Liverpool FC huffed and puffed during the summer transfer window and despite some late movement, they failed to secure a few of the options that they wanted due to an operational disaster and lack of funds, but has that allowed manager Brendan Rodgers the opportunity to rely on the club’s talented group of youngsters coming through?
In the aftermath of the club’s Capital One Cup loss to Swansea at Anfield, Rodgers bemoaned his squad’s lack of depth: “We have a very, very small squad. A very thin squad. With three competitions, I have rotated, looked at young players and looked at fringe players.”
Now while the performance and result may have been far from ideal on this occasion, the chances on offer to plenty of players that may otherwise not have been granted a first-team shot this season is pleasing to see, with a number of young players establishing themselves this term.
Liverpool’s strongest XI now includes 17-year-old Raheem Sterling, 19-year-old Andre Wisdom, 20-year-old Jonjo Shelvey and 18-year-old Suso and the lessening of expectations around the club, with the fans sights set collectively lower than they were even under Kenny Dalglish just over a year ago, allows them the freedom to express themselves.
Crucially, they have to be good enough to play for a club the size of Liverpool, but with several more experienced members of the squad under-performing whenever they’ve had the chance, such as Stewart Downing, Joe Cole and Jose Enrique, all on huge wages, it’s no wonder that Rodgers prefers to go for younger, hungrier players which he can mould into playing the way he wants them to.
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The 39-year-old has already spoken of the need to invest in January given the lack of bodies in the squad and you suspect that a new forward will be right at the top of the agenda, particularly with Fabio Borini still on the treatment table and the pressure to play Luis Suarez nearly every game highlighted by the Swansea game.
When Andy Carroll was moved out on loan to West Ham, the club tried to move for Clint Dempsey, but only offered the pitiful amount of £3.5m, while Daniel Sturridge turned down the chance to move to Anfield on loan. With the Chelsea man finding his opportunities still limited to cup run-outs at Stamford Bridge, he may be more willing to listen to offers after a couple more months of keeping the bench warm.
It would be a shame if his arrival were to push either Suso or Sterling out of the first-team picture, though, for they have both shown a willingness to take the ball in tight areas and take on and beat a man. The club have been crying out for a winger with genuine ability for quite some time; not a converted striker hanging about in an attempt to justify his fee, but a genuine wide-man and it would seem that Rodgers now has two at his disposal.
The situation whereby Rodgers has had to rely on youngsters as the club tries to maintain a league and European campaign has been foisted upon him by the lack of money available in the aftermath of the ruinous Dalglish era. Out of necessity, he’s had to rely on younger player to pad out his squad, but they’ve performed far better than anyone would have previously expected and in Sterling they have a player who is the envy of every other club in the top flight.
The majority of the club’s transfer budget this summer was spent on two players that the manager is familiar with in Joe Allen and Borini, yet they are still only 22 and 21 respectively, so it’s a hugely inexperienced squad at the moment, and even those which commanded large fees in the summer have been bought based on their potential.
During the initial first few months of his second spell in charge, Dalglish seemed willing to hand first-team opportunities to the likes of Jack Robinson, Jon Flanagan and Shelvey, which for a club trying to go through a period of transition seemed a sensible approach to take. However, this policy was abandoned in favour of expensive British talent being brought into the club and several youngsters found their path to the first-team blocked off and a manager unwilling to try new talent.
Liverpool are far from being a top four club at the moment, yet for the first time in a long while, they now have an opportunity in front of them to blood plenty of promising young players and it’s an approach which is already starting to reap dividends.Every set of supporters wants to see their club challenging for trophies and the best players, but a potentially exciting and hugely rewarding new era looks as if it’s just beginning and the basis of the team for years to come is being formed.
The pressures and expectations have been dampened and there’s a real sense that a long-term view is being taken of the new manager and his vision for the club; had he been given a large transfer budget in the summer, it’s doubtful whether he would have relied on the likes of Sterling, Suso and Wisdom to such an extent, which would have been a huge shame.
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