Liverpool finished the 2014-15 season in a disappointing sixth spot. Two semi-final appearances may amount to nothing, as the disappointment of missing out on a Champions League spot is overwhelming. Since the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal have made huge improvements in 2015, Premier League top four odds from Betfair offers long odds of 9/4 for a top four finish by Liverpool. For all the talk about improving year-on-year, questions will be asked about Brendan Rodgers after Liverpool finished just four points above the tally achieved in Rodgers’ first season at the club.
History has often taught us that clubs rarely benefit from buying a large contingent of players after having sold one star name. Tottenham and Liverpool are the most recent experiences with these clubs having tasted little success after investing huge money – secured from the sale of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez respectively – into several players. After selling Suarez for around £75 million to Barcelona, Liverpool could have gone down the route of investing in big names. After all, Champions League had returned to the club and they were in a prime position to attract top names.
Rodgers, though, went down the root of bringing in young names like Alberto Moreno and some ageing stars like Ricki Lambert. In the hindsight, most of the signings made by the manager last summer appear to be gambles with the biggest of them all being the £16 million acquisition of Mario Balotelli from AC Milan. Only Moreno can be considered as a success amongst the eight players signed last summer. A hit rate of one in eight is certainly not a sign of the transfer department functioning well.
It is not just the 2014 summer signings that have gone awry for Rodgers and Liverpool’s scouting network. Since the former Swansea manager came to Liverpool in 2012, only two names – Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge – standout as the signings who have gone on to become valuable additions.
The importance of the upcoming transfer window cannot be stressed enough. Brendan Rodgers will be aware that it will be difficult to attract the real top names without Champions League football, but Manchester United have shown that it can be done. The club, though, not seem to be showing the same kind of ambition. Glen Johnson is on the verge of leaving Liverpool on a free transfer. It appears that Rodgers has made Southampton right back Nathaniel Clyne as his number one transfer target.
Clyne comes on the back of a spectacular campaign, but so did a whole host of players like Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren before struggling at Anfield. Southampton are understood to have rejected a £10 million offer from Liverpool, who may return with an improved offer. Clyne’s performances have put him on the path towards becoming a first-team regular in the England team, but Liverpool will surely be better-off looking at a more experienced and established name. Clyne will be a signing for the long-term, but a player like Dani Alves could make a huge impact in the short-term.
The top four race is unlikely to get any easier next season. In fact, it could get tougher as Mauricio Pochettino’s team will be better in his second season. Usual contenders like Arsenal have already started moving on the path of a title challenge. After having given the existing squad a taste of the Champions League, Liverpool need to provide this elite competition once again in order to keep the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho, and Raheem Sterling. It may not be long before these players – Sterling has already revealed his desire to move – start to get tempted by clubs in the Champions League.
Luis Suarez recently revealed how Rodgers had made him into a world-class striker. One of the key elements in helping Suarez succeed was playing a possession style of football. This seemed to be the way Liverpool were going to go forward under Rodgers, which left many seemingly surprised at the signing of Mario Balotelli. It is clear that the Italian does not fit into the style of play at Liverpool. He has surely played his last game for the Reds, who have been linked with the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.
Betfair sees the top four from the 2014-15 season repeating itself for the 2015-16 campaign. Manchester United are backed at 1/5 while their neighbours City are given odds of 1/6 for a top four finish next season. Compared with these odds, Liverpool are distant favourites at 9/4 when it comes to a return to the European competition. These odds will only improve if Liverpool make some headline signings and not value additions from clubs in the championship or lower down in the Premier League