Despite the disappointments of the 2014/2015 campaign, fans can take hope from the idea that the side possesses great strength in depth in attacking midfield areas. Rodgers will welcome the challenge of deciding how to utilise players in these attacking areas behind the striker.
It is inevitable that the team will be built around the little magician Philippe Coutinho, therefore it will be interesting to see how Rodgers will find roles for the likes of Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and new signing Roberto Firmino. Their roles in the team will obviously depend on the formation that Rodgers chooses to use, making their value to the side even more unpredictable given the uncertainty surrounding the Liverpool manager’s preferred setup.
A 4-3-3 formation emerges as a likely option as it allows for the inclusion of two, maybe three, attacking midfielders positioned behind a striker. If this is the case, Liverpool fans will be desperate to see Coutinho line up behind a fully fit Daniel Sturridge. With it looking increasingly likely that Raheem Sterling will leave Anfield this summer, many will be swaying towards the immediate inclusion of Roberto Firmino beside Coutinho, with it appearing that the signing from Hoffenhiem favours a number 10 role. This poses as a hint that the club are prepared to let Sterling leave this transfer market.
Rodgers faces a problem as he will be tempted to use two strikers to compensate for the absence of Daniel Sturridge having seen his side struggle in front of goal last season. If so, it would look likely that recent signing Danny Ings would be thrown straight into action, though it is hard to predict an immediate strike partner given the unclear future of Mario Balotelli, the inexperience of Divock Origi and the likely departures of Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini.
With this in mind, Liverpool fans should expect to see another striker arrive at Melwood before the end of the summer. Who would fit the bill though? In my opinion, signing Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke would display Rodgers as a hypocrite given his rejection of the services of Andy Carroll who shares similarities with the Belgian. Likewise, I don’t feel he offers anything that an inform Mario Balotelli can, although how many times can Liverpool fans say they’ve seen an inform Balotelli?
Following the signing of Firmino, Adam Lallana will also have to step up his fight for a place in the starting line-up which will give supporters added hope given the proven quality of the England International. For me, he has been unfairly criticised and I feel he has been one of the most promising signings from the previous summer. He hasn’t had the opportunity to perform behind a proven striker such as Sturridge therefore the club can expect a much more successful season from Lallana if he is able to do so.
While Lallana, Firmino and Coutinho fight to occupy the number 10 role, Rodgers faces a dilemma surrounding how to use wingers Lazar Markovic and Jordan Ibe. If Markovic is to have any long term future at the club he has to impress in the upcoming season; it is vital he lives up to his £20million price tag and prove he is able to handle to pressure of playing for such a big team in Liverpool. The Serbian faces an even greater challenge given the impressive displays of Jordan Ibe during his spell in the side in 2015. Ibe has been highly praised and is seen to have the potential to be as good a player as Raheem Sterling. All Liverpool fans, like myself, want to see Ibe in the first team while all fans also want to see the Lazar Markovic we were promised in terms of his supposed lightning pace and trickery.
Both Ibe and Markovic act as an alternative option for Rodgers in terms of being wingers, however both also have traits that give them the potential to play in more central roles. I for one can’t understand why Markovic hasn’t been experimented as a striker yet in the absence of Daniel Sturridge.
The arrival of James Milner also gives Rodgers a dilemma, tempting the Liverpool boss into playing a midfield three. Many are calling for the use of a trio in the middle of the park, consisting of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Milner himself. A central trio, therefore, means a back four which looks all the more likely given the imminent signing of right back Nathaniel Clyne. Moreover, if Rodgers were to opt for a defensive trio, there is the chance that one of Milner of Henderson could be pushed into a more attacking role behind the striker. Liverpool fans will be fully aware that James Milner is very much a Brendan Rodgers type of player, meaning it is likely he will feature regularly. It is vital Rodgers shows no fear by putting Emre Can in his preferred midfield role as he can offer a much needed aggression and power in a way that the likes of Joe Allen and James Milner can’t.
The club must show some conviction and make a quick decision on the future of Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva. The loyalty shown by Lucas makes his situation a difficult one given his position as a fan favourite. Similarly, Rodgers is famously a big fan of Joe Allen though many Liverpool fans fail to see what he offers to the side. Is he good enough to sustain a place in the starting line-up? I’m afraid not.
Defensively, it is almost a certainty that Martin Skrtel will take up one of the centre back positions, providing he signs a new contract. The majority of Liverpool fans would favour Mamadou Sakho, who has a case for being the club’s best defender, though Dejan Lovren could still be an option if he is able to prove his worth. Despite this, Thiago Ilori’s impressive performances in the European Under 21 Championships could be enough for him to earn himself a call up, much to the wishes of the fans. Personally, I would like to see Rodgers experiment with his central defenders as I am unable to have full confidence in Martin Skrtel. The Slovakian’s saving grace is the fight he shows and the leadership he brings.
With a back four looking all the more likely, Alberto Moreno has to improve defensively otherwise it is possible Rodgers could opt for Jon Flanagan at left back, if he returns to fitness. In an attacking sense, Moreno is superb but he was a huge factor contributing to the side’s weak defensive displays last season. On the other side, Nathaniel Clyne acts as excellent business, representing a perfect replacement for Glen Johnson. If able to impress, it is unlikely he should lose his place in the side. That’s if his medical is successful and he eventually signs. Touch wood.
Rodgers faces some tough decisions in the coming months.