We’re finally there. The business end of the season. That said, how exactly has pre-season been for the club in terms of performances? What have we seen so far from our players to give us optimism for the season to come and what could be better?
1. Philippe Coutinho: The ability and the importance of this young lad’s considerable skill to Liverpool’s season cannot be overstated. He is absolutely vital, a cog in an engine without replacement, this season at least. He is absolutely vital to Liverpool’s hopes for a top four finish. I already shudder with the thought of how we would cope should Coutinho get injured at some stage. His sublime pass to Sturridge against Celtic is a perfect example of what we should expect with the two working in tandem and he could be a more important player this season for us than Suarez was last. Brace for bids for him at the end of the season if his highly impressive form continues.
2. Iago Aspas: This, based on pre-season form at least, looks to be a highly inspired signing by Brendan Rodgers. 4 goals and 3 assists in the pre-season campaign show him to be a player with plenty of trickery in and around the box. I would say he needs to improve him composure in front of goal as I can remember a chance he had against Vålerenga(?) in which he blasted the ball against the keeper when he was one on one. A little frustrating, à la Luis Garcia, but exactly the kind of players fans will love to watch and enjoy. A definite quality addition to our current squad.
3. Jordan Ibe: No one who has watched this kid play in pre-season could have not been impressed. He is direct and has great pace and power. He seems to be slightly better built than Raheem Sterling as well, but has half a season less of Premier League experience, which means I would put him at the stage right now of where Raheem was last season. I’m not expecting him to get too many games in the first team, but a really bright prospect for the future if he keeps developing at the rate he is.
5. Kolo Toure: A very astute signing by Rodgers. He looks like he will slot right into the void left by Jamie Carragher alongside Danny Agger. Good in the air, reads the ball well, and has a winning mentality. Carra is Carra, but this is about as close as we will get to a replacement. I would still want another center back though, considering Agger’s injury history.
THE MIXED BAG
1. John W. Henry: Supporter’s opinion is decidedly mixed on our owner. While I appreciate the sense of financial stability he seems to be bringing to the club, I also feel he is placing far too much importance on immaculate implementation of Financial Fair Play. And considering there is always a way around that, like Chelsea and Roman Abramovich, it is anybody’s guess whether FFP will be a hit or a miss. We did good business bringing signings in early, but a net profit in the transfer window as of 14th August does not bode too well. His stance on Luis Suarez has been very refreshing though, and a slap to player power. Yes, Suarez should NOT have signed that contract last season if he intended to leave this season anyway.
2. Luis Alberto: We haven’t seen too much of him during pre season, the goal on the volley against Vålerenga was sublime and something we’ve seen less and less of since Gerrard in his pomp. He seems a good passer of the ball and looks like and excellent prospect in a couple of years. Sporadic opportunities in the first team this season, mostly off the bench.
3. Jordan Henderson: Still hasn’t convinced me completely, but showed definite signs of progress last season and looks to be getting better game by game. Changed the dynamic of the game when he game on against Olympiakos. Tireless, has bundles of energy, and I wouldn’t yet say “he’ll never be good enough for Liverpool”, like I could say with certainty for the likes of Stewart Downing and Jay Spearing. His confidence seems to be increasing with every game he plays and I feel he could play a very important role in the Liverpool midfield this season.
4. Raheem Sterling: The Liverpool Academy’s next big hope. He had a good run in the first team last season, but I would be genuinely surprised if he did this season. If he did, I can only imagine we have failed to replace Stewart Downing. He tailed off badly towards the end of last season but seems rejuvenated and free from the niggles that plagued in the second half of the last league campaign. That said, I still can’t imagine him playing the entire campaign. Really quick, but needs to improve on end product. He is only 18, after all! Also, needs to cut out of the off field controversies and focus on the football. He has all the support he needs at the cub and a manager who isn’t afraid to play him at the right time.
1. Luis Suarez: A very good player with a very bad agent, Liverpool’s star striker has made an absolute shambles of trying to get out of the club. He pushed the club so far that he forced and owner to put his reputation on the line and retaliate, and might not get his move away from the club at all. That in itself may prove to be key for Liverpool. The fact that it is a World Cup year and the fact that he is suspended for six games actually works in the club’s favour as Suarez can really not afford to down tools.
2. Martin Skrtel: A Skrtel on form and an Agger on form would be, in my opinion, one of the best defensive pairings in the league. I had hope Skrtel would really knuckle down in pre season and prove his worth to Rodgers, but it just hasn’t turned out that way thanks to his injury. It looks like he’ll only be playing cup football this season.
3. Transfers: How long has it been since Rodgers said that we have improved the squad and we now need to improve the first team? Either FSG are not really backing him or we are struggling to get the right quality of player in. Either way, it seems like the Rick Parry era all over again. We have already left signings too late on too many occasions and then either overpaid at the death or gotten in poor quality replacements. Not learning lessons here.
That said, if we still manage to strengthen the squad and keep Sturridge and Coutinho fit, I see us really kicking on into the top 6 at the very least. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!