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Liverpool 2020/21: What will be the target for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds this season?

Last season was statically Liverpool's best-ever top-flight campaign, so how does Jurgen Klopp's side better that feat? By going and retaining their title for the first time in 37 years.

Liverpool smashed a whole host of records on their way to winning a first league championship since 1990 last time around, but their manager has never been one to rest on his laurels.

The German will know the rest of the Premier League will be desperate to cut his team down to size and claim their scalp this season, while deposed champions Manchester City will surely not be so flaky again after losing nine matches in their failed title defence.

However, despite not having the Anfield crowd to support them - at least for the opening months of 2020/21 - there is no reason to think Liverpool will not be as relentless as in the past two seasons during which time they have accumulated an incredible 196 points, while losing only four times.

Where they stand

When the season was temporarily halted due to the outbreak of coronavirus back in March, Liverpool had only recently lost their first league match of the campaign, a shock 3-0 reverse at lowly Watford ending their record-breaking start of the season.

Two more defeats arrived following the resumption of activities in June to end the club's hopes of surpassing City's record-breaking 100-point haul from two years earlier, including a 4-0 hiding at the Etihad at the start of July.

However, both those setbacks - the second a 2-1 loss at Arsenal - came after the championship had been confirmed, so reading too much into the club's subsequent drop off in form in relation to the upcoming campaign may be unwise.

Liverpool transfer business so far

In
Kostas Tsimikas - Olympiakos, £11.75m

Out
Dejan Lovren - Zenit St Petersburg, £10.9m
Adam Lallana - Brighton, free transfer
Morgan Boyes -Fleetwood, loan
Kai McKenzie-Lyle - Cambridge, free transfer

Merson's verdict

"Liverpool will be up there this season, make no mistake about it, they are still the team to beat," says Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson. "The one thing they bring to the table above all else is consistency. Yes, they took their foot off the pedal after lockdown and lost a couple of games after the title was won, but before that their consistency was phenomenal.

"We talk about how hard it is for teams to defend the title and go back to back, and for that reason I like to see champions strengthen. Some decide to stick with a winning formula and that proves difficult the following season. It will be interesting to see which path Liverpool take.

"They are going to be title contenders, they are going to go deep in the Champions League and the FA Cup and League Cup, so there is going to be a lot of football after such a quick turnaround. If the full-backs, who are integral to this team, get injured, if Virgil van Dijk or Roberto Firmino get injured, a squad that lacks depth could well struggle. Come January and February, there is going to be a lot of injuries and fatigue and that could perhaps play into the hands of Manchester City, who have a bigger squad."

Where they're strong

Klopp invited professional surfer Sebastian Steudtner to deliver a rousing speech to his squad following their Champions League triumph last year - intended as a stark analogy for his players to overcome the last outstanding achievement: a league title.

And so the analogy became a reality. But now Liverpool must go again, perhaps in the hunt to retain their crown and reclaim Europe in the same season, or even begin a run of domination comparable to the 1970s and 1980s.

However, there isn't much room for improvement in league points, perhaps only consistency and a drip feed of young talent to keep the conveyor belt fresh.

Liverpool's defensive efficiency and intensity stood out most last season - the only two statistical areas where they usurped City.

The Reds conceded a league-low 33 goals and registered league-topping numbers for recoveries in the middle and attacking thirds - in addition to recording a league-high 3,980 sprints.

Where they need to improve

Liverpool ranked behind City in a raft of attacking metrics last season and their runaway title lift was primarily achieved from possessing a superior rearguard.

The disparity upon title win

Man City had conceded 12 goals more than Liverpool at matchday 31 - when Liverpool finally won the title - although the Reds' subsequent drop-off allowed them to close the gap.

However, Pep Guardiola is addressing his side's frailties at the back. If City return to watertight ways and score more goals, Liverpool's crown is under serious threat.

The Reds could benefit from signing a creative midfielder to carve openings and ease the burden on the full-backs, in addition to an out-and-out striker option - who could capitalise on their sublime set-piece deliveries and frequent crosses from the flanks.

What has the manager said?

"We will not try to defend it (the title), we will try to attack the next one," said Jurgen Klopp. "That's the truth, you don't change your approach. That is what we always did and there is no reason for changing it.

"Motivation will not be our problem. I know this team will not stop trying.

"I don't expect everything to happen for me, I never expected it, but I expect I will give absolutely everything and I expect the boys to do that as well."

Key man

While Liverpool's front three naturally grab most of the headlines, last season's title win was built around the club's rock-solid back line, at the heart of which was the colossal Virgil van Dijk.

The graceful Netherlands international started all 38 Premier League matches for the champions, the second campaign in a row the centre back has not missed a league clash for the Reds.

And it is that remarkable consistency, coupled with the 29-year-old's near-faultless displays at the back, that saw Liverpool let in just 33 goals, the second consecutive season Klopp's side have had the meanest defence in the top flight.

One to watch

Liverpool may have lost Adam Lallana on a free transfer to Brighton this summer, but Klopp has no intention of bringing in a replacement for the midfielder next season as he already has a ready-made one in the form of exciting youngster Curtis Jones.

The local lad, who joined the club aged just nine, enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last season, making 12 appearances, scoring three times and registering one assist.

One of those goals was, of course, the 19-year-old's exquisite winner against Everton in the FA Cup third round at Anfield in January, while the England U19 international also gave notice of his promise when producing a man-of-the-match display in a League Cup third-round win over the MK Dons, before nervelessly converting the winning spot kick in a penalty shootout against Arsenal the following round.

What is success for Liverpool in 2020/21?

Klopp always talks about forgetting past achievements and moving quickly on to the next goal and you can be sure the German will have been instilling this message into his players during their preseason training camp in Austria.

Do not be surprised, either, if the Liverpool manager has used another motivational speaker to once again rouse his troops ahead of what is sure to be an especially gruelling campaign.

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