The 5 big questions that will define Liverpool's 2016/17

Title challenge, another upper mid-table finish or something in between? Chris McLoughlin from The Kop Magazine looks at the key issues that could determine the Reds' fate this term...

1. Will Loris Karius do a better job than Simon Mignolet?

Unless the Belgian surprises Liverpool's supporters (in a good way) with his showings in taht time, Karius will surely take the No.1 jersey at some point in the campaign

22-year-old Karius is a confident young goalkeeper, claiming upon his arrival at the club from Mainz this summer that he wanted to be first choice "as soon as possible". He then made some decent saves in pre-season, joked on social media about a howler at Wigan and generally performed well before breaking his right hand against Chelsea by accidentally punching Dejan Lovren (unless he's a secret Southampton fan).

He's now out of action for 10 weeks, so the much-maligned Simon Mignolet will start the season between the sticks. Unless the Belgian surprises Liverpool's supporters (in a good way) with his showings in that time, Karius will surely take the No.1 jersey at some point in the campaign.

When he gets his chance, the former Manchester City custodian needs to show he's more than just potential; Anfield is an unforgiving venue for goalkeepers who fail to convince. David James' nerves jangled like BA Baracus' jewellery every time the Reds conceded a corner, and the audible groans whenever Mignolet makes a minor distribution error will be amplified with 9000 extra fans inside the stadium when the new Main Stand opens.

Karius must therefore do what Pepe Reina did in 2005/06: prove in his first year that he's up to the job. Not since Bruce Grobbelaar has a new Liverpool keeper won over the fans after starting badly, and not since Reina have they had the top-class No.1 they need.

2. Can the Reds hit the (away) grounds running?

Liverpool will start with three away Premier League fixtures at Arsenal, Burnley and Tottenham, with a home clash against champions Leicester falling just six days before the Reds' trip to Stamford Bridge

Getting Anfield’s new 20,500-seater Main Stand ready for August was always going to be a challenge, so it's not a huge shock that it now won't open until mid-September. As a result, Liverpool will start with three away Premier League fixtures at Arsenal, Burnley and Tottenham, with a home clash against champions Leicester falling just six days before the Reds' trip to Stamford Bridge.

It's a difficult start, and Liverpool will need their key men to be firing from the get-go, particularly as the new boys may take a while to settle in. Philippe Coutinho is one of those who'll have to be on it from the start: Liverpool don't have a truly world-class player at present, but the little Brazilian is the one person in the squad who could elevate himself to that level if he added consistency to his game.

Philippe Coutinho vs Manchester United (Away) 17/03/2016 HD 720p

Coutinho scores against Man Utd

The signs are encouraging, though. Coutinho's 12 goals last season beat his previous best tally of eight and, significantly, 11 of those strikes came under Klopp's management. The former Inter man also has a handy habit of scoring in the big games (he netted at Stamford Bridge, the Etihad, Old Trafford, Wembley and at home to Spurs, Borussia Dortmund and Everton in 2015/16) and that will need to continue if the Reds are to pick up positive results against Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea in their opening five matches.

The onus is also on Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Dejan Lovren to start the season well, but Coutinho is the side's true game-changer.

3. For how long will Daniel Sturridge stay fit?

He isn't a miracle worker and can't turn Sturridge's muscles from Weetabix to Titanium, but the hope is that he can devise a fitness progreamme which keeps the Reds' star striker on the pitch far more often than is usually the case

19 players made more appearances for Liverpool than the 25 Sturridge managed in 2015/16, yet he still finished the campaign as the club's leading scorer with 13 goals to his name. He's struck 53 times in 92 appearances for the Reds, an impressive record that looks even better when you consider he's completed 90 minutes on just 38 occasions and 51 of his strikes have come in open play.

If Liverpool could keep him fit for a full season, they'd have a striker with the firepower to put them in the title picture, but that's unlikely to happen. Sturridge is a doubt for the Arsenal game with a hip problem, but there's a new factor in play that might make a longer-term difference to his fitness troubles: his name is Andreas Kornmayer.

As well as being a doppelganger of Jurgen Klopp, the German is Liverpool's new Head of Fitness and Conditioning and has arrived on Merseyside after 15 years with Bayern Munich. Klopp's always liked the cut of his jib - he felt Bayern were fitter than his Dortmund side when they beat them in the 2013 Champions League final with a late winner - and now Kornmayer's methods will be put into action at Anfield.

He isn't a miracle worker and can't turn Sturridge's muscles from Weetabix to Titanium, but the hope is that he can devise a fitness progreamme which keeps the Reds' star striker on the pitch far more often than is usually the case. With Divock Origi looking increasingly impressive and Danny Ings fit again, Klopp at least has alternatives if Sturridge proves a case too far even for Kornmayer.

4. Can the new signings make the difference?

He's spent a few quid on Sadio Mane (£34m), Georginio Wijnaldum (£23m), Marko Grujic (£5.1m), Loris Karius (£4.7m), Ragnar Klavan (£4.2m), while Joel Matip and Alex Manninger have arrived on free transfers

It was widely argued last year that Liverpool would be a better side when Klopp had had the chance to bring his own players, so there's a bit of pressure on the German in the upcoming campaign. Klopp's forthright yet endearing personality has created the perception that he, rather than the much-criticised transfer committee, is in charge of all deals; the truth may lie somewhere in between, but the manager will ultimately be judged on this summer's acquisitions. 

He's spent a few quid on Sadio Mane (£34m), Georginio Wijnaldum (£23m), Marko Grujic (£5.1m), Loris Karius (£4.7m), Ragnar Klavan (£4.2m), while Joel Matip and Alex Manninger have arrived on free transfers, but with the two Manchester clubs throwing huge amounts of money around, there's a feeling among some Reds that the club's dealings have been a little underwhelming. 

Sadio Mane

New boy Mane was the most expensive of Liverpool's summer arrivals

There's not really been a so-called 'marquee signing', but more importantly there's been no left-back or defensive midfielder either. It ultimately boils down to a question of faith: Klopp made his name at Borussia Dortmund by turning players into stars rather than simply signing them, and that's his plan at Anfield too. 

Will such a strategy work? Leicester are proof that it can, but it's far from guaranteed.

5. Is Klopp’s tactical plan something to applaud or flawed?

There’s a lot to love about Klopp's full-throttle football, which produces high-tempo and thoroughly enjoyable matches. It ultimately brought success at Borussia Dortmund too, and only some shocking penalties at Wembley and a dismal second-half display in Basel prevented Liverpool from winning the League Cup and Europa League in his debut campaign at the helm.

Yet what happened after the break against Sevilla is precisely why nagging doubts about his tactical approach have surfaced. The general feeling is that Klopp's side are too open and too easy to overrun in the middle, and they'll always struggle to shut games down without a Didi Hamann or Javier Mascherano patrolling the midfield with authority, leadership and defensive nous.

Instead of signing an N'Golo Kante this summer, the Merseysiders plumped for Wijnaldum; for all the Dutchman's qualities, he's not the central midfielder most Liverpool followers believe the team requires. In truth, such a player is unlikely to ever arrive due to the nature of Klopp's 'gegenpressing' (which is essentially German for immediate ball recovery after losing possession), with the 49-year-old preferring to release the hounds rather than employing a guard dog to sit behind the front door.

Can his style work over a 38-game Premier League season. There's only one way to find out...

Predicted starting line-up (vs Arsenal)

Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho

Assuming Matip's fully fit, the back four pretty much picks itself. Ahead of that, Klopp has plenty of options to choose from, with Firmino, Origi and Mane all contenders to play up front and Coutinho set for a support role.

Can will start despite arriving back for pre-season training later than most of his team-mates after Euro 2016, while James Milner's injury should see Wijnaldum and Henderson fielded alongside him.

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