Phil Jagielka’s last minute wonderstrike in the Merseyside derby and Manchester United’s win over West Ham saw Liverpool’s stuttering start to the season really make the headlines over the weekend as they slipped behind the chaotic Red Devils.
From being so impressive last term as they nearly secured a first ever Premier League title, the Reds have wobbled of late, with the exit of Luis Suarez and the arrivals of a host of players not aiding a smooth transition to another push for the top prize.
There have been a number of factors contributing to the club’s underwhelming seven-point total after six games, but finally for Brendan Rodgers the stars seem to be aligning for things to get back on track.
Here are FIVE reasons we think Liverpool could recover from their recent setbacks in the coming weeks…
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There’s not a person following football in England whom hasn’t realised just how much Liverpool have missed Daniel Sturridge. Adjusting to life without Luis Suarez was always going to be tough, so having a few key weeks without the other half of the notorious ‘SAS’ combo has made it even more difficult.
Without Sturridge the Reds have picked up just one point in the Premier League, with the pressure having been heaped onto Mario Balotelli to perform in the meantime. When the new pair played together at Spurs they showed signs of clicking into a good partnership, but a thigh injury suffered by the former while away with England on international duty has limited them to just over an hour on the pitch together.
Reports suggest Sturridge is close to returning, with the Champions League trip to Basel potentially a chance for Brendan Rodgers to get his top attackers together.
Balotelli has been the subject of some criticism during the opening weeks of his Anfield career, with the Italian having netted just one goal – against Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League – so far. To be fair to the burly Italian forward, he has been thrust in at the deep end without the support of Daniel Sturridge while a number of players behind him are still finding their feet. ‘Balo’ has had to adjust to the rigours of Premier League football once again while learning the styles of play of his, at the moment, inconsistent team-mates, making his struggles understandable.
Had it not been for a graze of Tim Howard’s arm at Anfield on Saturday he would have scored the goal that would have, surely, won the derby. Fine margins.
Much has been made of Manchester United’s win on Saturday putting them ahead of Liverpool in the table, but the Red Devils have enjoyed a remarkably kind run of fixtures. The Reds on the other hand have endured some tricky games, including trips to the champions Manchester City, top four rivals Spurs and a home derby game with Everton.
Although a double header with Real Madrid in the Champions League awaits, Brendan Rodgers faces five winnable league clashes in a row in the next months and a bit, with West Brom, QPR, Hull, Swansea and Newcastle all on the horizon.
Like last season, Liverpool’s defensive players have ben sloppy. With Suarez’s goals gone Rodgers was always going to need a tighter backline, but so far the issue hasn’t been truly addressed. Yet it’s easy to forget that the Reds’ new back four contains three fresh faces with one, Javier Manquillo, only just out of his teens and the other two, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, 25 and 22 respectively. To make matters worse Martin Skrtel has been injured, which has prevented the club from fielding a settled rearguard.
But with the new players adjusting and Skrtel once again fit, things could be about to get better.
Although Rodgers has played down talk of Valdes coming in, the rumours have not gone away. The Spaniard is being mooted as a replacement for Simon Mignolet, with an October move the prediction. The former Barcelona man is almost back to full fitness after a lengthy knee injury, and as a free agent he can be snapped up at any point.
With Mignolet having been erratic so far, Valdes would add a more experienced and composed presence, which may help Liverpool to repair the damage done so far.