We got our first glimpse of a post-Luis Suarez Liverpool this past weekend, despite the Uruguayan lurking in the wings at Anfield. The latest U-turn on the U-turn would leave most feeling dizzy; where are we now? Is he going or staying? But there is hope for Liverpool, and more importantly a bright and exciting hope that manifested itself in the 1-0 win over Stoke.
Simon Mignolet’s double save summed up the new dawn best. Would Pepe Reina have saved that? Probably, the Spaniard is a bit good at winning the battle of nerves when it comes to penalties. But would the recent Pepe Reina have stopped it and secured Liverpool all three points? There are doubts, let’s be honest.
The Belgian goalkeeper, making his debut at Anfield and understandably starting out a little shaky, emerged in what is likely set to be a new dawn for the club.
But the new goalkeeper’s actions won’t be the long-standing topic for discussion. Instead, it will be centred on the new-look attack that will likely revolve around the exploits of a duo who bring as much Latin flair to the side as Suarez did.
On his debut, Iago Aspas really impressed. He did everything to justify the claims of La Liga followers last year that he was ready for the big time in Europe, whether that be in Spain or elsewhere. Let’s be realistic, probably elsewhere.
The Spaniard has a lot about him that draws parallels to Suarez, from his movement, to the not so defined position he takes up on the pitch and his inclination to sprinkle some magic dust on the pitch at Anfield. Could the Premier League have given him a ruder welcome? Unlikely. I don’t look to Stoke as the benchmark for the way the game is played in England as others sometimes do, but they’re as tough as they come. For a player who is used to something of a more protected game in Spain, the visit of Stoke would have given him a real test.
And fortunately for Liverpool Aspas emerged with everything intact. Combining with Coutinho, the mercurial duo not only looked to be forging Liverpool’s attack for the future between them, but also that there was an understanding; a level of joy for both to be linked with the other, and the acceptance of what they had to do at this club for many years to come.
Daniel Sturridge may have scored the game’s only goal to give Liverpool a positive start to this campaign, but he’ll largely be relegated to conversation that punctuates the excitement stemming from the Brazilian and Spaniard.
More excitement looks to be on the cards before the transfer window closes. Liverpool are said to be among the frontrunners in the race for Willian’s signature, a likely replacement for Suarez, despite the Brazilian being much more of a midfielder than forward. It shouldn’t matter too much, Liverpool do have the bodies in attack to see out the campaign. What they’re doing is clearly identifying a way to make up for Suarez’s goal tally without replacing him with a like-for-like. The enormity of the task should be well known to anyone who’s followed this summer’s transfer proceedings.
It may be difficult to paint a picture of no European football of any kind as something of a blessing. But Liverpool aren’t quite ready for that yet. This is still a side that Brendan Rodgers is moulding into a unit that he sees fit enough to sustain a season-long challenge on the title. But first comes the steps up the ladder and towards Champions League football.
Coutinho is still young, and as talented as he is the pressure of European football and the English schedule will take its toll. Let’s not forget that he hasn’t been in this country for a year yet, so he’s still very much in a period of adapting, despite how well he masks it.
As for Aspas, much of the same can be said, but even more so that he has no experience of playing for one of the big hitters in Europe. The Galician is Celta Vigo through and through, and only two seasons ago he was playing in the Spanish Segunda. Give him further time to continue to form the bond with Coutinho (and possibly Willian if he arrives) and Liverpool could have one of the most attractive and eye-catching attacks in England.
Is the duo of Coutinho and Aspas good enough to lead Liverpool’s attack post-Suarez?
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