Liverpool FC have been extremely ruthless in the transfer market so far. The Reds have made six early signings to ensure that a key mistake of last season is avoided. This time, the new faces have got the pre-season to work together and ensure they build a chemistry and do really well in the upcoming campagin. James Milner, Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne have all been roped in while Christian Benteke . looks like an imminent arrival. Raheem Sterling has been sold for a whopping 49 mp and it remains to be seen whether Brendan Rodgers will bring in a direct replacement for the Englishman or the likes of Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic will be considered enough to avoid more money being spent in this window.
Brendan Rodgers needs his team to work this year. A failure to qualify for Champions League this season will most definitely mean he is axed from the club as FSG will definitely not give the Northern Irishman a third chance. He just cannot manage to colloquially put, screw things up. The fact that James Milner, Danny Ings, Nathaniel Clyne and the potentially big signing of Christian Benteke, does however, mean that the Americans have decided to back the manager completely for the time-being.
Liverpool have had the leakiest defence and it has been a huge problem in the seasons Brendan Rodgers has been in charge. All the changes in Liverpool’s backroom staff indicate that the focus remains on the attack and if the team can manage to outscore the opposition, fair enough. But if not, will the Liverpool defence be able to help its attack? Simon Mignolet will keep his spot as the number one keeper at the club after the amazing turnaround in form he pulled off last season. Adam Bogdan has been brought in to be the club’s number two. How the Liverpool backline will look depends on whether Rodgers will play four at the back or five at the back. The former seems likely so we can expect to see new signing Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno. Joe Gomez has been particularly impressive so far in the pre-season and Liverpool seem to have a good talent in their hands. Gomez can play centrally as well as in either full-back positions, therefore the Reds have also got a good cover in their ranks. Tiago Ilori impressed in the U-21 Euros and could cover Martin Skrtel’s RCB spot. He is arguably a player that should be getting more first-team role this season but it remains to be seen whether he actually will. Dejan Lovren will be looking to redeem himself this season after his disappointing first campaign, but Mamadou Sakho should be keeping his spot in the starting line-up for Liverpool to do well. Kolo Toure signed a contract extension but the player wouldn’t be part of the starting line-up but could be a key squad player, especially because of his vast experience.
The question is that will the defence be good enough to ensure this season is different from the last?
The Reds have James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, Lucas Leiva and Emre Can who will be fighting for a spot in the midfield. It has been quite difficult trying to figure out what Brendan Rodgers will want his midfield to look like. What role will Emre Can play? The German is going to be used in the midfield and even though he came to England with a reputation of being a defensive midfielder, people who have observed his game have considered him to be more of a box-to-box player due to his weak positioning sense and tendency to move forward. Brendan Rodgers has not given much emphasis to the defensive midfielder position, shockingly to say the least and a proper holding midfielder will only be brought in if Lucas Leiva is sold. Therefore we can expect Emre Can to play the deep lying playmaker role with captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner on either side, slightly ahead. That is the perhaps the most likely way Brendan Rodgers is going to use the personnel at his disposal.
Liverpool lost a key player in Raheem Sterling but also added a world-class talent in Roberto Firmino. The club already has Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Jordon Ibe. In the striking department, Liverpool have forgotten man Daniel Sturridge, new singing Danny Ings and like-a-new-signing Divock Origi. The club is likely to add Christian Benteke and let go of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini. Philippe Coutinho is the player who is definitely guaranteed a first-team spot. Roberto Firmino should be starting eventually but it depends on how soon he fits in. Benteke will be brought in as a first option so he will definitely be starting. Whether he will be partnered up front with one of Ings or Origi (till Sturridge returns) remains a question. Rodgers could even play Ings from the wing the way he has in the pre-season game against Brisbane Roar
With the additions this summer and last season’s late bloomers, Liverpool have a threatening looking attack. If it can click, it certainly has enough to compete for a spot in the top 4.
How could Liverpool line-up?
These are the various formations in which Brendan Rodgers could set out his team, especially at the beginning. Daniel Sturridge’s injury and Christian Benteke’s imminent arrival has been kept in mind.
Scenario 1 (4-2-3-1)
Liverpool play the familiar four at the back. In the midfield, we see two of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Up ahead, we have Philippe Coutinho play the number ten role with Roberto Firmino on one side and one of Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic or Jordon Ibe on the other side (expectedly Lallana, even though Ibe has proved his efficiency on the wings and needs game time to develop into a world-class playing he is showing signs of becoming). Up-front Christian Benteke takes the striker charge. Once Daniel Sturridge is back, even he could line-up in the winder role with Benteke operating centrally. In this scenario, the advantage is that the attacking trio behind Benteke can create a lot for the Belgian to feed off. The wingers and the two full backs can feed in crosses for Benteke, who can go ahead and do his job then. The disadvantage with this formation is the weak midfield. Why this formation works for Chelsea is because they have a world class defence shielded by a world class Nemanja Matic. Liverpool don’t have that option.
Scenario 2 (4-3-3)
The same four at the back but the midfield comprises three. Emre Can could play the deeper role with Henderson and Milner slightly ahead. But in that case, Coutinho would be reduced on the wings and the player is just not effective from the flanks. It could thus be only one of Henderson or Milner player or one one Milner or Henderson playing the deeper role and the other ahead with Coutinho on his other side. This has worked for Liverpool in the past and could, once again. Benteke or a striker plays at the tip of the formation with two of Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe playing on the wings.
Scenario 3 (4-4-2)
The same four at the back with Emre Can in the holding role. Either Henderson and Milner line-up side by side or one of the two is partnered by Coutinho. Roberto Firmino plays the number 10 role and two strikers play up-front. This could be a formation Rodgers wants to try once Sturridge is back. Firmino can of course, play the second striker role too, and Rodgers might want to play him and Benteke there initially with Coutinho at the tip of the diamond. That way the midfield still comprises three.
Scenario 4 (3-4-2-1)
The formation that got Liverpool a much needed revival in form around the turn of the year. Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho could be partnered with one of the central defenders. The best choice from the lot seems Tiago Ilori who would operate on the right side, Skrtel in the middle and Sakho on the left. As wing-backs we would see Nathaniel Clyne on the right and Alberto Moreno or one of the wingers on the left. In the midfield, it would be Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Up ahead as number 10s, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will both get to play their favorable roles. Rodgers would no more need Raheem Sterling to play the false nine role and could use any striker at his disposal. Benteke naturally more likely given Liverpool are breaking the bank for him.