The folks over at the Independent certainly seem to think so, with most columnists predicting Liverpool to finish as champions or runners up this season.
It is hard not to be impressed by the work Rafael Benitez has done at Liverpool – he has moulded the club into his vision of football and through his skills of meticulous preparation, motivation and strategic planning he has turned Liverpool into a genuine title contender in England and in Europe. Throw in the Champions League and FA Cup, and us United fans have good reason to be a bit envious of his success.
Interesting stats – this Guardian article shows that since his arrival at Anfield, Benitez has brought in 20 players at an outlay of 75 mil (of which 24 mil has been spent this summer). 20 players in 2 years…well, at least we can say that he’s a) reshaped the squad to his liking and b) bought cheap.
As Benitez starts his third season with Liverpool, he will know that there is a lot of pressure on him to succeed this year. 3rd place again will be considered a failure to build upon their successes of 2004/2005 and 2005/2006. With Liverpool being installed as second favourites by many so-called pundits it will be interesting to see how the team and the manager handle the pressure and expectations.
Bottom line – talented players, smart buys, but will require a lot of work from Benitez to get them playing together and performing well as a unit. The front line is still devoid of stars although in Bellamy and Kuyt Liverpool have quite a lot of firepower. The midfield will be their strongest asset, but injury to Gerrard or Alonso will put the brakes on that title challenge.
Defence? I’m not so sure that Liverpool are as infallible as they seem to be. They play tight and defend well as a team, but do they have the strong individuals at the back to sustain an assault from the full-strength teams of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United?
Their ability to control the game will be their greatest asset, so any team that is good enough to disrupt that control will have a chance to see how the new-look Liverpool play when they are pushed to their limits (and please don’t mention the Champions League final again – Milan were as much to blame for that result as Liverpool were to be praised for their fightback).