The 2013-14 campaign was a memorable one for Liverpool. They surmounted expectations by challenging for the Premier League trophy, a first since Rafael Benitez’s squad last managed in 2008-09, eventually losing out to Manchester City on the final day of the season. With Luis Suarez in scintillating form, the Merseyside club were unstoppable in the league until Steven Gerrard’s costly ‘slip’ against Chelsea, and their 2nd half collapse against Crystal Palace during the penultimate game, gave the blue half of Manchester just enough to claim their 2nd Premier League victory in three years.
European qualification was the main target for Brendan Rodgers, however, he made the fans dream of a first league trophy in over 20 years as his exuberant young squad dispatched quality opposition on their way to scoring a total of 101 league goals.
After the disappointment of finishing 2nd, Rodgers promised the Anfield faithful he would add much needed depth to his squad in the off season. The first to walk through the doors of Melwood was striker Rickie Lambert from Southampton, a boyhood red returning to his club after being dismissed as a 15-year old. He added further depth by securing the services of highly rated 20-year old, Emre Can from Leverkusen in a £10 million deal. The versatile midfielder offers Liverpool a variety of options since he can play a number of positions, something he proved during his time at Leverkusen. The boss went back to raid Southampton and brought in one of the standout performers of the last campaign, Adam Lallana. Lallana wowed the league with his quick passing and link-up play in a strong Southampton setup.
With Champions League to offer, the fans finally believed that first choice targets preferred Anfield as a destination to other clubs. That was until Luis Suarez decided to sink his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in a World Cup Group Stage match against Italy. His latest indiscretion was a major talking point and FIFA were strong in handing him a four-month ban from all football related activity. The Anfield club knew off Barcelona’s keenness to sign the vilified striker and even with his latest indiscretion, they acted swiftly, completing a massive £75 million transfer for the player.
It was always inevitable that Suarez would one day leave Liverpool for either Barcelona or Real Madrid. However, the fans were disappointed that he moved on after such a wonderful season. Rodgers was facing a dilemma, as a player of Suarez’ calibre was going to be impossible to replicate with a single acquisition. He tried to include Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez in the deal for Suarez, although Sanchez, preferring to live in London, snubbed Liverpool and chose to join Arsenal instead.
Focus on youth
It has been well documented that Rodgers prefers giving youth a chance, and he was quick to activate the release clause to bring in Benfica winger Lazar Markovic for £20 million. Markovic, just 20, is another exciting prospect who is speedy, skillful and at home on either flank. A signing that will surely have fans sitting on the edge of their seats. Given his young age, Markovic is likely to be given time to bed in to the rigours of the Premier League.
Liverpool went back to Southampton for a third time and brought in Dejan Lovren, a commanding centre-back, who is likely to take Martin Skrtel’s place in the starting eleven. As of late last night, the Anfield club has announced an agreement with Spanish club Sevilla for left back Alberto Moreno. They have been linked to the player all summer and it is believed that Ian Ayre flew to Cardiff last evening to conclude a deal prior to their Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid. Having been valuated at £20 million, Liverpool and Ayre have negotiated brilliantly to agree a £12 million fee for the player.
Since losing Suarez and with his new summer recruits, Rodgers is expected to shift to a 4-1-2-3 formation with Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge operating as the interchangeable front three. Henderson will play alongside either Joe Allen or Emre Can in a narrow midfield two. Henderson will be the workhorse of the team while Steven Gerrard will sit back and control the play from his newer deep-lying midfield role.
The first choice centre-back pairing is a big conundrum for Rodgers. The manager has a plethora of options to pick from, but is likely to prefer the pairing of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. Glen Johnson’s right-back spot will be under threat from new loanee, Javier Manquillo as well as youth international Jon Flannagan.
Despite having a strong pre-season, it remains to be seen whether Liverpool will be able to cope without Suarez.