Well, that was a bizarre weekend for Liverpool. The Reds took on HJK Helsinki in Finland on Saturday, and just 24 hours later they were in action against Swindon Town in sunny Wiltshire – they won both games.
Naturally, Brendan Rodgers fielded two unique XIs a he gears his side up for the new season, and both games raised potential issues that could be addressed in the transfer market.
With almost a month of business time left to go, Liverpool could perhaps benefit from making one or two more choice additions despite having already added eight new names to their ranks.
The money is there from the sale of Raheem Sterling, with the club’s net spend not too vast so far, even though over £80m has been lashed to land the likes of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke.
So, what should Liverpool be looking to do? Well, here are FIVE ideas…
A fine debut goal from the big money addition against Swindon Town gave travelling Liverpool fans genuine cause for optimism over the weekend.
There were initial fears that Benteke’s physical style would mirror that of Andy Carroll – who famously failed to fit in at Anfield after commending a similar fee – but it seems, albeit his only game has been against League One opposition, that the Belgian will be able to function in a Brendan Rodgers side.
That said, there is a need to tailor to his strengths, and in Roberto Firmino the Reds look to have a player capable of linking well with him. However, the likes of Jordon Ibe and Adam Lallana do not appear to be to be ideal fits – the former is a very direct runner and the latter the sort of playmaker who favours neat exchanges around the edge of the 18-yard box. 29% of Benteke’s goals for Villa cam via open play crosses (league average in that time has been around 30%) so it’s a myth to suggest that is reliant of balls swung in, but the Belgian certainly needs players around him to thrive as he, although far from being static, lacks the mobility to press alone from the front.
Rodgers needs goalscoring intent around his new striker, which could be something to consider if the right player becomes available.
With the additions made, Liverpool now have a huge squad. This was evident over the weekend when the club played back-to-back friendlies on Saturday and Sunday, fielding a host of international-grade players in both clashes – and that was without the likes of Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini featuring at all.
Although this could be construed as a positive – Liverpool’s fixtures for the coming season will of course be spread out in a more forgiving fashion – there will be many players missing out on a spot in the matchday 18.
Depth is good, but paying large sums in wages to players who could potentially become disruptive is far from ideal, and many of the best sides have forged a tight-knit, small set of players.
Obvious names to be shipped out are Balotelli and Borini – with moves to Italy beckoning – while Jose Enrique appears to have next to no future at the club. Even the likes of Lazar Makovic may not be safe if a respectable bid comes in.
Without doubt the major source of concern for most Reds is at centre-back. Martin Skrtel appears to be solid and reliable, but Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho have failed to convince.
The fans’ choice is certainly the Frenchman, but the ex-PSG man was a part of the infamous defence that shipped six at Stoke at the end of last season, while the Croatian appears so intent on front-foot defending that he finds himself making avoidable errors and leaving team-mates under unnecessary pressure.
Although bedding in a new centre-back so late in the summer transfer window is hardly ideal, Rodgers should be on the lookout for a new option, with money to spend at Anfield despite the costly additions made already. Worryingly for Kopites there aren’t too many reliable links with genuine upgrades out there, though.
After centre-back, left-back is the next source of defensive concern. Although Alberto Moreno showed flashes of his quality last season – a solo goal at Spurs the highlight – the Spaniard’s lack of defensive discipline was a major issue in some of the bigger games, while silly errors – perhaps the worst came away at Manchester City when he allowed Steven Jovetic in to score after botched clearance – are another cause of anxiety.
18-year-old newbie Joe Gomez could even be ahead of him in the pecking order, but entering the season with a teenage centre-back being deployed out of position is far from ideal, and it’s likely that managers such as Stoke’s Mark Hughes will target him.
PSG’s Lucas Digne was thought to be a target while young Swede Ludwig Augustinsson has been aligned with the club, and although talk has cooled, it may be worth going in with a late bid for either.
What to do with Markovic? The Serbian arrived with a burgeoning reputation last summer after helping Benfica to the Portuguese Liga title, but aside from a fine showing at home to Spurs and a good performance at Sunderland, the 21-year-old has largely been a peripheral figure. Pacey and skilful, the youngster looks to have potential, but his slight frame and lack of confidence seem to be issues.
His game time is likely to be limited by the arrival of Firmino and the emergence of Ibe, so a loan move could be the answer. Markovic needs to play, but it is perhaps too early for both the club and player to call a complete end to their relationship.