Isn’t it nice to be excited about football again?
Liverpool have their work cut out for them in order to make up the ground lost last season, but since summer began we seem to be getting several reasons to be quietly excited for the new campaign.
For one, the injury table’s as close to being clear as it has for a year now. Last season a whole litany of players were spent time on the sidelines – Lallana missed the entire pre-season, Sakho had a spell out as did Markovic, Moreno, Balotelli, Ibe, Skrtel and many others – but now the only players left are Sturridge and Jon Flanagan. The former is still recovering from surgery and should be back in October while Flanagan won’t be back until 2016 after spending all of last season out injured.
This is great news, as we have close to a fully-fit squad starting the season. Coutinho, Firmino and Can might be lacking a bit of match fitness compared to others thanks to their international exploits but the others should all be fit and firing once we start the season at Stoke. Lallana in particular looks fit already and will benefit so much from getting a proper preseason under his belt, unlike last year.
We also no longer need to carry any deadwood in our first team. Barring Moreno – as our first choice left back going into the new season, he really needs to up his game considerably – everyone in our first team deserves to be there. Of course, Firmino and Benteke will both need to prove to the fans and the manager that they were worth the money paid for them – particularly the latter – but while they might take time to settle, they come with a certain amount of star quality attached to them that suggests they should be fine.
But importantly, we no longer have to carry around people like Glen Johnson anymore; a player who, while certainly experienced at the
highest level, hadn’t been playing well for over 2 seasons by the time his contract ran out. The man had become a liability, and I don’t think there is anyone left in the squad who can be accused of that. Certainly Mignolet was terrible at times last season, but he ended the year sharing the Golden Glove with David De Gea. Benteke may well prove as well-suited to our team as Balotelli was, but we’ll just have to wait and see there.
Speaking of Balotelli, it looks like he’ll be moved on along with Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini so our forward line will look much better with Benteke, Ings and Origi.
We also no longer have to deal with that “Gerrard problem”. While certainly a club legend, Gerrard’s status sometimes proved a double-edged sword. While he was certainly a great leader and influential member of the squad, it also meant eyebrows would be raised if he was ever left out of the starting XI. So when it became obvious that Captain Fantastic was losing his legs a little, Rodgers obviously couldn’t risk dropping him as it risked causing disharmony in the squad, so he was forced to compromise and find new positions for him in the team.
With Gerrard having said his emotional goodbyes and now moved on, Rodgers is free to pick the best midfield at his disposal without having to worry about politics and raised eyebrows from the media. Plus Henderson looks to be great captain material so it will be interesting to seem him continue to develop his leadership skills as the season goes on.
Finally, Rodgers seems to have decided which formation the team will be playing. Last year the team lost their sense of identity as the manager tried to use a 4-2-3-1 system that didn’t suit the players and destroyed their confidence. The 3-4-3 got it back again, but when that got found out we seemed to have no idea what to do. Rodgers tried desperately to find a magic bullet that would get things back on track, but nothing worked.
According to the Echo, Rodgers has said that we’ll be playing 4-3-3. While I’m not yet sure how this will suit players like Markovic and Ibe, this does seem it’ll get the best out of a lot of our players.
Henderson can now do what he does best and link up with the forwards and harrass opponents off the ball, Coutinho can play further back and ping plenty of balls through to the pacy Firmino and Benteke, Milner and Can, and up front Benteke/Sturridge should be the focal point of the attack with Firmino and Lallana/Ibe/Markovic making plenty of runs in support.
The key seems to be Benteke, but if he can prove that he’s more than the target man Paul Lambert often asked him to be, we should be a real force to be reckoned with up front this season.
As long as Sakho starts ahead of Lovren at centre back we should be fine.