Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Preview of the Season: Liverpool

Neo: Mr. Wizard. Get me the hell out of here!

By contrast Liverpool are about as far away from Stoke’s direct style as it is possible to get in the premier league. Managed by Brendan Rodgers, very much the man with a plan, Liverpool have a clear and concise passing style and philosophy. The fans at Liverpool appreciate good football and bought into that style last season giving Rodgers much more of a chance than Hodgson got before the appointment of Dalglish.

Last summer was spent installing Rodgers’ new passing style and system. The tiki taka style system, though at times seeming to lack penetration, gave Liverpool the 3rd highest possession statistics in the league at 57%. Liverpool also took the most shots in the league per game, both home and away, scoring the second highest amount of goals from open play in the league. The addition of Daniel Sturridge for the second half of last season and his burgeoning partnership up front with Luis Suarez finally gives Liverpool the potent strike force that the Kop has been yearning for since Fowler was sniffing lines and Owen was still a baby faced assassin. Given these statistics, it is little wonder that the Anfield faithful are keeping faith with the Rodgers experiment.

Coutinho - A star in the making.
This season the system should be ingrained in the players allowing Rodgers to focus on the minor tactical adjustments necessary to win matches in the Premier League. The supremely talented Coutinho, a player who supplied 5 assists in a mere 12 games, will supplement Steven Gerrard in his role as the creative driving force. In defensive midfield it will be hoped that Lucas has fully recovered from last season’s chronic knee injury to the fans-player-of-the-year level he was in 2011-’12. It is hoped Jordan Henderson will begin to justify his exorbitant £25m transfer fee. In addition to the £20m spent on new recruits, (ex-Sunderland keeper Mignolet to replace Pepe Reina, experienced centre half Kolo Toure replacing Jamie Carragher and Spanish starlets Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto to strengthen the forward areas) Liverpool’s policy of playing and developing young players is also really beginning to pay off. With the likes of Raheem Stirling, Suso, Nathan Wisdom and Martin Kelly emerging through the youth system all should be sweetness and light at Anfield. Except it isn’t.

"What big teeth you have"
"All the better to bite you with..."

Despite all of the team philosophies brought in by Rodgers, darkness reigns. Liverpool are dependent on one man, Luis Suarez, and he wants to get the hell out of there, thank you Mr Wizard. With Suarez Liverpool are lively, buzzing, always a threat. Without his guile and invention, Liverpool are static and lifeless, unsure how to progress. Suarez scored 23 league goals last season and contributed 5 assists. Despite his serious misdemeanors on the pitch, he is Liverpool’s only world-class player and Liverpool would be in serious trouble without him, especially if he were to go to one of their rivals. Arsenal are flashing their Champions League status like a Bugs Bunny toting a carrot and Suarez’s is desperate to have a bite. It’s true that a player of Suarez’s quality is too good not to be playing European football, food tastes better abroad they say, but he seriously owes Liverpool for the way that they stood by him when he darkened Patrice Evra’s name. 

Last week Arsenal bid £40m and a pound to trigger a clause in Suarez's contract allowing Arsenal to talk to the striker and it scared the bejeezus out of Liverpool. This can be seen in the rush of talking heads appearing on Sky Sports News from the Liverpool hierarchy decrying Arsenal's perfectly legitimate pursuit of the player. Rodgers has even accused Arsenal of 'lacking class' for 'playing games' over their bid. It has become clear that Liverpool need Suarez more than Suarez needs Liverpool. 

If Suarez can be appeased and kept, a massive if given his recent comments and desire to be transferred, Liverpool have an outside chance at Champions League football, (stranger things have happened, say, um, a player getting sent off for biting someone…). If not Liverpool will be struggling once again with Everton for that final European spot. These days ‘this is Anfield’ and it is reliant on the febrile mind of Luis Suarez.