If the last season was the season of introspection for Liverpool, then this has to be the season, where expectations are slowly mounting up, taking the shape of hope and robust optimism. Fans were ready to give Brendan Rodgers the time he needed to settle down and build his own team, slowly yet steadily.
The Reds experienced two contrasting halves last season. Rodgers is an astute manager with a sound knowledge of tactics and footballing philosophy. He wanted to preach the same philosophical dogma at Liverpool, which earned him enormous success at Swansea. The concept of death-by-football has been implemented in the first half of the season and quite naturally the players struggled to grapple such technical methods quickly.
However, we found Rodgers shifting to a more direct approach post January. Two new signings – Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho – made instant impacts, as positive results started to follow with consistency. Cynics have vouched on the idea that Rodgers’ ‘philosophy’, of which he spoke about so often, is nothing but his self-consecrated myth, while his ardent followers believe the Irishman probably has realised that he doesn’t have the right kind of players to pull of the knitty-gritty tactical & technical elements of his game.
The second half of last season was indeed very encouraging for everyone, so much so that the new owners probably have felt secure with their manager, for the first time since they took over. They have backed him with money this season and now Rodgers is truly stamping his own authority at the club.
He needed to perform few surgeries within the squad in the summer. First, there was a need to bolster the defence, which at the time of writing is still a work in progress. Club legend Jamie Carragher has retired, Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates are highly unconvincing which has forced Rodgers to add bodies in that area. Kolo Toure was signed on a free transfer from Manchester City while the club is still looking to add another top class player before the transfer window closes down. Further, the Reds are looking to add a left-back too and if Rodgers can add the type of players he wants in those two positions, the defence will be well stocked, at least for this season.
Rodgers in an interview said he is looking to add 20 more goals to his team this term. The Reds despite all their drawbacks managed over 70 goals last season. He bought Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo, a striker who will considerably improve the bench strength to a good effect. The Liverpool management is now looking to add one or two top attacking players that will add substantial quality to the first team.
The way Liverpool have approached this summer, it gives a notion that they have done sufficient home work before delving into the transfer market. Luis Suarez, their talisman was chased by Arsenal and the player himself went to extreme lengths to force through a move, but Liverpool management handled the situation with iron-hand and refused to sell their prized asset to their rivals. The determination, honesty and conviction with which they have handled the saga deserves praise. With Suarez staying, the chances are more than ever for Liverpool to qualify for the top four, and with their stance, the club proved to him how valuable Suarez is, to them.
Likewise, the signing of Simon Mignolet was a master stroke. Pepe Reina was flirting with Barcelona for some time, which prompted Rodgers to buy a solid goal keeper, while he had the time. Reina was sent on loan to Napoli, but his permanent exit from Anfield is now a foregone conclusion.
The best thing that Rodgers have done in this summer is that he has chipped out the unwanted players from the squad like Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. The message was pretty clear. Mistakes can happen. Signing them was a huge mistake. But, not learning from those mistakes is a crime. Rodgers tried to squeeze the best out of Downing last season, but he is certainly not the type of player that can take Liverpool forward.
By keeping hold of Suarez and forcing him to make a U-turn, Rodgers has already won a quarter of the battle. If the Reds can add couple of solid attacking players, like Willian, the Kopites can dream of top four may be, though the chances are still slim.