After finishing in 7th, 6th and 8th positions in the last three seasons, Liverpool seem to be firmly entrenched in mid-table mediocrity. It’s been a forgettable spell which has seen 4 managers in the last 3 years and only one piece of silverware. However, with the appointment of manager Brendan Rodgers, the club is looking to bury the ghost of the last three seasons and look ahead to an exciting new era.
Liverpool’s Carling Cup victory was their first piece of silverware since 2006 and they would be looking to add to it this season. Although finishing in the top 4 will be Liverpool’s first priority, they would look for success in the cups. Liverpool are also back in Europe this season, albeit in the Champions League’s poorer cousin, The Europa League. It is a competition in which The Reds will fancy their chances and Rodgers would be trying his best to win it.
Rodgers’ appointment has certainly boosted the morale of the Anfield faithful. A proper footballing man with strong principles on how the game should be played, Rodgers will look to instil the same ethos in his players. The owners and manager finally have a clear cut strategy and everyone within the club seems to be pulling in the same direction. It is a long term project which is at its inception but there is still a lot to look forward to for a Liverpool fan this season.
Transfer Market – Slashing Wage Bills and Investing In Youth
Having spent over £50 million in the last year it was always likely that Liverpool would be spending a lot lesser this summer in spite of having a new manager in charge. Rodgers had to reduce the wage bill and make way for fresh talent once he took the job as Liverpool manager. Hence much of Liverpool transfer dealings this season has been restricted to player departures with senior pros like Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt, Alberto Aquilani, Craig Bellamy and Fabio Aurelio all leaving Anfield.
Both Rodgers and FSG had a clear outline on the type of players they should be targeting to buy and this has been reflected in the purchases of Fabio Borini and Joe Allen. The two most recent additions to the Liverpool squad are both young, highly talented and raring to go. They have their peak footballing years in front of them and will serve Liverpool well for years to come.
As per strategy, Rodgers has effectively replaced a lot of aging squad players on high wages with hungry young talents who will slot seamlessly into the first team. These players will offer drive, enthusiasm and passion. They will also be a lot cheaper. The manager has set about remoulding the entire squad admirably. More arrivals and departures are likely by the end of the transfer window but the squad already looks trimmed and ready to perform.
Liverpool FC First Team 2012/13
Pepe Reina, Alexander Doni, Brad Jones, Peter Gulacsi
One of the things which made Brendan Rodgers stand out from his peers is his use of his Goalkeeper. Rodgers likes his goalkeepers to be good on the ball and often plays them as sweepers. Michael Vorm did this very effectively at Swansea.
At Liverpool, Rodgers will have one of the best keepers in the world in this regard in Pepe Reina. Although coming off an average season, Reina may well thrive under the new management and will be looking to recapture the form which won him 3 consecutive Golden Glove awards in the Premier League. A product of the La Masia, Reina has admitted that he is excited about working under Rodgers’ system. Alexander Doni, Brad Jones and Peter Gulacsi are the reserve keepers and Liverpool are well covered in this area.
Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher, Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan, Jack Robinson, Dani Wilson, Andre Wisdom
Liverpool boasted one of the meanest defences in the Premier League last season. This was despite the absence of their foremost defensive midfielder – Lucas Leiva. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have formed one of the most efficient and balanced centre back pairings in the Premier League. Success is built from the back and Rodgers will try to retain the duo who has been generating interest from a lot of top clubs across Europe. The immensely experienced Jamie Carragher and upcoming Uruguayan talent Sebastian Coates provide quality in depth to the position. Defence is not an area Rodgers will have a lot of headaches over.
Glen Johnson is one of the best right-backs in the Premier League and Jose Enrique has given some much needed stability to the left back position. Liverpool’s academy has done some very good work in recent years and this is reflected in young talents coming through in defence like Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan and Jack Robinson. Rodgers likes to promote youth and would be looking to use them over the course of the season. Martin Kelly has been especially good whenever he has been called upon which was reflected in his recent call-up to the Euro squad. However, Liverpool may need another left-back to provide competition for Jose Enrique who looked out of sorts towards the end of last season.
Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Jay Spearing, Lucas Leiva, Charlie Adam, Joe Allen, Jonjo Shelvey, Connor Coady, Suso.
The once ‘best midfield in the world’ has had its fair share of problems over recent years. But there are several players in current crop who will thrive under Rodgers’ system. The mantra is simple – Possession with Penetration and Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson will be key cogs in central midfield. All these players possess high game intelligence, tactical awareness and exceptional ball retention skills. They are also exceptionally fit and cover huge amounts of distances during the course of the match. Tough tackling and frantic pressing of the opposition when out of possession will ensure that Liverpool dominate possession next season.
How Brendan Rodgers is likely to use Liverpool’s Captain Steven Gerrard has already been debated much. Pre-season matches however suggest that the manager may deploy him as an attacking midfielder. Rodgers likes to play a 4-3-3 system and Gerrard will probably play as the furthest forward of the three midfielders. Rodgers seems to have made his mind up that Gerrard can have the greatest impact when played closer to goal and his link-up with Suarez is likely to have the Kop bouncing.
At 32, Gerrard is still a threat and is one of Liverpool’s marquee attacking weapons. The Reds still depend on him heavily and much of Liverpool’s chances of success this season will depend on his performance. The Captain however is likely to be saved for the more important games which would mean that the likes of Jonjo Shelvey would get more game time. Suso who did exceptionally well in the Euro under 19’s will also be looking to break into the first team this season. Jay Spearing has proved to be a dependable back-up as a defensive midfielder and Connor Coady will be looking forward to his chance in the first team.
Liverpool have a good first team on paper but have struggled in the past in the absence of Gerrard and Lucas. With the arrival of Joe Allen and a more settled Jordan Henderson, Liverpool may well buck the trend this season. Brendan Rodgers’ ideology favours the team game over individual brilliance. Deficiencies in quality in depth still remain in midfield and Rodgers may look to address that through transfers during this summer window.
Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Fabio Borini, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Dani Pacheco, Raheem Sterling, Nathan Eccleston, Adam Morgan
Much of Liverpool’s woes last season could be attributed to a lack of goals. In spite of creating a whole host of chances, Liverpool were profligate in front of goal which led to several draws or defeats in games which they should have won. Rodgers is committed on playing “attacking football with creativity and imagination” in his vision for the club.
The new look Liverpool will play with 3 forwards. Liverpool’s 3-0 demolishing of FC Gomel in the Europa League qualifiers suggests that there will be a lot more teeth to the attack this season. The front four of Fabio Borini, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing combined excellently during the course of the game. The fluidity in the system was a treat to watch for fans. Suarez and Gerrard played as floaters for much of the game and wreaked havoc on the opposition defence. Borini and Downing played well on the wings and exploited gaps between defenders by making intelligent runs.
As flattering as the victory was it does not paper over the fact that Liverpool still need to strengthen in attack. Luis Suarez is the key to Liverpool’s attack. He is probably the only world class talent in Liverpool’s front line and The Reds would struggle to break down opposition in his absence. Rodgers will thus have his task cut out to improve both the quality and depth of the Liverpool front line. Andy Carroll had started to find some form towards the end of last season but does not have the pace and movement to fit into the current system. He may work as an alternate option for Rodgers but it is likely that he may move on this summer.
Joe Cole, who has come off a successful season at Lille will have a lot to prove to the fans. Rodgers, who has worked with him before from his time at Chelsea would be looking to get the best out of him. Raheem Sterling is an exciting prospect with his pace and trickery down the left wing and after spending the last season on loan, Dani Pacheco might finally get the chance he has been craving for at Liverpool.
Liverpool are heralding a new dawn under Rodgers and if the pre-season is anything to go by the signs are quite positive. Fitness levels of players are improving by the day and Rodgers’ ideologies are slowly beginning to reflect in Liverpool’s performances on the pitch. Technically Liverpool’s season has already begun with their two competitive fixtures against FC Gomel in the Europa League qualification rounds.
The additional games would actually help the Merseyside Reds as they have a tough start to the Premier League. Liverpool play Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United within their first five games of the season and it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Rodgers as the pressure will be off his team to win those encounters.
The Anfield faithful will be hoping for a few more arrivals before the end of the transfer window to have a real shot at Champions League qualification this season. Other Premiership teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham have been very active in the transfer window and have bought several quality players. Liverpool will be looking to keep up.
There is plenty of work ahead before Rodgers can truly stamp his mark on the team and turn them into a well-oiled machine which can punch its weight with the cash rich teams at the top of the table. It is only year zero for his project and the team will take time to become truly competitive. However all that The Reds will look for now is a good start under Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool fans this season will be quietly optimistic.