It’s been a big summer for Liverpool, even more so than the previous year following the exit of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, and we all know how they struggled following that.
There’s been the loss of captain, Steven Gerrard, and there’s also been the introduction of several new faces, meaning the team will once again need time to gel together, so there’s certainly a lot of work to be done for Brendan Rodgers to get his side pushing into the top four this season – if that’s even possible.
Last season was a poor one for the Reds, and they’re under no illusions that things have to be better this time out, or Rodgers will be facing the chop, along with most of the squad. With that in mind, here are five things the club need to sort out before the first ball of the Premier League season is kicked.
Sort out the ‘Gerrard role’
What ever people have got to say about Gerrard over the last few seasons, his importance to the Liverpool side was massive, and he’ll be sorely missed. But, who takes that role of sitting just in front of the back four and settling the game down?
You’ve got Henderson, but he likes to get forward, as Gerrard used to, and you wouldn’t want to take that away from him as he’s more than capable of popping up with goals and assists.
Emre Can is another player who could be a candidate to fill the hole, but again, if Rodgers wants to opt for three centre-backs, then Can is a clear option for that role.
Is it a position which Joe Allen can step into? They also have options there with Lucas among others, but it’s certainly something which needs looking into as it’s a huge role to fill.
Where do Clyne, Firmino and Milner fit in?
As we all know, Milner can play just about anywhere, and he’ll do you a job. But, they need to get him in a role where he’ll fit into the side without disrupting the balance, as well as being able to show the best of his ability. Rodgers will know that, and I’m sure he’ll get him playing how he wants him to.
Clyne is filling very big boots replacing Glen Johnson after his outstanding season with the Reds last year…. Joking. But, seriously, he’ll want to impress for Liverpool in that right-back role, and it could allow him to be a regular on the England team sheet. The former Saints player will not want to be the next Luke Shaw.
Firmino isn’t too dissimilar in terms of his playing style than Sterling, so it’s a bit of a replacement job here. He can play off the striker, as a striker, out wide or in an advanced midfield role, as Sterling could. But, with the options going forward that Liverpool have, it’s finding the best position for him to suit their system.
Get a settled back line
Conceding 48 goals last season certainly wasn’t ideal for the Reds. But, it was an improvement on the year before, where they conceded 50 goals, which was 13 more than the eventual champions, Manchester City, and arguably the reason they lost the title – bar the Slippy G incident, of course.
Granted, they had a reasonably settled back line during that season, but with defensive options, there is always going to be a headache and decisions to be made. This season, they’ve got Can, Skrtel, Lovren, Sakho, Toure and Tiago Illori, who are all realistic choices at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
Rodgers will need to find his best two or three centre-backs, depending on what system he’s going for this season, and work with it, and give them time to gel. It may prevent their back line from being their Achilles heel.
Find the strongest strike partnership – and pray they score goals
What options Liverpool have up top this season. Benteke can be a force as a lone man as he’s shown with Villa, but if Rodgers wants to play two up top, the Belgian’s likely strike partner contenders are vast, with Ings, Balotelli, Lambert, Origi, Borini and Markovic all potential candidates. Not to forget the always injured Sturridge, who would be a 20 goals a season forward if he could manage to stay off the treatment table. It’s a nice problem for Rodgers to have.
And, with players like Coutinho and Firmino feeding off the £32.5 million man, Liverpool could be a real force going forward this season, unlike last time out where they only managed 52 goals, nearly half of what they managed the season before. Rodgers will certainly be hoping that the winning formula becomes apparent as they head into the season.
Resolve ongoing transfer sagas
Transfer speculation never helps a squad to settle before a season starts. And, I’m sure the constant talks of a move for Balotelli and Borini, among others aren’t helping things at Anfield.
Borini has been heavily linked with a move away from Anfield ever since his season-long loan with Sunderland two seasons ago. And, with plenty of interest from mid-table sized Premier League clubs and below, he’s got plenty of options should he feel a move away is necessary to further his career.
Balotelli is another question mark, and the man just breeds speculation. Is he staying, or is he going? For me, he wouldn’t be in the Liverpool starting XI, and there are certainly players in the same position that I would be picking ahead of him. Quite if he will find any takers is another matter, but his situation needs resolving one way or another.
With the amount of strikers that have joined Liverpool this summer, I’d be expecting at least two to be heading to the exit, with Lambert also being linked with a move away.