As the dust settled on the 2013/14 season and Liverpool finishing in second place, confounding their own fans and rivals alike, a disappointed Brendan Rodgers vowed to “go one better next season…”.
Many of us believed him. “Next year will be our year” we all thought. In a season that saw Manchester United reduced to title also-rans and Tottenham and Arsenal imploding when the going got tough, Liverpool were able to capitalise and very nearly brought home their 19th title. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Poor defending, individual errors and the lack of that little bit of luck on occasion finally cost them.
So here we are, a week away from the kick off to the season after the season that was and Brendan Rodgers’ men will need to live up to some lofty expectations. Champions aside, last terms challengers have all strengthened. Arsenal have enlisted the services of, among others, Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, Calum Chambers from Southampton and Newcastle’s Mathieu Debuchy. Chelsea’s close season additions include Diego Costa from Atlético Madrid, ex-Arsenal favourite Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and Filipe Luis also from Atlético. All impressive signings and established talents that one expects will make an immediate impact to their respective sides.
At this time, Liverpool have recruited Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren from Southampton and Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen among others. These names, with the exception of Lallana do not seem to ooze the same quality of the new arrivals at the third and fourth placed teams from last season. Other than Lallana, Lovren and perhaps Can who is the closest thing the club have in terms of a replacement for Steven Gerrard, I don’t see much improvement to the current side. To be fair to Rodgers though, the team for the most part, is not that bad. It’s more squad players that were needed and his signings appear to confirm this, replacing the likes of Iago Aspas.
The inevitable departure of Luis Suarez will definitely have an impact on Rodgers’ side next season and the fact that the club have failed thus far to find a suitable replacement has to be a concern. It’s near-on impossible to find another 30 goals-plus striker to replace the Uruguayan. That said a replacement that you could look to for 20 goals would be sufficient in my eyes. Asking Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho to find another 10 goals between them is not unreasonable in my opinion. In fact, it’s the least one can expect from three of Liverpool’s best performers last season.
The noises in the press about Radamel Falcao are fanciful at best. He doesn’t have the profile of Rodgers’ Liverpool player. Edinson Cavani perhaps? Wilfried Bony, better still as an established Premiership player. Get Marco Reus and Christmas has come early! The German is probably the most complete forward player around and in him Liverpool would have an attacking midfielder and a striker in one quality package.
One area I am happy (well, happier) with is the back four. Lovren is the type of player Liverpool have missed and I believe he and Mamadou Sakho would make a very strong centre pairing. With Martin Skrtel and (hopefully) Sebastian Coates as back up, there should be good competition for those positions. I don’t think the purchase of Javier Manquillo will make much difference because the lad hasn’t been brought in with an immediate impact in mind. If Jose Enrique really is fit again, then he and Glen Johnson will provide the full back bodies. Like many supporters, I’d like to see Jon Flanagan given a good run at right back. The young Spaniard Alberto Moreno – should he arrive – seems like a good prospect for the opposite flank. Let’s face it, they can’t be any worse than Glenda and Enrique, so why not?
All told next season will be a test of the Fenway Sports Group’s recruitment policy of buying potential. If this is the case, then it’s probably well worth Liverpool supporters putting the “No.19” t-shirts on hold for the time being. Rodgers’ signings have mostly been about potential and given the fact that the side are a striker short, going one better next season may well just be a wish too far for the time being.
The top four is a realistic target for the Reds. I’d even go so far as to say they can challenge again. Third place doesn’t seem as fanciful going into this season as fourth place did going into last season and we all know what happened then.
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