Liverpool FC 2011/12 Season Preview
The expectations for this season are a stark contrast to last season's. When Roy Hodgson took charge, he set out to 'steady the ship' but it took until January and Kenny Dalglish's return for that to happen. Now with five big-money signings since January, expectations for 2011/12 are high.
After signing Andy Carroll from Newcastle for £35 million and Luis Suarez from Ajax for £23 million in January, the club have signed Stewart Downing (£20m), Charlie Adam (£7m), Jordan Henderson (£16m) and Alexander Doni (free).
The only notable exit, so far, is Paul Konchesky who has left the club for Leicester City in the Championship for an Undisclosed fee.
After many years of leading the stereotype that "this year is our year", it's nice to see the majority of the fans are staying realistic and aiming for a top four finish.
If the club finish in the top four this season, it sets up a perfect opportunity to challenge for the title in 2012/13. Although, if you offered the fans a title challenge this season, they'd bite your hands off.
The new signings are clever ones. Charlie Adam is the midfield maestro that Liverpool have been craving ever since the exit of Xabi Alonso. Jordan Henderson is an energetic, young midfielder who can play in the centre or on the right of midfield. Signing Henderson is seen by many people as 'one for the future', maybe the man to replace Steven Gerrard? It's a big ask. And with Stewart Downing, Liverpool now have an out-and-out winger to add some width and provide Andy Carroll with the service he requires.
Italian midfielder, Alberto Aquilani, has also returned to the club following a loan spell in Italy with Juventus. After failing to agree a fee for Aquilani, Juve had to pull out of any deal to sign him, which meant he returned to Anfield. Speculation is still surrounding the Italian playmaker, though, as Fiorentina are showing an interest.
This current squad is a much improved one compared to last season's. Last summer saw the club recruit Milan Jovanovic, Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky and Raul Meireles. Only the latter of those five was a good signing and the other four are facing the exit door (Konchesky has already walked through it).
The club are still linked with a few players, mainly defenders, as the new season approaches. Many rumours are flying around that Liverpool have agreed a fee for Newcastle's Spanish left-back, Jose Enrique. If these rumours turn out to be true, he would be a great addition to the squad and will strengthen the defence. The defence is something Dalglish and his coaching staff must address, after conceding three goals in each of their pre-season games so far. Granted, the first-choice players have only played once - against Valarenga - but it is still a concern. Signing Enrique and another centre-back will give the Liverpool squad an excellent balance and depth going into the new season.
The Reds kick-off their campaign at home versus Steve Bruce's Sunderland on Saturday August 13th. Lucas Leiva and Luis Suarez might feature, but are slight doubts after having an extended summer due to their International commitments in the Copa America.
A convincing win on the opening day against Sunderland will set Dalglish's men up for a great season. Expectations are high.