star.
It appeared as though the relationship had ran it’s course. The Reds needed a different style of striker and Sturridge needed to be played in a system to get the best out of him.
But then, in the final couple of matches of the campaign, Sturridge, backed by Klopp, showed his class as Liverpool secured a top four spot.
It was then revealed that he would be staying at Anfield because it would cost too much to replace a player of his ability. It was clear Klopp rated Sturridge, he just couldn’t rely on him.
But Liverpool can't afford to carry luxury players. Klopp either has to trust the England international and use him properly or part ways. A full season uninterrupted by injuries should go a long way to helping the German make his mind up.
What does he do with James Milner?
The former Manchester City midfielder was utilised as a left-back last season with Klopp seemingly unable to trust Alberto Moreno. The arrival of Andrew Robertson was supposed to see the Scot rival Milner for a starting berth but injuries in pre-season have opened the door for Moreno to stake a claim.
And he's not passed up the opportunity. The ex-Sevilla man was sensational against Bayern Munich in a pre-season friendly and followed that up with a decent display against Athletic Bilbao.
Klopp now has a predicament on his hands. If Moreno really has turned it around and gained his manager's trust then he's arguably the best suited left-back to Liverpool's system.
So does Milner drop down to the bench and become this season's Lucas Leiva; a utility man capable of playing a number of positions?
- Carlisle vs Harrogate Prediction: Odds & Betting Tips (24/04/2021)
- Cambridge vs Stevenage Prediction: Odds & Betting Tips (24/04/2021)
- Тамбов – Локомотив прогноз и ставки на матч РПЛ: 24 апреля 2021
- Зенит – Ротор прогноз на матч: 24 апреля 2021
- Which clubs would make it into a European Super League?
- Sheff Utd vs Brighton Prediction, Odds and Betting Tips (24/4/21)
- West Ham vs Chelsea Prediction, Odds and Betting Tips (24/4/21)
- Liverpool vs Newcastle Prediction, Odds and Betting Tips (24/4/21)
- Football Betting Tips
- Арсенал – Эвертон: прогноз на матч 23 апреля 2021