Liverpool’s summer transfer business has given the squad a far more resolute and rounded look to it, which bodes better than 12 months ago.
The Reds’ 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Monday night was yet another step in the right direction, as Brendan Rodgers and his side look to forget all about the horrors of last season.
A fantastic team performance was embodied by their quintet of new signings – Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke – and outlined just how productive this summer has been at Anfield.
All five genuinely seem to have added something to the team, whether it be Clyne and Gomez’s defensive expertise, Milner’s energy, Firmino’s guile or Benteke’s physical dominance, and Liverpool look a different side because of it.
Improvements on last summer
Much was made of the club’s ultimately disastrous performance in the transfer market last summer, when Luis Suarez wasn’t adequately replaced and a lack of both experience and proven quality was brought in.
It’s always easy to be knee-jerk, especially after such a pleasing performance as the one at the Emirates on Monday, but all of the new recruits look like they will be success stories.
Clyne and Gomez have been a big reason for the Reds keeping three successive clean-sheets and the contrast to Glen Johnson and Moreno in terms of defensive work is huge.
Milner has brought the dynamism to the side that Steven Gerrard could no longer offer, while Firmino and Benteke have given Liverpool an attacking dimension that Balotelli, Lambert and Lallana have failed to.
Something that has plagued Liverpool for many years is a lack of squad depth, with Gerard Houllier’s 2000/01 side probably the last good example of having genuine quality in reserve.
Rafa Benitez had some truly brilliant starting elevens at his disposal when he was in charge, but he had to rely on the likes of David Ngog and Nabil El Zhar far too often from the bench, which never ended well.
Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish certainly had squads that lacked depth, while Rodgers class of 2013/14, which nearly won the Premier League, relied on 13 or 14 players on the whole.
This current squad that the Ulsterman has assembled has a different look to it, and you feel injuries may not hurt the team as much as they may have done in years gone by.
Danny Ings and Divock Origi will definitely offer more of a goal threat than Balotelli, Lambert and Fabio Borini did in 2014/15, and having players like Lallana, Markovic and Jordon Ibe available from the bench gives Liverpool plenty of exciting attacking options if things aren’t going their way.
Midfield also looks very strong, although the possible exit of Lucas Leiva could throw a spanner in the works in that respect. If the 28-year-old does leave, it is imperative that Rodgers brings in a top quality defensive midfielder to fill the void left by the Brazilian.
There is a lurking fear that the Liverpool boss may decide that Jordan Rossiter can be the man to come into the squad more regularly and replace Lucas, which would represent a massive gamble.
Defensively, there is also an argument to say that reinforcements are needed, but with Skrtel and Lovren showing promise, and Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure and Tiago Ilori in reserve, there is plenty of quality there.
Right-back could be deemed a worry if Clyne was to get injured, but Jon Flanagan‘s long-awaited return edges ever nearer. Gomez could also thrive there if needed, with Moreno returning at left-back.
We won’t be able to make a proper assessment of this new-look Liverpool until the autumn arrives, but the first three matches have been full of positives.
The performances against Stoke City and Bournemouth were certainly lacking a spark in an attacking sense, but that will come with time. This is a resilient, hard-to-break-down Reds outfit now, and it’s great to see.
Rodgers has allowed his own ego to take a bit of a hammering in many ways, disposing of his “Death by football” philosophy, and it is proving to be an inspired move.
The new faces brought in have added undeniable consistency, quality and intelligence to the team, and a top-four finish feels very realistic all of a sudden.
We have seen in the opening weeks of the season that there is nobody to fear in this league, with the exception of possibly Man City, and if Liverpool continue to play like they did at Arsenal, we could be in for quite a ride over the next nine months.
The Rodgers haters will tell you otherwise, of course, but who really cares what they have to say after such a good start?