By Izaac Kay: Liverpool has taken a step back over the summer. The Reds – once at the cusp of ending their over two decade wait for domestic league honours – are now flirting with the prospect of falling out of European football next season, after a series of disappointing results.
In the Champions League, they have accumulated three points in three outings while their league performances tells a story of dismay – a goal difference of 0, with a return of 14 points from 10 games.
In the aftermath of another disappointing result – a 1-0 loss to Newcastle – the Reds are left licking their wounds as they try to recover from the sale of arguably the league’s best player last season, Luis Suarez and the injury to his diligent partner in crime, Daniel Sturridge.
“We’re going to be a slow process because there were so many changes,” said Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, before admitting,
“We are in a transitional phase and have to do better.”
But how long can Liverpool masquerade behind a team in transition – especially having brought in eight summer signings worth a staggering £133 million to augment a Suarez-less side?
Briefly looking at the summer imports into the club, Mario Balotelli – the most prolific of all their purchases this season – has been a disappointing figure thus far and is yet to register his first English Premier League goal for the Reds. Dejan Lovren, a summer recruitment snapped up during the Southampton exodus is slowly finding his footing, but is yet to become the towering and imposing fixture he was last season.
Lazar Markovic has done little to justify his price tag, while English international and former Reds, Rickie Lambert, has barely been afforded enough game time to make a difference on his return to Anfield. The only summer successes have been fullbacks, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, who have added an attacking presence to the Reds on either flanks. However, they do look susceptible at the back – but that seems to be teething problems that should subside a few games from now.
“When you introduce a raft of new players and lose the core of players, that’s obviously a factor and then it becomes a little bit broken. That’s how our game has looked for me for a big part of the season. Where I am fortunate is that I have a group of players here that identify with that,” said Rodger, prior to the Merseyside derby that ended 1-1.
But the problems lay deeper than the undeniable inability to score goals with religious frequency. Last season, the Reds were amongst the most feared sides, scoring breathtaking goals from sweeping counter attacks. And it was that kind of performance that shrouded the decay in their side; Liverpool had one of the worst defensive records in the league of any side in the top half of the table. However the plundering of goals – almost at will – canvassed that handicap last season, but not this time round.
It is no secret the Reds have missed Daniel Sturridge, but after a summer splurge; they need not lay the onus solely on the Englishman to bag in the goals. Balotelli, Lambert and Markovic must come good for their side, especially after all the efforts being put in by the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling in providing the attacking impetus to augment the strikers.
What remains for Rodgers is solving the conundrum he brought upon himself with the plethoric summer purchases, as he tweaks his side to find the best possible XI that will propel him back on course of what has been a tipsy-curvy season thus far.
Izaac Kay is a sports writer at sportswriters.us