The Mastermind brings you an exclusive guide to every single Premier League team going into the highly anticipated 2017-18 season. From lineups, to transfers to the wackiest of predictions, The Mastermind has you covered. Here is your guide to a team that is on the rise and looking a whole lot better under the influence of their German manager, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Liverpool’s defense has always been their weak-point, but Klopp has only invested in truly strengthening their offence this summer, making this Liverpool team even more exciting than it was before. With Coutinho, Mane, Firmino and Salah all in the same attack, the Reds could easily be one of Europe’s deadliest sides in 2017-18. The problem for Liverpool now is that after performing so incredibly well in 2016-17 and securing Champions League football, that now they have that added pressure of having an extra game many weeks during the season. They do have a well-balanced unit and an ever-growing side but they may not have enough world-class players to keep up that same level of form from start to finish in the Premier League when you add in the tiring nature of the UEFA Champions League. As a result, the Reds may fare worse than they did in 2016-17 and have to settle for a place in next season’s Europa League.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
Going into the 2017-18 season, Liverpool’s starting 11 has to be one of the most difficult to predict. The signing of Mohamed Salah will almost certainly push Philippe Coutinho into midfield while the singing of Andy Robertson could also push James Milner into midfield. So somehow, Klopp has to choose between Milner, Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Can and Wijnaldum, all players who could easily go straight into any lineup in the league, for just three spots in midfield. Perhaps more importantly for the Reds though is that even with the signing of Hull’s Robertson, they still haven’t strengthened in defense! Milner has to be an upgrade at left-back from the still relatively inexperienced Scottish defender and should as a result retain his place in Klopp’s lineup. Salah’s arrival not just pushes Coutinho into midfield and takes Wijnaldum out of the lineup but also moves Sadio Mane over to the left. That will be something incredibly interesting to watch this season as he was The Mastermind’s top right winger in the league last season and it could have some level of effect on his game. Adam Lallana may also have a hard time beating out Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum in the lineup but The Mastermind expects Klopp to favour the Englishman on a regular basis after he returns from injury. The Reds’ back-line including Simon Mignolet is likely to stay the same from 2016-17 as is Roberto Firmino as Liverpool’s top number nine as Daniel Sturridge continues to sit on the bench.
Although Henderson is club-captain and should probably be the preferred choice, Jurgen Klopp may opt to go with Emre Can instead. The versatile German has always been a favourite of Klopp and could operate in a number of different roles depending on who is away. Georginio Wijnaldum was also a regular fixture in last year’s side and it seems inconceivable to think that he could lose his place in Liverpool’s best possible lineup for 2017-18. Andy Robertson meanwhile might force James Milner out of the side as Liverpool finally have a real left-back again but Loris Karius is unlikely to trouble Simon Mignolet’s role in the team just yet. All other players are always likely to be favourites to start in the team when fit.
KEY PLAYER: PHILIPPE COUTINHO
It is obvious what Philippe Coutinho brings to Liverpool and he is just absolutely essential to everything good about the club. Any time a transfer speculation seems to surround him, he just stays absolutely silent and stays loyal to the Reds, letting his play on the pitch do the talking. Coutinho is incredibly talented in the attacking side of the game and has the ability to change a game on the drop of a dime. He did so on several occasions last season and they missed him dearly when he was injured in between November and February. The Brazilian, even despite his injury troubles still finished the season with a remarkable tally of 13 goals and 7 assists in 31 matches. Coutinho is Liverpool’s game changer and this season could be set to establish himself as one of the world’s very, very best footballers.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER: Dominic Solanke
He was hardly ever given a chance at Chelsea but moving to Liverpool could prove to be a career-changing move for Dominic Solanke. Jurgen Klopp has given us a glimpse of what the British forward could bring to the Reds in a few of his team’s pre-season matches so far and the 19-year old who will be turning 20 in September already looks like he’s surpassed Divock Origi in the pecking order. This really was just such a smart singing from Jurgen Klopp and after winning the Golden Ball at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Dominic Solanke could be set to become an instant star at Liverpool FC.
The signing of Mohamed Salah has to be one of the best of the summer across Europe. The Egyptian winger has already proven just in the pre-season how crucial he could be to Liverpool this year and has made Liverpool into an even more potent outfit. 10-million pound Andrew Robertson could also be a good signing but may need time to develop into the role as the leap from relegation to Champions League football is a pretty big step to make. Dominic Solanke has also come over from Chelsea after never really being given the chance by the Blues and could prove to be an incredible back-up option to the industrious Roberto Firmino and clinical Daniel Sturridge. Among the notable departures is Lucas Leiva who has left after ten years with the club to join Lazio and Kevin Stewart who was rarely ever given his chance to shine and now joins Hull City.
- The quartet of Coutinho, Salah, Firmino and Mane will all score 11+ goals. Mohamed Salah will be the top scorer among the four.
- James Milner will spend more time as a central midfielder this season than as a fullback.
- Daniel Sturridge will suffer through at least three different injuries.
- Liverpool will have one of the worst defensive records among teams in the top seven.
- Despite the above, Simon Mignolet will still keep 10+ clean sheets.
- No Liverpool player will score more than 15 goals.
- Philippe Coutinho will finally move on to Barcelona at the end of the season.
PREDICTED FINISH: 5TH
Liverpool were so strong last season and after signing Salah and Robertson, you’d almost expect them to do even better in 2017-18. But with the quality of the other teams in the league there is virtually no way the Reds finish as high as they did in 2016-17 (4th place) and they will almost certainly have to settle for 5th or 6th. Their defense simply is not good enough. If they had signed Virgil Van Dijk or perhaps even perhaps someone of Michael Keane’s quality it might have been a different story but a defensive line that includes just Robertson, Lovren, Matip and Clyne is not good enough to win the league title and is likely not even going to be enough to make the top four this time around. Their attack on the other hand is incredible. It will be so exciting to watch Salah, Firmino, Mane and Coutinho all in the same lineup and when you add in players like Lallana or Henderson into the mix it really will be just so fun to watch, Liverpool fan or not. Beyond it being exciting, it will also be one of the most troubling attacks in the league and one that the likes of Spurs or Chelsea will even have a tough time coping with. This season should be one of a lot of ups and downs for Liverpool FC but if they can maintain the potency and energy that they brought to the table last year, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be challenging for the top four the entire way through.