Premier League 2022-23 preview No 12: Liverpool

Guardian writers’ predicted position 2nd (NB: this is not necessarily Andy Hunter’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 2nd

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 5-2


There is a touch of the unknown about Liverpool this season, unusually, with Jürgen Klopp starting a first full campaign at Anfield without Sadio Mané and looking to a pool of young talent led by Darwin Núñez to compensate for the undeniable loss of the Senegal international. Not in doubt, however, is Liverpool’s position as the best-equipped team to deny Manchester City a hat-trick of Premier League titles.

Dreams of an unprecedented quadruple evaporated in the final seven days of last season – serving as an extra incentive this time out – but Klopp’s side are evolving nicely with Luis Díaz and Ibrahima Konaté impressing in their debut campaigns. This summer’s business – signing Núñez before allowing Mané to leave, finally securing Mohamed Salah’s services for another three years and removing any contract distractions at a stroke, landing right-back cover for an initial £4m in Calvin Ramsay then selling Neco Williams for four times that price – was a further demonstration of the well-run operation at Anfield despite the departure of sporting director Michael Edwards.

With the Mané-Roberto Firmino-Salah era over, and given the attributes of the Uruguayan Díaz plus Fabio Carvalho, Klopp has suggested there could be more versatility to Liverpool’s attack than the 4-3-3 system that has served him so well. In Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones, he has two other young assets ready to make the next step. But there is a significant responsibility on Núñez. How the 23-year-old adapts to his first season at Anfield and in the Premier League – especially in comparison to Erling Haaland at City – could be a key factor in the destiny of the title.

The manager

As soon as Klopp admitted that he was rejuvenated by Liverpool’s football, their pursuit of four trophies and the return of capacity crowds last season, Fenway Sports Group pounced. Extending the contract of their most important asset until 2026 – with encouragement from Klopp’s wife, Ulla Sandrock – represented the Liverpool owners’s smartest move as well as a no-brainer. “This is only the start,” said Klopp upon committing to an 11-year reign at Anfield in April. “That’s the plan, that we really, really go for it.” Liverpool did – winning a domestic cup double, reaching a third Champions League final in five seasons and missing out on the title by a single point on the final day of a campaign in which they played every game possible – and are being rebuilt to go again by the Premier League’s longest-serving manager.

Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool ended last season on a low in Paris, and Sadio Mané (left) has moved on. But Liverpool still won two trophies and will expect to be formidable again.
Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool ended last season on a low in Paris, and Sadio Mané (left) has moved on. But Liverpool still won two trophies and will expect to be formidable again. Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Transfer coup

It took Liverpool less than three weeks from receiving confirmation that Mané wanted out to completing a potential club record £85m deal for one of the most coveted young strikers in European football in Núñez. He had been on Klopp’s radar for a while but it was seeing the Uruguay international up close, when scoring in both legs of Benfica’s Champions League quarter-final defeat to Liverpool last season, that convinced the manager to act fast and act big. “The power and the mix-up with technique, the desire, smart moves, the problems he caused us – we fell all in love in these two games,” said Klopp.


World Cup impact

Serious disruption awaits with roughly half of Liverpool’s first team squad involved in the tournament. Consolation for Klopp is the failure of Egypt, Colombia and Scotland to qualify, although Salah, Díaz and Andy Robertson will not see it that way. Liverpool restart the season away at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

Alternative attractions during World Cup

You could see strongmen and women compete in the World’s Strongest Nation event at the M&S Bank Arena, or N-Dubz for that matter, but many will be fuming that there is a World Cup on in the middle of the domestic football season.

Leading the shirt sales

Salah’s status as a global superstar partly explained the delays and complexities that surrounded his latest contract with Liverpool. All of which was forgiven and forgotten when he signed a new three-year deal in July that, at over £350,000-a-week, makes the 30-year-old the highest paid player in the club’s history. It is not simply Salah’s popularity and commercial appeal that justifies the outlay. The Egypt international has scored a phenomenal 156 goals in 254 appearances for Liverpool and keeps himself in condition to maintain that output throughout the course of his long-awaited contract.

Social climber

#SalahStays unsurprisingly proved one of the most popular hashtags on Liverpool’s social media channels this summer with the striker’s 52 million followers on Instagram embracing news of his contract extension. Two TikTok videos to announce the deal have had over 10m views in total. A more leftfield candidate in every sense is Calvin Harris. The superstar DJ got the party started on the Liverpool team bus during their homecoming parade in the city the day after the Champions League final. The video of Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson singing along to Harris’s One Kiss Is All It Takes had 24m views on TikTok.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

If Liverpool were a Netflix doc

Then Jürgen Klopp would be out the door pronto. “If LFC put a video of me out in that situation, then I would leave the club,” he said after RB Salzburg shared footage of former coach Jesse Marsch giving an impassioned half-time speech at Anfield in 2019. True to his word, Klopp is believed to have blocked plans for a Liverpool version of All or Nothing. Perhaps he recalled the cringeworthy Being: Liverpool.