It has been a season of mixed feeling at Anfield under new boss Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool have shown signs of promise and stagnation in equal measure, with each step forward being matched by one back or three sideways.
With ten games left to play, they have an outside chance of breaking back into the fabled top four and securing Champions League football, a regular occurrence about five seasons ago. Although it is a similar state of affairs to that of last season under Kenny Dalglish, there is a feeling that Liverpool are closer to taking a seat at the big table under Rodgers, with the Northern Irishman’s style of play beginning to impact on all of his squad members, even the notoriously old-school Jamie Carragher.
But, how can the Merseysiders make the big push to return to Europe’s premier club competition? Well, Pepe Reina believes that investment in the club’s playing staff is the answer:
“Obviously we will need some help from the board but I think the basis is well settled. We know the ideas and philosophies of the manager. It is getting better and better so hopefully we will be ready to compete.” He is quoted by the Telegraph.
It’s fair to say the Spanish stopper has a point, with Liverpool looking to be one or two players short of boasting a well-rounded and strong squad.
The additions of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho during January appear to have eased the burden on Luis Suarez, and given Rodgers’ men an added dimension. Sturridge’s pace, strength and desire to play on the shoulder of the last man open up vast amounts of space for the Uruguayan superstar, who thrives in the gap between the midfield and defence. Coutinho has, as well, added creativity, with the Brazilian’s eye for a pass, as shown at Wigan, and close control making him a nightmare for opposition back lines.
The arrival of the pair seems to have addressed the club’s major failing of last season: scoring goals. Already they have surpassed their 2011/12 tally, and although Sturridge and Coutinho haven’t been around long, they have notched an impressive six league goals, five of which have come from the ex-Chelsea man.
But, there is still work to do for Rodgers, who must now look to patch up his defensive line, with Carragher set to retire, and strengthen in central midfield. Although there are a number of cost-effective players on the market who could fill these voids – Keisuke Honda and Modibo Diakite are just two – Rodgers needs cash if he is to bring in the calibre of player needed to challenge the big boys.
Last summer the manager was not backed in the market, and as a result of missing out on Clint Dempsey, amoung others. The Reds entered the season with just two senior strikers in Suarez and Fabio Borini. Once the Italian suffered an unfortunate injury, Suarez was the club’s only option, a fact that was brought to light when Rodgers was forced to play midfielder Jonjo Shelvey in a ‘false nine’ role at Upton Park. It may have worked on the day, but it raises questions as to how they would have coped had their magical number seven had a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Although some will argue that Liverpool’s latest financial news shows a need to cut back, the fact remains that the figures are slightly warped. The date doesn’t truly take into account the sales of a number of high earning players, or the lasting impact of massive new sponsorship deals which have been negotiated. Furthermore Dalglish’s dismissal cheque will be a singular payment, whilst a shift towards younger playing staff will drop the wage bill with immediate effect. So, in theory, there is money to spend.
So, maybe John Henry should listen to the words of Pepe Reina. Liverpool are not far away from returning to Europe’s elite competition, and Rodgers’ methods appear to be working. A little more investment this summer could be paid off instantly by qualification for the Champions League and the financial bounty it brings. It looks to be stick or twist time for FSG.
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