Players needed to step up

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We look at five players who be instrumental in Liverpool’s success this season.

CARDIFF, WALES - Saturday, March 22, 2014: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the fith goal against Cardiff City with team-mate Luis Suarez during the Premiership match at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Luis Suarez has left Liverpool, yet he will always be fondly remembered by the Anfield faithful — his 31 goals in 33 league games played a huge part in helping Liverpool come the closest they have come to winning a title since 1990. Suarez also helped ensure that the Reds return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2009/10 season, and for that, Suarez will always receive gratitude from any Liverpool fan.

The £75 million generated from the Uruguayan’s sale has helped manager Brendan Rodgers assemble a squad challenging for titles rather than just Champions League spots. It is an exciting time to go to Anfield, as there is a real buzz of title aspiration around the place after last season’s exploits and Betfair’s odds of 10-1 suggest that Liverpool really do have a chance of going one better in the league this season.

If Liverpool are to end their agonising Premier League trophy drought, then they will need players to stand up and be counted for. If the players below play to the best of their ability, then Liverpool will be in the title race all the way up to the final day of the season.

 

Raheem Sterling

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the first goal against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is fair to say that Raheem Sterling is a prodigy. The 19-year-old’s performances last season and throughout England’s otherwise disappointing World Cup campaign warrant this claim.

Despite his age, Sterling is arguably the most important player in the Liverpool squad following Suarez’s departure.

Last season Sterling went from prospect to fully-fledged England international and now he is back from the World Cup duty in Brazil it is time for him to become a club legend.

Rodgers has said how the winger reminds him of one Lionel Messi, and if Sterling can better his record from last season — 33 appearances, nine goals and five assists — then comparisons with Messi will become a far more regular occurrence.

As noted in pre-season and in the opening game of the season, Sterling has really worked on his finishing. Last season he scored one in five shots, if he can get that closer to one in three and plunder 15 goals then Liverpool will definitely be in the hunt.

 

Daniel Sturridge

The Birmingham-born striker made up the “SAS” partnership with Suarez last season, as well as finishing as the league’s second highest goal-scorer with 21 goals.

With Suarez gone Sturridge knows that the main goal scoring burden rests solely on his shoulders. For most people that could be problematic, but when you possess the confidence that Sturridge does it will be a cakewalk.

A benefit of Suarez leaving for Sturridge is that he will be playing through the middle rather than alternating with Suarez and playing out wide. The 24-year-old’s spell at Liverpool thus far has been blessed with goals — 36 in 50 league games — and he has already got this season off with a goal.

Another 20+ season in regards to goals will give Liverpool every chance of silverware; if he has a goal drought then the Reds are going to be in bother, real bother, although Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany spoke of his admiration for Sturridge prior his failure to find the net in the 3-1 defeat at the Etihad on Monday evening.

So yes, largely, there is a lot riding on the dancing centre forward.

 

Simon Mignolet

You cannot win the league without a decent goalkeeper. There can be no arguing with Mignolet’s shot stopping ability, his saves were one of the few reasons Liverpool managed to hold out against Southampton on the opening day of the season.

However, there are flaws that need to be ironed. Handling has always been prone with the Belgian stopper. As confident as you are with him being able to stop any player one on one, there is always a lump in your throat when he has to deal with crosses.

His concentration levels need working on as well. Last season he led the league for most errors leading to goals with five, 10% of the total goals he conceded.

If Mignolet rounds his game, improving his handling and mental capacity then Liverpool have a goalkeeper of the highest order and one that will earn the side crucial points.

 

Jordan Henderson

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Jordan Henderson in action against Southampton's Dusan Tadic during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last season Henderson fully justified the £16m price tag that was looming over his head with lung busting performances a plenty. Liverpool will need more of the same this season, especially given that captain Steven Gerrard sits deeper nowadays.

It is up to Henderson to do the leg work – which he does and then some. Last season “Hendo” contributed four goals, seven assists and was averaging two key passes a game. With Gerrard’s role slightly diminishing Rodgers, the fans and Henderson himself will want those figures to be doubled this year.

Rodgers has called on him to score 15 goals this season. Now that is by no means beyond him and if Henderson does weigh in with 15 then it seems illogical that Liverpool won’t be in a title winning position.

Just like Sterling we saw the arrival of Henderson last season, but this season is about solidifying your name not making it – he could just well be Liverpool’s version of Frank Lampard.

 

Dejan Lovren

It is rare that you win the title and concede 50 goals in the process. Despite Liverpool’s free scoring season, they scored 101 goals in total; their defence was far too leaky.

By contrast, Man City – eventual champions – conceded 37 goals while Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea conceded just 27. Step forth Dejan Lovren. The former Lyon defender was signed from Southampton for £20m, as Rodgers tries to shore up his leaky defence.

Lovren’s league debut against his former employers was a promising one and the pairing of him and Martin Skrtel on paper looks impenetrable. Lovren’s a great reader of the game and that is a trait lacking in many of the Liverpool centre-backs,who are powerful and good in the challenge but often caught out due to lack of positional sense. Lovren is Jamie Carragher reincarnate.

If these five flounder then Liverpool are in real trouble but if they shine, as do Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, then they are a real shoe-in for the title.

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