Last season marked the end of an era for Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. His last few games would also be remembered for some of Liverpool’s worst performances in a decade. The 6-1 defeat to Stoke brought to an end what was a disappointing campaign.
From being a whisker away of winning the title, Liverpool finished below Spurs despite spending lots of money in the transfer window. Inevitably, the #RodgersOut brigade was growing in numbers. The club owners Fenway Sports Group, however, backed their man and have made significant changes since then. Some of these changes could well turn Liverpool into potential title contenders this season.
Potent Strike Force
Last season, Liverpool’s biggest problem was the poor form of the forwards. Despite having Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini to back up Sturridge, the trio just contributed 4 goals from around 2000 mins of football in the league. Rodgers did not trust either of them to take up the responsibility to be the front man. After persisting with Balotelli in the first half of the season, Rodgers simply gave up on the mercurial Italian.
This season, Liverpool have already bought Danny Ings on a free transfer with compensation potentially going up to 6-8 million pounds as per news reports. Recently, Liverpool invested a lot of money to get in their main target of the summer Christian Benteke. His transfer fee has raised quite a few eyebrows among the Liverpool faithful. Divock Origi is also back from his loan spell at Lille.
Benteke has a good goal scoring record for Aston Villa averaging a goal every second game. It is likely that Rodgers could tweak his strategy to suit Benteke. With Clyne and Moreno as fullbacks, Liverpool have got two potentially good fullbacks who can deliver in the crosses. Benteke, who has been compared to Andy Carroll, is fairly quick and can adapt to a passing game unlike Carroll or Lambert.
In Origi and Ings, Liverpool have two strikers with different skills and lots of potential. Danny Ings has shown at Burnley that he can score a few goals and has very good work rate. Origi on the other has loads of potential and has already made 13 apperances for the Belgium national team. Ings and Origi will provide better options than Borini and Lambert. If Sturridge returns to full fitness, it might be likely that Rodgers could start with 2 strikers upfront.
Creativity and Industry in the midfield
Liverpool signed James Milner and Roberto Firmino in the summer. Both players have diverse profiles. Milner is an experienced midfielder having played for Newcastle, Aston Villa and Manchester City. He would bring in experience, industry and winning mentality. He is by no means the most attractive player to watch but is a player who Pellegrini was reluctant to part ways with.
On the other hand, Firmino is probably Liverpool’s most exciting signing this season. Firmino has scored 23 goals and provided 21 assists in the last two seasons in the Bundesliga. Firmino would complement his Brazilian compatriot Coutinho with his creativity and goal scoring talent.
Coutinho was outstanding in the second half of last season, however, there were games when he needed support from his team-mates. With the arrival of Firmino, the pressure on Coutinho will reduce. Overall, the energy of Milner and the creativity of Firmino will supplement the likes of Henderson, Can, Lucas, Allen, Lallana , Coutinho and Ibe. Liverpool now have players with various strengths and who can play in multiple roles.
Change in Transfer Strategy
Liverpool’s top leadership has sent out a strong signal that they are willing to back their manager despite a poor season last year. The signings of Benteke and Firmino indicate that FSG are willing to pay the big money for the players Rodgers feels can improve the squad. Unlike previous seasons, where there has been a lot of debate about the value of a player, FSG have moved in fast in the transfer window.
There seems to have been a lot of thought behind the scenes on what went wrong last season and what steps need to be taken to support Rodgers in moving the club forward. The revamping of Rodgers’ backroom staff seems like a step in the right direction. The arrival of Gary McAllister brings in much needed experience and someone who understands the club and what success at Liverpool means.
Overall, the club has learnt from the mistakes it had committed earlier. The new signings are a useful addition to a core of young talented players in the squad. Some of the signings of last season such as Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Moreno would most likely continue their development and be very useful players this season.
With the backing of the top management, Brendan Rodgers has got things going his way this season. If he can turn the corner, Liverpool could very well be potential title contenders this season.