Are Liverpool finally flying without Uruguayan Luis Suarez?
Liverpool are on an upward trajectory, not too dissimilar from this time last season. They are 11/10 with Coral for a top four finish, and if they carry on the way they have been, there is no reason why a top two finish isn’t achievable.
Having struggled in the first half of this term, with Brendan Rodgers having to change his system to accommodate new players, cope without an injured Daniel Sturridge and find a new way of playing, with Luis Suarez being a huge component last term.
It wasn’t anything that he was a stranger to. When he first arrived at the club, it took him roughly six months for the player to adapt to his way of playing, and it seems like history repeated itself this season, with a transition approximately the same length of time.
As many as eight new faces arrived at Anfield in the summer, and this followed by a long term injury to Sturridge, prompted Rodgers to change his approach, as the Northern Irishman eventually settled on an attacking 3-4-3.
Up until the start of December, the Reds had registered just seven wins across all competitions, with the team failing to click and Rodgers not knowing his best XI. A lot of the play last season went through Suarez and Liverpool plied their trade with swagger. The Uruguayan had the ability to create something out of nothing, quite often partial to the spectacular.
Currently, they have lost just twice in their last 20 matches in all competitions, both of those coming in cup competitions. Brazilian Philippe Coutinho has been a revelation, deployed in either their attacking triumvirate or further back in a four alongside Jordan Henderson.
Their front three has largely been fluid, with Raheem Sterling deployed in a ‘false nine’ to good effect, flanked by Coutinho and Adam Lallana, with the irrepressible youngster Jordan Ibe sometimes used there if not in a wing back position.
However, they have also had recent success with Sturridge and Mario Balotelli up front and Sterling playing behind them, which gives them credible, quality options. Steven Gerrard’s announcement that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, left fans wondering how they would cope, though Henderson has shouldered the responsibility admirably, and with the captain now injured, looks more than an assured replacement.
Emre Can, who was bought in the summer, initially looked like a promising holding midfielder, though Rodgers has converted the 21-year-old German into an accomplished centre back, who reads the game superbly, and gives more balance to the defence.
Utilising Markovic and Alberto Moreno on either flank has been a masterstroke and adds equilibrium to the Liverpool team. This current run of form leaves fans wondering where they can go from here, and what they need to do in the summer.
Two of Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert may be sold, with the latter the likeliest to be kept. The former Southampton man will have the least resale value, aged 33 and being able to still do a job as well as a Reds fan may be willing to sacrifice lack of game time, and accept being used sparingly.
Impressive Argentine striker Luciano Vietto was linked to the club recently, and could be the closest the club gets to replacing Suarez. If they are to snap him up in the summer and build on what they already have, the Merseyside outfit could be a formidable force next season.