Raheem Sterling has hailed Brendan Rodgers as the man that can lead Liverpool back into the top four.
In the last couple of seasons Liverpool have not just fallen out of the Champions League places, but even out of the running for qualification. They have finished comfortably below fourth place in each of the last four seasons, in which time sixth has been their highest league position, with the last time that they qualified being in 2008-09 (when they finished second).
Champions League places could be like gold dust next season, since the growing competition in the Premier League will make them even more hard fought and valuable. The current top three clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea – are all changing their managers, whilst the next three – Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool – are continuing as they were. The latter three have solid bases to build from, and that added stability of retaining their current managers will allow them to take advantage of this. Furthermore, although the former three may have greater player-for-player quality as things stand, with the arrival of a new manager you will never be 100% sure of what is to be expected and so we could very likely see a shuffling of the current status quo.
Where Liverpool’s final place in all of this shall be is yet to be seen of course, but Sterling firmly believes that they have a good chance of achieving their minimum target of top four, and he believes that Brendan Rodgers is the main reason for this.
[quote] “We just need to get a good start to the next season and hopefully maintain that, and 100 per cent I think we’ve got a good chance of finishing in the top four. I can’t talk any more highly of Brendan as a person, not just as a manager. He’s a top guy. He’s one of those who isn’t only interested if you’re playing well at that moment. He looks at players who are not playing or young players. Liverpool should be really grateful they’ve got a manager like that.”[/quote]
Indeed, Liverpool have shown flashes of what they are capable of, certainly in the second half of 2012-13, and so it is not outrageous to suggest that they will achieve this goal. That said, there is not much reason to suggest that they have a better cause to expect top four more than any other team right now, so to say it is likely seems optimistic. Still, that claim works both ways and Liverpool are not as far away from finishing fourth (or higher) than their points tally suggested this year.
If they can prevent these flashes from being just that, a momentary glimpse of something impressive, and achieve consistency over 38 games then they will be in a strong position. Consistency often begins with stability, and they seem to have that, so it is not hard to understand why Sterling is confident.
Their action in the transfer market will also be vital, both in terms of player retention and recruitment. First and foremost Liverpool will be looking to keep Suarez at the club, and should they be forced to let him go a lot will depend on how they reinvest that money on a replacement. A more general investment in the squad will also be needed, and if they can continue to make quality buys that are also strong value-for-money deals, as we have seen with Philipe Coutinho, then their future will certainly be bright.
He added also,
[quote]“For me, 100 per cent it’s about cementing a starting place in the team, getting a good run of games and hopefully getting some goals for the club, and obviously assists as well. If I do that then hopefully I’ll get a pick for the England squad.”[/quote]
During the last campaign he managed 19 starts and 5 substitute appearances, which is extremely impressive considering he only turned 18 in December. What is more a great deal of those starts came while he was still 17 in the early stages of the season. With those appearances he scored 2 goals and claimed 2 assists, not bad for a player as young as himself in only 19 starts. However it will be an improved number of goals and assists he will be looking for if he is “get a good run of games”.
With one full season in Liverpool’s first team squad under his belt, he will be confident of playing a yet larger role next year, and even put himself in contention for a spot in England’s World Cup squad.
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