There are few teams with such a high standard despite the lack of recent success like Liverpool. Since a Champions League title that is constantly referenced and a Steven Gerrard masterclass in an FA Cup, a Capital One Cup has been the only addition to Liverpool’s silverware cabinet. Mired in a series of odd changes that left them struggling to even find their way into the Europa league, Liverpool turned themselves into the most threatening attack in English football last season and were a half-decent defense away from claiming the deepest desire of #19.
A few months later, and after the departure of the most threatening striker in England last season, Liverpool are destined to taste the rare air of Champions League football again. However, the BPL season has started out as anything but promising for the red side of Liverpool, and the questions are starting to be asked: Can Liverpool juggle Champions League AND become a top-four mainstay again?
As the title of this article suggests, Liverpool has the talent to fight for one of the top spots, but it needs some of its newer signings to integrate a bit quicker. With the injury to Daniel Sturridge requiring others to step up, the need for goals in this Liverpool side has never been greater. In a game against Aston Villa where a loose ball in the box cost them three points, it was painfully obvious that Suarez brought so much more than goals to this Liverpool squad. By constantly occupying two defenders and constantly pushing the issue of attack instead of passing around a bank of 11 players, Suarez made Liverpool constantly threatening. On Saturday, Liverpool reminded us of games where the mighty Barcelona had looked toothless…constant passing, an obvious superiority in the game, but ZERO end product.
Markovic reminds a bit of Suarez during his first season with an energy and a bit of attacking intent, but little action in terms of accurate shooting. While the odds of him becoming the same threat as the Uruguayan are about as good as Chelsea getting relegated this season, the future is bright for this player. In defense, the young outside defenders actually are a great basis for the future (and a fairly decent set-up for the present). Sakho still seems slightly uncomfortable on the ball, but Lovren (outside of a few too many attempts at a Hollywood pass when the game was winding down) could become a back-line block of strength for Liverpool as the team moves on.
For the midfield, Lallana looks a bit match rusty, but a few of his turns showed promise…and unlike some of the failed big-money transfers that teams have encountered recently, Lallana has already proven himself as a star in English football. Give him (and Lambert) time, and they will be positive additions here. Countinho has truly bought into the Rodgers way of two-way playing (as shown during his time with Brazil as the only (yes, only) midfielder that played two-way football), but the team now turns to him and Sterling for 100% of their creativity. While there is obvious talent with these two, they will need help.
In terms of Mario Balotelli, his poor understanding of set-piece marking almost cost Liverpool. His energy to close down during the game, his lack of negative response to players attempting to wind him up, and his attitude after being subbed off does bode well. However, when Balotelli attempts to play like Ibrahimovic and slows the game down to a snail’s pace, he needs to create Ibra-sized end product. There is an amazing amount of talent in the new #45 wearing Liverpool red, but the Balotelli move is a failed move if he does not produce…no matter how positive his attitude may seem. In terms of the other Italian striker in the Liverpool ranks, Borini is not a late game idea or solution and needs to be one of the first exits this January. (As for Emre Can, the jury is still out…but he has the ability to fill a soon coming void at the back of the midfield)
September is too early to start panicking, but it is never too early to start asking the right questions. While 6 points out of 12 would not suit Liverpool’s late season form from last year, there is plenty of time to erase an early season hiccup (as any Man U fan would currently tell you). If TWO (yes, two) of these new signings can make the grade, Liverpool will be fine. However, if they all need longer than a few months to settle, Liverpool fans may want to enjoy the Champions League while they can. The EPL is not getting easier and the teams will only improve their form and match fitness as the weeks go on. Will Liverpool be a one-hit wonder? Or is the return to the top permanent? Only time will tell…