Football Features

Five predictions for Liverpool in Premier League 2021/22: “The football world can be really excited”

By Ben Green

Published: 12:15, 12 August 2021

In the end it was a non-existent title defence from Liverpool last season as they surrendered their first-ever Premier League crown to Manchester City, but they will be itching to put up a fight this term.

Expectations were tempered at Anfield in 2020/21 as Liverpool were crippled by an extensive casualty list that saw Virgil van Dijk out of action for much of the campaign, Joe Gomez on the treatment tables from November onwards, and Joel Matip also sidelined for a lengthy spell.

However, all three convalescing centre-backs have featured this pre-season after returning from their respective injury lay-offs, as has £36m Ibrahima Konate, who comes to Merseyside with a growing reputation as France’s answer to Van Dijk, a notion that will no doubt excite Kopites.

Indeed there has been plenty to digest and unpack this pre-season, and with the 2021/22 Premier League season finally on our doorstep, we’ve put together five predictions for Liverpool this forthcoming campaign. Can they rock City’s iron throne? Or are we in for another season of uncertainty?

1. Liverpool’s XI should look like this:

There’s a case to be made that Liverpool’s starting XI picks itself when every player is fit. That all-star attack has been Klopp’s preferred trident for the past four seasons and has hoovered up medals aplenty, so he is unlikely to deviate from that script, though Diogo Jota is certainly nudging his way to the front of that queue.

In midfield, there’s a vacancy. The dynamic Gini Wijnaldum will be screening a Paris Saint-Germain defence led by Sergio Ramos next season and feeding Lionel Messi, after a transfer window that has shaken the footballing landscape to its core. His athleticism, ball retention and the up-and-at-’em approach so synonymous with the kind of midfielder Klopp cherishes may not be too hard to replicate, as skipper Jordan Henderson will return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Klopp’s hard-nosed captain may not bring the goals, but he does bring a high-octane energy. He should flank the ever-reliable Fabinho, with Thiago looking to find his rhythm in the Premier League and showcase the kind of line-breaking passes that were ten a penny during his Champions League-winning stint at Bayern Munich.

In defence, full-back duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are guaranteed starting berths on the flanks, while at centre-half Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate will be Klopp’s go-to if both stay injury-free. The prospect of those two working in tandem is a striker’s nightmare. Van Dijk has already modernised Klopp’s rearguard, Konate can take it to another level. And Alisson, of course, guards the net.

William Hill‘s highest-scoring Premier League team odds…

  • Man City – 1/3
  • Man United – 6/1
  • Liverpool – 13/2
  • Chelsea – 10/1
  • Arsenal, Leicester & Tottenham – 66/1

18+ only. BeGambleAware. Odds in this article correct at the time of publication (12:15pm, 12/08/21).

2. Fortress Anfield rejuvenated by fan return

A stadium is technically just bricks, mortar and four stands encompassing a patch of grass. But on matchdays they can transform into something that transcends architecture, a sun-trap for passion and raw emotion. Few grounds encapsulate this more than Anfield.

The Reds went on an incredible 68-game unbeaten run at home that stretched nearly four years in the league, but that invincibility was shattered last season as Burnley put them to the sword in mid-January, a result that sent Liverpool on a tailspin and culminated in the club going eight games without a win at Anfield.

In that time, they lost six straight matches, including defeats to Brighton, Everton and Fulham, before they eventually stabilised. With fans now allowed back into venues at full capacity, expect Liverpool to take that late-season momentum into the new campaign and consolidate Anfield, making it a fortress again.

The prospect of a defence that doesn’t include Henderson at centre-back of course helps, but the arrival of Konate could prove the catalyst in a return to former ways. Make no mistake, Konate (who counter-press godfather Ralf Rangnick once said “could play for Real Madrid or Barcelona one day”) is a game-changer.

3. A prominent role for Harvey Elliott

Klopp has never been one to shy away from breaking in young talent, and given Liverpool’s history of promoting from within, his is a philosophy that chimes with the club’s. He is, after all, the man responsible for the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold and, to a slightly lesser extent, Joe Gomez.

Some managers seem almost allergic to giving youngsters a chance, but Klopp’s stance, one that was prominent during his Borussia Dortmund days, bodes well for talented tyro Harvey Elliott, whose reputation was given an adrenaline shot last season as he flourished on loan at Ewood Park.

During his stint in the Championship, the Londoner registered 11 assists, the third-most of any player in the division. He also netted seven goals for Blackburn, one of which earned him the club’s ‘Goal of the Season’ award to go with a EFL Young Player of the Season nomination.

That form has not gone under the radar. Klopp afforded Elliott three starts this pre-season, where he has impressed in an unfamiliar role further back. The manager has even publicly sung his praises, hinting at the possibility of a season in the first team.

“We have obviously a new midfielder in our squad with Harvey Elliott,” Klopp said.

“He can play different positions, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. But in the pre-season we wanted to see him just in a deeper role because for a young player you have to learn a lot of things when you are a bit more outside and you get the ball from time to time. We wanted to have him more involved.

“And I think he made a big step in this pre-season. If Harvey stays fit then the football world can be really excited about that. I liked his performance, I liked his performance and attitude during the pre-season.

“So, good for us, good for him.”

4. Naby Keita to fill Gini Wijnaldum void

He inherited the legendary No. 8 shirt upon his arrival from RB Leipzig in 2018 and was hailed ‘the complete midfielder’, but Liverpool’s £52m man has seen his Anfield career beset by persistent injury complications and, as such, he is yet to vindicate the lofty price tag looming above his head.

However, with Wijnaldum now in Paris, Keita has a chance to reinvent himself, ditching his status as an injury-prone spare part to the ‘new Gini’, someone who can man the engine room with distinction and bring a zeal that will keep Liverpool’s turbo-charged counter attacks in full motion.

If (and, unfortunately, it is a big ‘if’, given his track record) Keita can avoid the treatment tables, he can be the man to succeed Wijnaldum, alleviating that void and stabilising the midfield. He is only 26 and isn’t the only Liverpool midfielder prone to fitness troubles, after all, so he will get chances and this could prove a career-defining season for the Reds’ forgotten man.

5. Another title challenge

Should Liverpool’s defence get up to full speed as soon as possible, they will be a real force this season. Enough to thwart City’s stranglehold on the division? Possibly not, given the utter dominance of Pep Guardiola’s men. Not to mention their recent recruitment of Jack Grealish and the possibility of a world-class striker coming in.

However, with European champions Chelsea and Manchester United emerging as genuine threats to the title, City will be under a lot of pressure in 2021/22, and that’s where Liverpool could look to capitalise, producing their own bid to embellish the trophy with red ribbons.

It’s a tall order, which may see the Reds just pipped to the post, but a runners-up position is a sign of progress given the season they just had. We certainly expect a much, much, tighter race for the Premier League trophy this campaign.

William Hill‘s 2021/22 Premier League title odds…

  • Man City – 4/6
  • Liverpool – 5/1
  • Chelsea – 5/1
  • Man Utd – 8/1
  • Leicester – 40/1

18+ only. BeGambleAware. Odds in this article correct at the time of publication (12:15pm, 12/08/21).