There are many questions to be answered: have Liverpool strengthened? Does the club possess better players? Or better strength in depth? The answers are all below.
Firstly, let’s talk about Goalkeepers. Last season, Brendan Rodgers started the campaign with Brad Jones, Pepe Reina and Peter Gulacsi at his disposal. This season, the club has Simon Mignolet, Brad Jones and Danny Ward as their three most senior shot stoppers. Although he has become an icon at Liverpool and was adored amongst the supporters, it was clear that Pepe Reina’s abilities were on the decline and, for me, last season was the final nail in his Liverpool coffin. Therefore it was no coincidence that he was loaned out to Napoli and was replaced by a fresh, young goalie in the shape of the Belgian Mignolet.
Already he has shown that he can reach the heights of the popularity that Reina enjoyed on Merseyside with three clean sheets in his first three Premier League games. It is an issue that is debatable, however, in my opinion Simon Mignolet is an improvement on Pepe Reina and therefore the club is in a stronger position this season than it was last campaign.
As for the defence, Liverpool started last season with the same set of right-backs as they will face this season with – Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom and Jon Flanagan. The Reds don’t seem to struggle too much down the right and with the return of Kelly from serious injury, Rodgers is fully stocked in that position. With Jack Robinson failing to build on a promising youth career, Liverpool spent the majority of last season with only one recognised senior left-back – Jose Enrique. This, for me, was one of the major downfalls in what was a poor season. With the signing of Aly Cissokho, albeit injured at the moment, it allows the Reds strength in depth in the full-back position which is exactly what was required.
It is at the heart of the defence that provides the most excitement. Last season, Rodgers began the campaign with Agger, Skrtel, Carragher and Coates as the four that would compete for a starting berth. However, Coates struggled to adjust to English football and Skrtel portrayed a Jekyll and Hyde personality – after winning the player of the season award in 2011/2012 the Slovakians form dropped alarmingly. This meant that throughout the nine-month season the manager had to rely on a 35-year old Jamie Carragher and an injury-prone Daniel Agger.
Rodgers has moved to rectify this problem in the summer months by signing THREE centre-backs – Kolo Toure, who has already become a fans favourite, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori. Carragher has since retired and Coates has been ruled out for most of the season, however, the Reds are much stronger this season than last year. Even if Sakho and Ilori take a while to adjust, Toure has more than proved his worth in the centre-back role over the past few weeks.
In the midfield, Liverpool have lost Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey permanently while Oussama Assaidi and Suso have been loaned out to Stoke City and Almeria respectively. In terms of incomings, the Reds have moved to bring in Luis Alberto on a permanent deal from Sevilla and Victor Moses on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea. I believe that it is still up in the air whether or not Liverpool have improved their midfield from last season as moves for the likes of Alberto and Moses could go either way with neither having proved themselves as successes in top flight European football as yet.
At the top end of the field, the Reds have completed the permanent sale of Andy Carroll to West Ham while sending Fabio Borini out on loan to Sunderland. Rodgers has brought in Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo to provide competition for Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. Aspas and Borini are pretty much like for like, both have had very little experience of top flight football and are both relatively raw talents. However, with Sturridge firing on all cylinders and with Suarez still to come back, Aspas may not need to hit the ground running and will be given time to prove himself as a quality Premier League player.
Although many people strongly believe that Liverpool have a much better squad than last season, it still remains to be seen whether or not our new players can bed in quick enough to provide us with a push for a top four finish. However, the facts speak for themselves – Liverpool took eight games last season to reach nine points; which is equal to the nine points the Reds have currently achieved in just three matches as they sit at the top of the table and in fine form.
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