What exactly went wrong for Liverpool in the summer?
The view from the top of Liverpool cathedral is all-encompassing. Even with mist descending on the spire and over the iconic city, the outlook is still clear.
However, there is still the metaphorically ominous black cloud hanging over Anfield, as Brendan Rodgers’ Reds struggle to string results together. With winter almost upon us, and darkness drawing in, there are distinct shades of grey apparent when making comparisons between the quality of the squad this and last season.
It all seemed so promising for Liverpool in pre-season, who are 9/4 with Coral to finish in the Premier League top four this term. A total of 11 new faces, figuratively speaking, and not counting Divock Origi, came through Anfield’s doors, which have only just stopped swinging, following the flourish of activity.
When a £25m bid for Adam Lallana materialised, it made major waves when you consider the England player’s fine form of last season. Then Benfica’s Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren, also poached from Southampton, arrived for £20m apiece, and the squad looked, all of a sudden, stronger and more competitive.
Rodgers wasn’t deviating from his previous strategy of youth development. The above signings have an average age of 23.6; encouraging for the Northern Irishman’s future plans, though more youngsters followed. Germany youth international midfielder Emre Can (20), Spanish left back Alberto Moreno (22) and Javi Manquillo (20), the latter on loan, followed.
Liverpool stood firm in their stance over Luis Suarez; he wasn’t for sale, at any price. And then the World Cup happened. Biting Giorgio Chiellini seemed to convince the club to cash in, with Barcelona offering a reported £75m for the Uruguay striker who had just won the 2013/14 Premier League Player of the Year, scooping the Golden Boot as well.
With only Daniel Sturridge and new veteran signing Rickie Lambert as options in attack, Rodgers had to act. Paying £16m for former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli appeared at the time to be a masterstroke. So far, the Italian enigma is yet to make an impression.
Rodgers needed a player of Suarez’s calibre to replace him, and Balotelli was no doubt a gamble. Their only other option was Edinson Cavani who, at the time, was considering his options at PSG and reportedly offered to Liverpool. The price tag would have been in the region of £50m though, whether club hierarchy hesitated over the fee is a matter that may not come to light.
A senior striker such as Balotelli was the right road to go down; however, whether he was the right signing remains to be seen. For some reason, the team do not seem to be clicking. The injury of Sturridge was poor timing, nevertheless, they lack the unpredictability that Suarez offered.
Raheem Sterling, in time, can become as effective, though there have been issues already about over-using the 19-year-old attacker, and at the minute Rodgers’ Reds are in a quandary. January can’t come soon enough, though with a cathedral on their doorstep, the squad can at least pray to the footballing Gods.