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 By Steven Kelly

Liverpool look to Coutinho, Sturridge, Firmino and Mane for inspiration

Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers last October and led Liverpool to the League Cup and Europa League final. However, Liverpool's domestic form suffered, the club finishing a disappointing eighth. 

With no European football at Anfield, Klopp has fewer distractions this season. Here's a look ahead to 2016-17.

At a glance

Improvement must be measured by the Reds' league points total after two seasons of inadvertent focus on cup competitions.

Quick predictions

Premier League: ​6th
FA Cup: Fifth round
League Cup: Quarterfinals

Transfer business

Klopp has brought in quite a lot of players and his public utterances certainly portray a man happy with the resources placed at his disposal. Injuries may affect that before Aug. 31, however.

Big money has been spent on attack-minded players, an area where Liverpool seemed largely comfortable last season. Their Achilles' Heel, defence, has been largely ignored and haggling over a quality left-back seems like a false economy.

Supporters may feel slightly underwhelmed so far but there are three weeks left in this transfer window to change that. A small net spend in a time of plenty has antagonised some, especially when you see what some of the other clubs are doing and realise how far Liverpool have fallen behind them.

A smaller squad for a smaller workload seems to be the club motto, ignoring all the injuries that have hampered Liverpool in recent seasons and those that have already disrupted their preseason plans. Fans still have faith in Klopp's ability to make a little go a long way but perhaps feel the club might have gone a little stronger in adding quality despite the obvious cost.

Sadio Mane is Liverpool's big summer signing, a £30m buy from Southampton.

Key questions

The physical effort that will be needed to fully implement Klopp's infamous "gegenpress" is bound to have some physical impact on some of the players. While the reduction in workload that goes with a failure to qualify for Europe will certainly help, it seems as though a consistent first-choice eleven is not even remotely within Klopp's reach yet.

Flexibility is one thing; confusion and not knowing one's own mind is quite another.

There is little doubt about how good some of these players can be because they've shown their potential on numerous occasions. Consistency will be key. Too many of them are errant in their passing and also tend to disappear when the going gets tough.

Players like Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane can be lethal on their day and if they can be given the right platform, they can perform to an extremely high standard. The everyday tasks of hard work, defensive organisation and solidity must come from the training ground and may be more indicative of how far Klopp has progressed.

Fans will tend to be patient and accepting of tangible improvement. It's important the team learns to walk before it can run and ill-considered ruminations on Liverpool's part in the title race will only end in disappointment for those who indulge in them.

Potential pitfalls

Liverpool can be very good -- as the 4-0 win against Barcelona amply demonstrated -- but they can also be very poor. Consistency will be the main problem.

Injury to key players, like the notoriously fragile Sturridge, might hamper any attempt to get a run of decent results going.

Liverpool have another potentially sticky start to the season and dropping too many points early on will hamper their season overall, as it has done so many times before.

Confusion over formation and where various attack-minded players will fit into it may result in Klopp trying too many things at once to stop any rot that sets in after poor results.

Accepting your team probably won't win the league is one thing. If they couldn't even get over the lower bar they've been set then a refusal to fully invest in the squad will be raked over again and cause further consternation in the ranks.

Daniel Sturridge's fitness will be integral to Liverpool's hopes in 2016-17.

One to watch 

Emre Can has spoken about "leadership" on the pitch and at the beginning of his third season at Anfield many will want to see a promising talent deliver with actions rather than words.

He's been very flattering towards the manager and on how much he personally is learning but with Liverpool having so many attacking players the burden of midfield work rate will fall on him and perhaps Jordan Henderson.

He was given a place in Germany's Euro 2016 semifinal team against France but was disappointing and removed from the field after an hour. It was a sign of his potential that he was trusted with such a key role but that confidence wasn't vindicated.

If Klopp intends to place further responsibility on his countryman at club level it's vital that Can meets the challenge. After selling Joe Allen and with rumours of Lucas Leiva leaving too, there aren't many other options left.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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