Niall Hurley takes a look at what we’ve learnt from the opening games of the new campaign, with some nice questions being raised along the way.
To say that it’s too early to gauge the strength of Liverpool’s new-look squad is an understatement. If last season is anything to go by and considering the ever-increasing competitiveness of the Premier League, we won’t know until the very last blow of the referee’s whistle.
Having said that, there are a few things we can glean from the Reds’ first three fixtures of the 2014/2015 season:
Alberto Moreno looks the business
In just two Premier League appearances, the diminutive Spaniard has more than justified the comparison between himself and Jordi Alba. His goal against Spurs was simply exceptional and worthy of more discussion but perhaps this tweet says it all:
Could swear I've just seen Andros Townsend run past me. Not on his way to join a club. I think he's still trying to chase Alberto Moreno
— John Bradley (@jbradleymedia) September 1, 2014
It seems Rodgers may have in Moreno the archetypal modern full-back who can turn incredible defensive work in to incredible attacking play faster than you can say John Arne Riise. And his compatriot, Javier Manquillo, doesn’t look far off the mark either. Happy days.
Goals will be spread more evenly throughout the squad
Last season, SAS scored 52 goals between them. That’s just over half the squad’s total of 101 goals scored by just 2 players (whoscored.com). In pre-season, Rodgers had this to say about scoring goals during life after Suarez:
We have goals all across the team and will bring in players we think can assist with making them.
So far, it’s a claim that can’t be argued with. If you’ve got Daniel Sturridge in your fantasy football team, you’ll be all too aware that only one of the Reds’ 6 goals so far have been scored by a striker (Sturridge vs. Southampton) – although Rickie Lambert nearly scored when Pablo Zabaleta put it in his own net.
Of course, the strikers will score goals (touch wood) – the prospect of a lethal partnership between Sturridge and Mario Balotelli being particularly tantalizing. But the first three matches suggest that they won’t have to do it all alone.
It will take time to discover Liverpool’s best combination
The squad has been through a relatively drastic overhaul and judging by the first three games, all-in-all, the new players are going to need more time to bed in. There is no wave of the magic wand that can have them immediately gelling with the near-telepathic understanding displayed in 2013/2014.
The respective departures of Daniel Agger, Sebastian Coates (loan), Tiago Ilori (loan), Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson mean Rodger’s defensive selection headache has been reduced from migraine to light throb. Nevertheless, it remains unclear who his best back four (or even back 3) are.
Dejan Lovren, like Moreno, seems to have his place all but guaranteed with Rodgers paying no less than $20mil for the Croatian’s strong leadership and organisational abilities. But just who should he be organising in Liverpool’s biggest matches, if everyone’s fit?
Will Martin Skrtel win his place back from Mamadou Sakho upon return from injury? Is there room for last season’s Anfield-darling, Jon Flanagan? And are both José Enrique and Glen Johnson facing a season of playing understudy to the new kids on the block?
Rodgers has similar selection problems further up the field. Some fans may think it blasphemous to say but Emre Can could challenge Steven Gerrard for a starting place. Sturridge and Balotelli pick themselves, one on ability alone and the other for fear of what might happen if he’s dropped. But what of the players behind them, namely: Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Couthino, Lazar Markovic, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen? Who starts? Who loses out?
They’re great questions to be able to ask though, aren’t they? They’re the kind of questions Liverpool fans have been longing to ask. Whereas last season Rodger’s bench looked starved for someone who could come on and really make an impact, this season promises to be far different.
Of course, all this is an indulgence in premature prediction. But after the resounding win at White Hart Lane, you can almost sense that familiar wave of jubilant optimism begin to crest over Anfield.
A couple more great performances by Rodgers’s men and it won’t belong before you begin to hear the quiet whisperings of Make us Dream, once more.