King Kenny's Reds ready to rule once again
TEAMtalk Editor Simon Wilkes feels Kenny Dalgish's Liverpool must be considered as realistic Premier League title contenders next season. Forget about going fourth next season, Liverpool should be targeting the Premier League title. The number 20 is on Reds fans' minds after seeing owners Fenway Sports Group splash £20million on England midfielder Jordan Henderson. But the addition of playmaker Charlie Adam and likely arrival of winger Stewart Downing at Anfield means 19 should be the dominant digit as they look at match Manchester United's new record haul of league crowns. Glen Johnson says he is "quietly confident" about the new season, and so he should be as the Reds' form under Kenny Dalglish in the second half of last season suggests they will be a force to be reckoned with this term. Liverpool's record under King Kenny was impressive considering he was missing the services of talismanic captain Steven Gerrard, who could well line up in a new-look midfield comprising Downing on the left flank, Henderson on the right and Adam alongside him in the middle on August 13. That's a pretty creative and dynamic midfield to provide ammunition for strike pair Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, who showed glimpses of chemistry last season and will be a handful for any Premier League defence. Liverpool have often been touted as title contenders in the summer months, but the difference this time around is that they now have strength in depth. If Suarez or Carroll get injured, the prolific Dirk Kuyt - who clicked brilliantly with classy Uruguayan Suarez - can come in. If an Adam-Gerrard midfield combination is too attacking for away games, Lucas Leiva can step up. And if Henderson takes time to settle, Maxi Rodriguez - who found his goalscoring boots last term - will be waiting in the wings. Jay Spearing also looked the part whenever called upon, so for the first season in a long time Gerrard will be able to play without the massive burden of carrying the entire club's hopes and dreams on his shoulders. Don't forget there's Raul Meireles and Joe Cole - but although they're currently part of the playing squad, that could be different come the opening game against Sunderland, as they seem to be the fall guys who could be shipped out to offset some of this summer's spree. Some fans have questioned the acquisition of Adam, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to no longer being a big fish in a small pond - but £7million for an international midfielder who is a set-piece specialist, scored 12 top-flight goals and set up countless others last season is good business in anyone's book. At 25, Adam has his best years ahead of him, with the likes of Henderson, Suarez and Carroll also likely to flourish further under the tutelage of Dalglish, Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen. Liverpool are getting their house in order not just for the coming year, but the next five to 10, with youngsters such as reserve team captain Andre Wisdom, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson likely to join Martin Kelly in getting a regular taste of first-team action. With highly-rated Birmingham defender Scott Dann and Downing now on the Reds' radar, it seems the spending is far from over for the Merseysiders. And although it's a big ask to bridge the gap that saw United take the league titles record last season, the Reds have at least put down a massive statement of intent which Sir Alex Ferguson simply cannot ignore.
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