Season Preview - Liverpool

Quick Reminder, Real Life

What a crazy season it was for the Reds. To do it justice you’d probably have to write a book (and I hear Jeremy thinking to himself that this preview is entirely likely to turn into one the way I write). In the quick version we find the first half low-lighted by poor performances, the disasterous Joe Cole signing, Roy Hodgson being in over his head, a contentious change of ownership between two groups of Americans, and numerous debates online and in the press wondering whether Liverpool could possibly go down under the weight of all of the above.

As bad as the first half was, the second half was that good. New owners, back office staff, and manager made the bold move of selling off star Fernando Torres and replacing him with the excellent-so-far Luis Suarez and full-of-potential-but-overpriced Andy Carroll. The results improved dramatically and Raul Meireles proved to be more than adequate cover for oft-injured captain Steven Gerrard. All the drama aside, Liverpool had two major weaknesses last season - their left back position and playing away from Anfield where they could neither score nor keep the ball out of the net.

Quick Reminder, Fantasy

As crazy a season as it was for Liverpool on and off the pitch, it was no different for fantasy managers trying to figure this team out. Reina’s fortunes mimicked those of the club (bad early, better late). Meireles and Suarez had excellent second halves of the season while Carroll had a great first half while playing for Newcastle but injury dragged down his second half pretty badly. Finally, out of almost nowhere, Maxi Rodriguez had an absolutely amazing last two weeks which saw him get about a third of his overall output for the season. On the defensive side of the ball Martin Skertl was ever-present and had an OK season but the rest of the defenders were seemingly on a carousel due to injuries and general mediocrity.

Summer Changes

  • Collect Them All: Central Midfield Edition - Despite having Meireles, Gerrard, Lucas, Aquilani, Poulsen, and a few youngsters with solid reputations like Spearing and Shelvey already on the books, Liverpool bought both Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson. The collection is impressive but one wonders how they’ll all co-exist peacefully. There are only so many minutes available.
  • Finally a Winger - In a move that far too many people attributed to the new stats-based methods brought across the pond by John Henry and Co (who own the famously stats-driven Boston Red Sox baseball team in the US), Stewart Downing finds himself tasked with filling a spot in the Liverpool line-up that has been lacking for years. With Andy Carroll’s massive frame leading the line, it doesn’t take an sabremetrician (look it up) to know why Downing will be a useful cog in the Liverpool attack despite modest speed.
  • Whither Left Back - It could be that Liverpool are waiting until late in the window to launch a final “take it or leave it” raid for someone like Luis Jose Enrique from Newcastle but thus far, no solutions to the massive gap on the left side of Liverpool’s back line. They can’t be thinking about continuing with Glen Johnson playing out of position, or youngster Jack Robinson, can they?

2011-12 Outlook, Real Life

On paper, the talent seems to be in place to move past Spurs for fifth and challenge Arsenal for fourth if everything goes their way. The problem is that a lot of the talent on paper plays the same position. This optimism is also tied heavily to Andy Carroll’s first half of last season being an indicator of his long term performance and not a hot streak that will see him revert to being a slightly (OK, much) beefier Peter Crouch (or a taller, less fat James Beattie if you like that analogy better). My guess is that unless Spurs find a forward who can actually score, Liverpool will pass them for fifth but won’t quite have enough to move past Arsenal for fourth. If Liverpool manage to bring in a CB (Cahill?) and an LB (Enrique?) before September 1st while Arsenal fail to get themselves a CB then I reserve the right to change my mind about their respective finishing position.

Probable Starting XI

Reina, Johnson, Kelly, Agger, Carragher, Lucas, Adam, Henderson, Downing, Carroll, Suarez

2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
  • Fantasy Gold - Hard to call Suarez gold based on a solid half-season but I’m going to do it anyway - he looks like he’s about 85% of RvP with better health. The difference comes from the fact that Suarez won’t be the team's focal point to the same extent and he won’t take as many set pieces. I’m a bit torn on whether to put Downing in this category or not - his price seems just a bit high but I do like the potential of him a) bombing crosses in to Carroll; and b) being the 4th or 5th priority for defenses as they decide how to position themselves when Liverpool attack; and c) taking a share of Liverpool's set pieces. He could find himself with a lot of space as defenders flock to Carroll, Suarez, Gerrard (when healthy), and Adam/Henderson/Meireles who all have to be taken seriously as attacking threats.
  • On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
    • Agger (coming off injury) is the central defending version of John Arne Riise. A solid defender who plays for a good team and will get a good number of points based just on that. As a bonus, he has a rocket for a shot that will get him more than a CB’s share of goals and SOTs. His price is very reasonable assuming he’s healthy and starting for a top team.
    • Kelly (relative newcomer) had a strong run just after the midway point in the season where he was starting at right back and putting up very solid fantasy points. An injury ended his season prematurely which was a bummer for him and fantasy managers but it means that his price is reasonable starting off the season if he regains his starting spot (which isn’t guaranteed but worth watching).
  • Traps - There are a LOT of potential traps on the Liverpool squad this season. By acquiring players like Adam and Downing who were top attacking options for their clubs last season they have assembled a lot of expensive fantasy players who can’t possibly all live up to their performances last season. The most likely candidates to take a step back this season are Kuyt (guaranteed), Adam, Maxi and Henderson with Meireles not far behind. If you’re in an FA Cup/Carling Cup fantasy league, that would be a really strong group to go with though.

2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy

Studs: It’s so difficult to classify Liverpool players as studs with such exorbitant prices this season and so much optimism in ‘real life’ translating into the fantasy game, but there is one man who could shine above the rest - and it’s not Steven Gerrard. It’s Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan is priced right at 9.5M and should finish with a 10 goal, 10 assist ‘Malouda-esque’ contribution (despite his classification as a forward). Martin Kelly (5.5M) would be a stud at that price if guaranteed a starting role, so we will keep tabs on that situation before labeling him an out and out Suarez-esque stud.

Duds: Steven Gerrard (11M) and Andy Carroll (10M) are really, really expensive. Superb players in ‘real life’ but Gerrard will miss the first few weeks of the season with a groin problem and Carroll doesn’t seem like the best value at 10M after half of a great Premier League season and with Didier Drogba only 0.5M more and Darren Bent priced the same. I can’t rationally invest in Carroll at 10M unless I see the Suarez/Carroll partnership really blossom since he doesn’t take set pieces and to be honest, doesn’t seem like that likeable of a lad off the pitch.

On the fence: Charlie Adam. He may be a focal point the first few weeks with Gerrard out but the 9M price-tag and aforementioned central midfield logjam puts him on the fence. Downing at 8.5M will see his share of set pieces and if he starts week in and week out should provide service for Carroll and Suarez and move from the ‘on the fence’ category to the stud category. For now, Adam, Kuyt, Meireles, Downing, Henderson and others are all on the fence until we get a better understanding of Liverpool’s formation and starting XI.


  1. why did you call him Luis Enrique on Liverpool's review? Having played alongside him I'd have thought you'd call him Jose?

    and where's Gerrard in your Liverpool possible starting XI? Being a former captain yourself I would have thought it would be important to include one in this team too??

  2. Fair enough Nicky Butt replied he would include Gerrard when he's not injured! Good read!

  3. Enrique has had his first name correted. As for Gerrard... well, where do you play him when fit?

  4. FlyingHamster4:45 PM

    Stevie G behind Carroll, with Suarez tug in on the right. Seems with Lucas holding and Adam spraying his long passes to Downing and Suarez to chase is the way to go.

  5. Anonymous10:51 AM

    I think Carroll will be fantasy gold. All those midfielders have one thing in common: they play a great ball (Kuyt may be the exception, but that's saying a lot when Dirk Kuyt plays the worst ball out of your midfield). If he shows the same drive he showed last season, he'll be in the leading pack of golden boot front runners. Even if he never takes kicks, he's at least a Darren Bent type player to have in your side.

  6. Anonymous5:03 PM

    where is dirk kuyt??