Liverpool have started their preparations for next season on the right foot. Appointing another manager to oversee a new and much more successful chapter for the club was necessary—although there will be question marks over the club’s ambitions following the appointment Brendan Rodgers. Nevertheless, the good signings and all the right noises may account for very little when the weight of this season’s schedule begins to hit home. More than ever, Liverpool need to make up ground in the Premier League, but the Europa League’s heavy schedule may prove to be a great stumbling block for the club.
Fulham’s charge to the Europa League final in 2010 saw them begin their campaign much earlier in the summer, taking them through 19 games in European competition. The end result was of huge credit to Roy Hodgson and his team, and there would have been very few who would have predicted such an outstanding showing on the continent. Considering their performances in cup competitions, the club finished a respectable 12th place in the league. But Liverpool’s ambitions and power far outweigh what Fulham are capable of.
Liverpool’s squad at the moment may not be considered thin, but there is undoubtedly issues of quality running throughout the team. Goals have and will continue to be an issue for the club, with Brendan Rodgers needing to get the best out of his forwards. Andy Carroll’s future at Anfield remains in doubt for the moment, but he could prove to be a valuable asset for the club in a potentially damaging schedule.
Fortunately for the club, Carroll’s international commitments have long been over, but Luis Suarez is only getting started with Uruguay at the Olympics. The striker is likely to miss a number of opening games, and Carroll could provide a good level of solidarity to the Liverpool attack. Swapping Carroll now for another striker, with the need for him to settle at the club, could be damaging. At this stage, continuity will be important for the club.
Like in the case of Tottenham last season, new manager Brendan Rodgers may opt to sacrifice a few competitions. However, failure right across the board for Rodgers could see further pressure on the manager and likely calls for his removal from the dugout. A clearly talented manager, but the upcoming schedule is doing him no favours under a bigger spotlight.
The club are of course not finished in the transfer market, and players like Clint Dempsey and Joe Allen could prove to be the right moves for the club to remain a challenging force throughout the season. But like Rodgers, Allen has no experience performing in Europe and in the schedule that can weigh so heavy on the bigger clubs. Like Charlie Adam, Allen could prove to be a misguided acquisition for the club—good at his current club, but failing to live up to the expectations that comes with a big move.
A good preseason is always a must. Barcelona struggled greatly last season due to their commitments to the commercial side of preseason, rather than the need to properly prepare the squad. Trips to North America can be tricky, and the almost immediate involvement in the Europa League and it’s obscure destinations could leave the squad exhausted for their domestic duties.
But it would be wholly unjust to the club to simply write Liverpool off, citing their lack of quality or ability to remain competitive in the Premier League. At this stage, there should be more faith in the man the club have chosen to replace Kenny Dalglish. Inexperience at the highest level will be factor, but he’s already given a good account of himself in the Premier League with a club and squad that should, on paper, be vastly inferior to Liverpool.
Every ambitious club in England will feel the effects of a heavy schedule, which is why there needs to be greater consideration and action toward a winter break. But if anything is going to slow Liverpool’s push towards a top four finish in the Premier League, it will be the might of those who have shown greater financial power this summer.