Jurgen Klopp spending puts Liverpool in title contention but squad still has holes
After an active transfer window and a successful preseason, optimism at Liverpool is higher than for many years. That has translated into giddiness in some quarters. Some fans are even predicting a title win, never mind a challenge.
That may just indicate a desire to meet outsiders' estimates of Liverpool's chances head on. If the Reds should slip below inflated expectations this season, mockery would be unavoidable anyway -- so why worry about it?
Be as realistic as you like, point out the 90 points needed to even threaten a challenge has never been achieved by any Liverpool team. It still wouldn't dampen the positivity, and nor should it.
The first choice side is clearly going to be very good. Were that the deciding factor in a title battle, Liverpool could stand their ground with anyone. Yes, even Manchester City who've already lost three times to the Reds in 2018.
Bill Shankly once said the league was a marathon not a sprint. Factors other than ability will be decisive during a long, arduous campaign.
Luck and fitness will certainly play a part. With Jurgen Klopp's high-octane style there's bound to be more than the odd casualty. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is already sidelined for the season.
Modern football long since moved into the squad era, never to return to a simpler time when Liverpool won the 1965-66 title with just 14 players while also reaching a European final.
To be successful you need an entire second XI that's talented enough to perform well in the Premier League if it were a separate entity.
Do Liverpool have that? By buying quality players in the summer they've certainly strengthened but will it be enough to justify the hype?
They could improve in certain areas. Fans will pray Alisson stays fit, reducing the need to see if Loris Karius can maintain sufficient focus during what will probably be a largely inactive year.
Klopp might have been indulging his unique sense of humour by making Alberto Moreno captain for the last preseason friendly, a 3-1 home win against Torino.
The Spaniard seemed to have fallen from grace after a strong first season showing from Andrew Robertson. When rarely called upon, Moreno didn't cover himself in glory. Should the Scot suffer a difficult second season, there would be little faith in the alternative.
At centre-half there are continued physical doubts over Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, hence the earlier than usual appearance of upcoming youngster Nathaniel Phillips. During the Torino game Marko Grujic and Fabinho also filled in at centre half -- grim reminders of Lucas Leiva's sticking-plaster attempts to play that role.
Central midfield looks like being a strong area, but finding the right three players and the appropriate blend may be tricky for Klopp. Choice is good, but you can be spoilt for it sometimes.
Liverpool's magical forward line appears to have no problem whatsoever, but they're such a unique combination that any deviation from the usual three stars may cause confusion and weakness.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge have both looked good during the summer matches, perhaps solving another problem from last season when few changes from the substitutes' bench filled supporters with hope.
Sturridge's long run of fitness difficulties may create scepticism on that score, unless there's finally been an acceptance of a peripheral role by a footballer who can be one of England's deadliest strikers on his best day.
Squad rotation is never easy. To compete for the title, Klopp would need to get at least 90 percent of his changes absolutely spot on.
So many factors come into play. It isn't just about ability. Fitness is often considered the main reason for change, but you also depend on the character of certain players to accept they won't play a lot but must perform to their utmost whenever selected.
There is also the manager's assessment of the opponent, whether change can be risked against certain teams which "shouldn't" present much of an obstacle. Over the years, those have been the games that numerous Liverpool managers have had most difficulty with.
Klopp's early transfer business was clearly planned, to try and get his team to hit the ground running while the World Cup messes around with everybody's normal summer preparations.
Liverpool's spending has captured the imagination and catapulted them forward as main contenders, despite coming a fairly distant fourth last time.
The colossal burden of intricacies involved in winning 80 percent of the available points is frightening, but even that might end up not being enough.
Preseason confidence is justified however and a little luck with injuries would go a long way towards making the Reds true contenders.
The size of the task and the number of things that need to go the club's way to succeed should never be underestimated or ignored, however.