How will Liverpool fare without Suarez?

August 15 [Fri], 2014, 11:02

Nike Mercurial for sale How will Liverpool fare without Suarez?

Of any player to depart the Premier League in the off-season, there is no doubt that Luis Suarez is the biggest name and the best talent. David Luiz might have something to say about that given Chelsea conceded only 27 times, 10 less than any other team, but Liverpool will find it tougher to replace Suarez's 31 goals than the Blues will to defend a little harder. After coming so close to winning the title for the first time since 1990, Reds fans will be desperate for another shot and we think they'll still be right up there.

While they will miss Suarez's production, the Uruguayan was never their only man on the scoresheet. Liverpool were certainly more potent when he was on the field – evidenced by the fact that they scored five times in their first five games before he returned from his biting ban and then scored 96 in their remaining 33 matches – but they aren't without options.

Though they failed to secure Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in return for Suarez, Daniel Sturridge stands to add to his 21 from 2013-14 and new signings Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert scored a combined 22 goals at Southampton last season. How they manage or (more likely) prioritise another title challenge with Champions League football will have a massive bearing on their future. After all, what good is getting bundled out in the first knockout stage and then finishing fifth?

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How does the title race play out?

Manchester United has a new boss, and a better one, in Louis van Gaal. But while the squad is a little younger thanks to Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand's departures, it's difficult to say if they're a better team. They did improve over the second half of the year, something which coincided with the addition of Juan Mata, and the fans will hope the manager can get more out of Wayne Rooney (who has been named captain, which could lift him) and Robin van Persie, as well as £29m signing Ander Herrera. We tend to believe they will be much more consistent and, as Liverpool showed last season, a campaign without any European action can prove very fruitful.

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We take a bus across town where, of course, Manchester City have improved! They've turned 31-year-old defender Joleon Lescott, who only played 10 games last season, into 23-year-old Frenchman Eliaquim Mangala, albeit for £32m, and the additions of Fernando, Bacary Sagna and Willy Caballero add further depth to a team which wants to go further in the Champions League while going back-to-back in the Premier League. Stevan Jovetic is like a new signing too, given the 24-year-old striker played just 11 matches last year. How many goals can he add to a team which scored 97 times (plus five own goals) between 14 players? The money matters, and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Chelsea, too, have boosted their forward stocks after scoring a relatively meagre 71 goals to finish third. Effervescent striker Didier Drogba returns to play under Jose Mourinho while Diego Costa already looks the goods through pre-season, and he wouldn't be the first La Liga striker to transfer his considerable skills to success in England. They won't miss David Luiz as much as some would like to believe, which is why they were more than happy to pocket £40m from PSG for the Brazilian, but one has to wonder if letting Frank Lampard go will come back to haunt them – psychologically at the very least. Given former Gunners man Cesc Fabregas will more than replace his talent on the field, we can only assume Drogba will bring the heart that they have lost in their greatest-ever scorer.

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FA Cup winners last season, Arsenal might not win the title but they will be very competitive at the top of the table. Chile winger Alexis Sanchez will be given plenty of opportunities with the ball, and Aaron Ramsey will hope to play more than 23 games after missing a number of crucial weeks through injury. All of this is to say nothing of Everton and Tottenham, who have both finished between fourth and eighth in the last six seasons, or even Newcastle, who have made more than a couple of astute signings in their quest to rejoin the Europa League after last season's disappointing campaign.

Can Southampton stave off relegation?

We mentioned that Lallana and Lambert went to Liverpool and took their 22 goals and 16 assists with them, but the Reds also plucked 31-game defender Dejan Lovren from the Saints. As well as Southampton's impressive manager Mauricio Pochettino jumping at the chance to join Tottenham, Manchester United signed 35-game left-back Luke Shaw and Arsenal secured up-and-coming right-back Calum Chambers. Despite banking some £92 million from those transfers and splashing out £20.9m on midfielder Dusan Tadic and goalkeeper Fraser Forster, things aren't exactly looking up for their third season since promotion.

Suggesting they will be relegated because of a few key departures is premature, with the pocket money going towards players who should be more than serviceable such as Dusan Tedic and Graziano Pelle. It's also reasonable to expect that they are still better than the likes of West Ham, Leicester City, Aston Villa, Hull City, West Brom and Burnley. Crystal Palace and Sunderland both had strong runs home that enabled 11th and 14th-placed finishes, while Swansea could be anywhere at this point.

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