After a summer of shenanigans, fans of Liverpool FC return to the new season with a bittersweet taste in their mouths. Having seen the talismanic Luis Suarez complete an almost inevitable transfer to one of Spain’s heavyweights, and the resulting transfer fee being reinvested, transforming the squad into one that will be capable to compete on all four fronts. So will the Reds be able to build on the heroics of last term or will they capitulate, proving the cynical theory that it really was all about Suarez? These questions will all be answered in due course, but not before I have my take on the events of this summer and what the future holds for Brendan Rodgers’ troops.
Between Mario Gotze’s sublime late finish in the World Cup final and this weekend, football fans have been starved of football with any semblance of relevance. You could argue that pre-season friendlies are an important gauge of any club’s summer shake up, however, the football on show simply isn’t enough to wet the appetite. During this barren period, Twitter timelines and football forums and communities have been flooded with a set of stereotypes regarding Liverpool. “They’re just doing a Spurs”, and “They only performed so well because of no Europe” seems to be the general consensus amongst those with little knowledge regarding the game.
Liverpool’s non-performance in any continental football last term definitely played a role in the fitness and freshness of the players, and is perhaps the only reason they were able to compete with a squad almost completely devoid of cover for starting positions. However, to pass their remarkable showing last season simply as a result of having Tuesday and Wednesday night off is lazy analysis in the least. Evidence for this is provided in the fact that teams participating in Uefa’s showpiece events rarely drop out of the top 4 purely on the basis of fatigue from this participation. On the contrary, teams excluded from these two tournaments see fifth place as a satisfactory ceiling for their achievements. Brendan Rodgers will undoubtedly face a challenge in juggling Premier League and European commitments this term, but to assume that Liverpool will sink like a lead balloon simply because of these commitments is preposterous.
The ‘Spurs’ factor
Twelve months prior to this summer, another Premier League club, in the form of Tottenham Hotspur found themselves in a congruent situation to Liverpool’s current one. Having parted company with Gareth Bale for a world record fee, Daniel Levy immediately reinvested this money into the squad. By the end of the window, Andre Villas-Boas found himself in possession of an expensively assembled squad with the likes of Paulinho, Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado all causing outlays in excess of 20 million pounds.
An important fact to note, however, is that Liverpool have been far more intelligent than their Premier League counterparts with regard to the recruitment of players. Out of the six players signed by Spurs last season, none of them had any Premier League experience prior to their debuts with the North London club. The fact that each and every one of the signings were trying to settle in at the same time, coupled with managerial instability is what set the North Londoners up for failure. By no means am I suggesting that shopping exclusively in the Premier League market guarantees success (lest we forget Comolli and Kenny’s summer splurge of 2012!), it, along with foreign acquisitions comes with its advantages and disadvantages. However, I feel that Liverpool have struck a balance between the two, which will inevitably contribute to better synergy amongst the team.
For all Spurs’ humiliations last season, it must be noted that they finished with a mere 3 points fewer than they had the last campaign. If Liverpool are to emulate this, post Suarez, then that would leave them with 81 points, certainly enough to warrant a place in the top 4.
Following his nonsensical antics in the World Cup, it became a matter of when rather than if regarding Luis Suarez’s proposed transfer to one of Spain’s top dogs. Following his sale, the attention of the club and its fans turned towards the availability of Alexis Sanchez, who was seen as the closest available replacement for Suarez. However, what ensued in this transfer saga was particularly hard to stomach, as the Chilean snubbed the Anfield outfit in favour of a move to North London. The consensus amongst many Liverpool fans is that Sanchez chose Arsenal purely because of location, however one must give credit where it is due. The lure of European stability and working under an immensely respected manager is what tickled the Chilean’s fancy, rather than the glitz and glamour of London over the working-class North West.
Despite this immense setback, I am still of the opinion that Liverpool have gone about investing this money intelligently. The financial structure of the Fenway Sports Group simply does not accommodate the signing of players already on extravagant wages. Players are required to first show their worth in a Liverpool shirt, as was evident with Luis Suarez’s new contract last December, before being handed lucrative deals. This principle is what rules out the possibility of signing players of the ilk of Marco Reus, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.
Instead of splashing an exorbitant amount on a single player to fill the boots of the Uruguayan, Liverpool have replaced his attributes with several shiny new toys. In Lazar Markovic, Liverpool have acquired an exceptionally talented youngster, who brings ridiculous pace and attacking potency to a team already flourishing in both aspects. Adam Lallana, although reservations may be held over his cost, undeniably brings guile and relentless pressure from the middle of the park. The qualities of solidity and composure on the ball undoubtedly fall within Emre Can’s arsenal, a player whom I fancy to fit seamlessly into Steven Gerrard’s role. Liverpool have also strengthened at the back, with Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno all being recruited to mend Liverpool’s defensive woes.
Despite Brendan Rodgers no longer having his magical Suarez spray to bust the Reds out of trouble, he does find himself with a Philippe Coutinho, equipped with a newfound industrial tenacity, a Daniel Sturridge, chomping at the bit to prove his credentials of being the main man and a Raheem Sterling that just keeps getting better and better. If this youthful enthusiasm can be appropriately merged with Liverpool’s newfound defensive solidarity, typical attacking flair and strength in depth, Brendan Rodgers may just have all the tools he needs to make this season a successful one for the Reds. As the rallying cry of “We Go Again!” is finally laid to rest, Liverpool are required to rise from the ashes and prove the critics wrong, yet again.
By Hamzah Ebrahim - Liverpool fan - @