Predicting how good or otherwise Liverpool are going to be each year is a fraught task as they always seem to be in a state of perpetual transition between managers and eras. However, I feel there are simply too many questions about Liverpool right now to give anything resembling an optimistic opinion.
Pepe Reina is coming off the back of the worst season of his career; which went completely un-noticed by the critics for some bizarre reason. Liverpool fans can only hope that he regains the form that made him arguable the league's best keeper two seasons ago. Daniel Agger on the other hand is coming off of the best season of his injury riddled career - and for that reason, might be off to Man City, which would be a catastrophic blow. Martin Skrtel looks set to stay and looks set to sign a new contract and has matured too; but will either be partnered by a rapidly aging Jamie Carragher or an extremely green and error prone Sebastian Coates, who was in my opinion the Liverpool signing from last year that has the most to prove despite the relative lack of column inches dedicated to him in comparison with higher profile names. Jose Enrique & Glen Johnson is probably still the best tandem of fullbacks in the league; an aggressive pairing in the age of the attacking full back.
But the rest of the team is a complete mess - the return from injury of Lucas Leiva is massive for the midfield, so long as he hasn't lost his sharpness of mind that made him the Premier League's interception king; but what then? Was Euro 2012 a return to form and fitness for Steven Gerrard, or a swansong of a career that has been declining for the last three seasons? Why is Charlie Adam in gainful employment in any other profession than nightclub security? If Liverpool are switching to a 4-3-3-, where does Stewart Downing play? What about new signing Oussama Assaidi - another winger? Much has been made about Brendan Rodgers 'style' of football, but there are parts of the squad that still seem incompatible with each other.
Brendan Rodgers' new signings can be analysed one of two ways - its either smart that he is signing players he has worked with before and knows how to utilise; or its symbolic of a young inexperienced manager with a limited scouting network who is overpaying for familiarity. Both Joe Allen and Fabio Borini will be given no time to adapt whatsoever and have a lot to prove at this level. The former had a great season last year for Swansea, but the last time Liverpool overpaid for a promoted club's star midfielder (Charlie Adam) didn't work out so well. As for Borini; the memory of the last player Liverpool signed from Roma who had amassed a couple of Italy caps and seemed on the up (Alberto Aquilani) still lives long in the memory.
I still think there is a role for Andy Carroll, and that Brendan Rodgers would be incredibly foolish to write him off without having a proper look at him in competitive action. He is a one man Plan B; and nowhere near as one dimensional as his stereotype or bad as his press. However, if Liverpool start the season having lost Bellamy and Agger for the addition of Allen and Borini, I suspect this could be a difficult season for the Reds to try and close the gap on the top four.
Main Man: Luis Suarez - for everything negative said about him, I'm not sure many doubt his talent. What they are beginning to doubt with some legitimacy though, is his finishing. Suarez didn't look like a player who scored 49 goals for Ajax two years ago when he was repeatedly scuffing and fluffing his lines in front of goal - admittedly, many times in positions he created purely out of his own brilliance. Liverpool were the most inefficient team in front of goal last season, and Suarez was the main culprit - this has to change.
Prediction: 5th - 7th. Haven't shown that they have bridged the gap to the top teams, if anything its widened.