It really doesn’t feel like it at all, but the calendar year is rapidly approaching the half-way mark. Within that period, Premier League football will have been on pause for over three months, with Liverpool’s status as champions elect frozen in time.
The world is now an entirely different place, and it’s difficult to say what next week will look like, let alone the next few months. So with that backdrop, our writers set about outlining some of their predictions for what the remainder of 2020 has to hold from a Liverpool perspective. Some are pretty wild, others less so.
We’ll revisit once 2021 rolls around to see how we got on…
FSG buys another football club
You kind of, sort of have to marvel at the empire Manchester City have built and some of the stuff the ownership has done under the guise of football. Whether you like oligarchs in football or not (other than Michel Platini, does anyone?), it’s untenable that City’s hierarchy have bought in a more fundamental level than most. They have renovated the East of Manchester (which is in and of itself a moral conundrum) and transformed the Etihad from a stadium with some ancillary pieces into a state-of-the-art performance centre.
Not only that, but they’ve also been buying up clubs all over the world. Its function is two-fold: identify and find talent for the main club (City) and keep the money ticking over in lesser-seen, more inconspicuous markets, converting oil money into real assets. It’s win-win-win-win-win, if such things exist. The portfolio now reaches from Australia to New York to Belgium. It’s a model others should and will follow.
It’s a monopolising of the game, unfortunately, but it makes practical sense for the businessmen involved. FSG are nothing if not smart businessmen. They may cry poor when it comes to Liverpool, and indeed they have delayed developments of the training ground and Anfield Road End.
But the Fenway Sports Group is still a group of multiple billionaires. If they want to act during the forthcoming Football Financial Crisis, they will. There will be opportunities aplenty to pick up clubs (which sounds grotesque in those terms, but can equally be spun as “saving” clubs) and I’d bet they’ll take the opportunity to go shopping if the right one comes around. Ollie Connolly
Liverpool do a Naby Keita-style deal in advance for Timo Werner
It’s blatantly obvious at this point that Werner wants to come to Liverpool. It’s also pretty clear that Liverpool are keen on him, but that the uncertainty of the wider situation at present means a deal is unlikely to happen this summer. He’s only recently turned 24, though, and I don’t see Liverpool just walking away from Werner completely just because they don’t want to spend the money right now.
There’s precedent with RB Leipzig for doing a deal in advance for the following season as happened with Naby Keita, and something similar might well be in everyone’s best interests with Werner. It may not even be a public announcement, and just a behind-the-scenes agreement between all parties that they hold off for a while yet until there’s a clearer picture of what the future of football looks like, both logistically and financially.
As much as Werner seems set on Liverpool, you wouldn’t want a situation whereby another club (let’s say Bayern Munich, for instance) swoop in and make him an offer which is difficult to refuse, so being proactive now might well be Liverpool’s best shot of ensuring a deal can still take place further down the line without anyone else beating them to it. So maybe this isn’t actually all that crazy a prediction at all. Joel Rabinowitz
Real Madrid give Liverpool something to think about
It’s all been far too quiet on this front for far too long. Nobody will have much money this summer and everybody is expecting the market to be skewed, but I always imagine Real Madrid having this massive couch in a room at the Bernabeu where they just find £300million every year if they need it. I’m sure I saw it on the stadium tour.
Anyway, the expectation is Real sign Kylian Mbappé soon, but that won’t stop them looking to sign another top star. This is the same club which signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso in the space of a few months. I think they look at Anfield, see three players in the Ballon d’Or top five, and look to try and pick one of them.
And I think it’s a bid which gives Liverpool something to think about, whether it’s for Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah or Virgil van Dijk. Think about, that is. Not necessarily accepted. But it might be an unwelcome rumbling of calm waters. Kristian Walsh
Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino become two of the Premier League’s best players
Maybe the most fanciful prediction of the lot, but with an increasing likelihood that nobody will be making any sweeping changes to squads in the coming months, it will offer a further opportunity for two players of previous high hopes to finally come to the fore.
Liverpool will need to use both Keita and Minamino more should they remain fit, and with Klopp having such unwavering belief in his squad, it could be that they seize the opportunity with both hands next season and become the players we always hoped they could. Dan Morgan
Premier League teams ditch the FA Cup
No matter how the Premier League, FIFA, and UEFA opt to re-jig the current calendar, they will still be working under a compressed time frame. Something is going to have to give. If the Premier League’s Big Six acquiesce to the wishes of the Bottom Six, with the Premier League restart taking place at home grounds and not on neutral sites, with the possibility of no relegation, they’re going to want something in return.
The Big Six are not giving up that Champions League money, so how about the Premier League walks away from the FA Cup en masse for a season? Clubs opting out of the League Cup has felt inevitable for a while. Ditching both for a season seems feasible, though the impact on lower league football would lead to financial and moral quagmire. OC
Joe Gomez scores a goal for the first time ever
I’ve been aware of this stat for a while, and I’m still amazed by it. Gomez has never scored a single goal in his senior club career for either Liverpool or Charlton across 124 appearances in all competitions. Not a single one. Even for the England youth teams, he hasn’t ever found the back of the net.
Given how technically gifted a footballer he is, surely you’d think he’d have scored at least once by now. Just watch the Liverpool free-kick challenge from earlier this season, and you’ll see he’s actually a highly accomplished striker of the ball. He’s got a great leap on him as well, so it’s not as though he isn’t capable of posing an aerial threat.
I mean, it’s got to happen at some point, surely? If Liverpool get this title wrapped up nice and quickly once the Premier League resumes, I’d love to see him at least given a go on free-kicks and maybe even a penalty. Sadly, I don’t think the manager will agree, but we can live in hope. JR
Manchester United are closer to Liverpool than Manchester City
Okay, so this really is a crazy prediction. And one I’ll probably regret. But it is predicated on City as much as United, really. City have underperformed this season according to xP (expected points), but so have their city rivals. What everything looks like at the Etihad Stadium going forward fascinates me, especially if the Champions League ban is upheld. The squad is split into two — players entering their prime, and others who have exited it or are about to — leading to the possibility things just fall apart at some point.
Especially if Pep Guardiola, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero leave. Contrast this with United, who could potentially have a front three of Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, with an improving Fred, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in midfield (though Pogba is likely to leave). Add in a decent defence and that isn’t half-bad. A shame about the manager, I guess. KW
Kevin De Bruyne leaves Man City
There are a lot of variables with this one, but if certain events unfold as I suspect they might, it genuinely wouldn’t surprise me to see De Bruyne forcing his way out of City in the not-too-distant future. If the Champions League ban is upheld following the appeal, and the tournament is actually scheduled to go ahead (behind closed doors, at least to begin with) in 2020/21, then surely he won’t be content to sit around for a whole season without playing in Europe’s elite competition.
There is still a chance City actually win it this season, of course, should it resume in the months ahead, but either way, I don’t think that sways his decision. He’s far too good a player not to be playing in it, especially at this stage in his career (he turns 29 in June).
There’s also the looming question around Guardiola’s future, with his current deal set to expire in 2021, which might well feed into the thinking if he knows City are about to enter a major period of transition. He’s such a unique footballer that it’s difficult to see who the obvious candidates to replace him might be, let alone whether City could actually attract them without Champions League football on offer. JR
Liverpool finally lose a Premier League game at home
You might think this is moody, but I can’t help but think it would be slightly funny. Imagine it happens at the time when none of us are there, to Everton, when none of them are there or even allowed out and the television signal goes down like Dan Gosling in the FA Cup. Adverts for Coronation Street at the moment a hoodoo of sheer torture is lifted since 1999. I mean it’s eventually going to happen one day, and this feels like the best way to do it. DM
Champions League expansion (a precursor to the Super League)
If the Big Six drop out of both domestic cups, they should have a tiny bit more time on their hands. Do you think they’re going to use that to give their players more rest? Pffft, they just had an extra two-month holiday. No sir. They will expand the Champions League, an obvious precursor to the forthcoming Super League (whether that’s Europe’s elite breaking away or a re-modelled Champions League). Expanded groups. More games. More money. It will be sold as a makeup call for the 2019/20 competition, which may be solved with single-elimination games or cancelled altogether. The reality is that it moves the ball ever-closer to the big club’s ultimate goal. OC
Liverpool’s under 18’s win the EFL Cup
Who knows what’s going to happen with the EFL Cup. It’s always been the last of Klopp’s concerns, but that sentiment might now be shared with the rest of the football makeup in England when it comes to planning next season.
There will be a lot more youth involvement, and so therefore, back off their crazy domestic cup roller coaster of 2019/20, I’m backing Liverpool’s under 18’s (minus Neil Critchley) to go all the way next season, with Adam Lewis and Leyton Stewart doing a joint lift of the trophy at Wembley to the absolute disgust of the football integrity brigade. DM
Trent Alexander-Arnold plays in midfield
This goes against everything I believe should happen. But there is a situation at some point, given the make-up of Liverpool’s midfield, where it might be a necessity rather than anything else. Adam Lallana will be gone. We don’t know what the future holds for Gini Wijnaldum. Both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have proved themselves best at no.6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita appear incompatible together. With Neco Williams showing he is a capable deputy, maybe we finally get to see the experiment everybody wants to. KW