Welcome to part 2. Time to round off with some more ramblings on why Liverpool are looking far stronger than they are being given credit for. As I said before – they may not win the title, but they will very soon.
Moving Backwards & Doing a Spurs
It is now time to take a firm stance on football fans with illogical views. Everyday people are continuing to get away with making lazy comparisons, and this one is no different. After making the astute observation that Liverpool sold Suarez for lots of money, just like Spurs sold Bale for lots of money, many have concluded that Liverpool will now finish 5th-7th again.
To believe that Liverpool’s jump from 7th to 2nd place came down to one player, would either make you a not very well-educated football fan, a little bit naive, or you just didn’t watch Liverpool properly last season.
Spurs had an incredibly weak squad without Bale, nothing capable of achieving a top four finish. They used the £80m received to invest in a number of players with the intent of cramming them all into the starting XI at the same time – Chadli, Capoue, Eriksen, Soldado and Paulinho were all under pressure to produce straight from the off. It probably doesn’t take a genius to work out that this method isn’t likely to earn you success.
Liverpool on the other hand are coming off the back of nearly winning the league, and by absolutely no element of luck. They were arguably the most exciting team in the league, and the departure of Suarez was far more a formality than a desperate loss that needed rectifying. The new signings through the door were coming in regardless of whether Suarez stayed or went, and in fact the money from his sale has barely even been touched.
The paper thin squad had to be thickened, and now it has been. Emre Can will be rotating in the midfield positions with Henderson and Joe Allen. Lallana and Markovic are unlikely to bolt straight into the starting line up ahead of Coutinho and Sterling. These players are able to be filtered in without compromising the strength of the starting line up, and will boost the depth of the squad to no end, which is a massive contrast to what happened to Spurs.
Achieving with Depleted Numbers
One of the most important factors to take into consideration when weighing up Liverpool’s progress, is how much Brendan Rodgers has achieved with the very little he has had. It is staggering really, that he got anywhere near to the title with that squad.
Gary Neville fairly argued yesterday that with a full squad, Rodgers only had about 12 ‘players of quality’ to choose from last season. Meaning that if any of these players couldn’t play or had to come off, the alternative options were extremely bleak, and not representative of a group that could go on to win the league.
The depth available now is a massive improvement. In Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic and Phillipe Coutinho, Brendan Rodgers now has four quality players who can play in any of the three attacking midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1, on the left, right or as a number 10 (4-3-3 will probably take precedence though). So when you consider last season Liverpool’s only player capable of all three was Coutinho (Sterling was not tested through the middle until the latter stages), it is fair to say they are now considerably stronger in this department – fully equipped if you ask me.
From a defensive perspective, Liverpool have managed to get perhaps the three best possible signings they could have hoped for in Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo, and Alberto Moreno. The problems the defence faced last season included a lack of depth, lack of leadership and identity, the conceding of sloppy goals including a series of calamitous own goals, and the bad habit of sitting the line far too deep under spells of intense pressure.
The lack of depth has arguably now been addressed. At right back, the youthful Manquillo will now provide the perfect competition required for Glen Johnson – he now has the choice to either perform, or sit by and watch the young Spaniard make the right back spot his own. Jose Enrique faces an identical predicament with Moreno at left back, and if Rodgers fancies a third option on either side – Jon Flanagan has proven he is more than capable.
The leadership and deep line problems make Dejan Lovren the perfect acquisition. Watching back his performances for Southampton, his outstanding attribute (despite being great on the ball) is his ability to lead the line and drag them to the edge of the box at the correct times under pressure. Both Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho struggle in this department, making their partnership incompatible – the option of Lovren now gives Rodgers that added strength and scope for some relatively risk-free defensive experiments this season.
Of all Liverpool’s competition, Chelsea currently have to be the favourites to win the league. Not least because Mourinho told us last year he wasn’t trying to win it then, but was building his team up to win it this season instead. We were all left breathing a sigh of relief each week Chelsea’s starting line up was revealed and lacked a clinical, lethal striker – they almost certainly would have won it last season had this been the case. They have now addressed this situation by introducing Diego Costa, a rugged, horrible, dirty winner, somebody who will bury the chances Torres had previously squandered. Not to mention the addition of Fabregas, Chelsea look to be the team to beat.
I currently stand by my belief that Arsenal still lack the mental toughness and title-worthy longevity to win the league. It appears that Arsene Wenger has still not realised how desperately he is missing a true holding midfielder (Wilshere is not, Arteta is not, Flamini can’t start every game). The attack looks fantastic, however these defensive frailties have cost Arsenal dearly time and again, and will continue to do so this season at some point. If an Arsenal team can go to Anfield and Stamford Bridge of all places, and still have no strategy in place to protect the back four, I will never be surprised when they become undone. The Liverpool of last season if this isn’t addressed – tons of goals, too loose at the back.
Manchester City look a lot stronger to me than they seem to be given credit for. From an attacking sense, they have four lethal strikers – Jovetic is almost like a new signing as he didn’t feature last season, and has looked nothing short of surgical in pre-season. The reason teams like Liverpool and City did so well last year, and Chelsea and Arsenal didn’t, was because when one goalscorer tailed off in form there was another one to step straight in and start putting them away. Suarez banned? Never mind, Sturridge will score them. Sturridge tailing off? Suarez is back. Then Sterling is coming good – there was no dip.
For City it was the same, it was Negredo scoring them all to start with. Then Aguero came back from injury and kept the goals coming, then you look back at the tail end of the season and it was Edin Dzeko taking care of business. This is what you need to win a title – look at the stark contrast of Arsenal, who had Ramsey and Giroud firing all cylinders to start with and then fizzled out when it dawned that they have nobody else (and Chelsea who just had nobody in the first place). All of this for Man City is without mentioning David Silva, Yaya Toure and their massively increased stability at the back with Fernando in holding midfield and Mangala at centre-back. Massive contenders.
(Though obviously much stronger this season, and back competing, I don’t feel Manchester United are in contention for the title, maybe need another article for this.)
Proof is in the Pudding
Thank you for reading, I hope to look back on this article in 9 months time and I imagine I will either be slapping myself in the face, or smugly re-posting the link to people. I would love to hear your opinions on what you agree and disagree with (hostility anticipated) but most importantly – who knows! All will be revealed this season. Buzzing.