Liverpool may have splashed out a combined £49 million on Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert this summer, but even if the club had managed to retain Luis Suarez into next season, they would still have suffered the same misfortune that prevented them lifting the Premier League title last term.
Brendan Rodgers is lacking a star name in the team’s forward line following the sale of Suarez to Barcelona, but there is still a lot to work with.
Daniel Sturridge gave an indicator that he was set to have the season he had last term by scoring 10 league goals in his half-season with the club after signing in January 2013. This is a good striker who simply wasn’t given opportunities at his previous clubs. As for Markovic, there’s a lot to like about the Serbian youngster. He’s a livewire in attack, and though he has some aspects of his game that need to be smoothed over – namely in his consistency and defensive work – he is capable of being a success and regular producer of goals and assists at Anfield.
The team’s problem is at the back, where, much more than the home loss to Chelsea, they were horribly exposed in the 3-3 draw away to Crystal Palace last season. That draw at Selhurst Park was far more pivotal in the loss of the league title than the disappointment felt after losing to Jose Mourinho’s side.
Quite plainly, the defence is not up to scratch, with the only member of the back four who can be singled out for praise being Jon Flanagan.
In Mamadou Sakho, the club have acquired a pricey centre-back who has a fear of being on the ball and offering any use moving out from the back line. The Frenchman’s lack of confidence in his own ability was summed up by his needless pass to Steven Gerrard that saw Demba Ba through on goal for Chelsea’s first in the 2-0 loss.
Take your pick from Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure: both disasters waiting to happen, with the former scoring four own goals alone last season. Skrtels’ goals in the right end are positives, but do little to cancel out the damage he inflicts inside his own penalty area. And for one reason or another, Brendan Rodgers just doesn’t fancy Daniel Agger.
The team need a centre-back and they need a replacement for the defensively useless Glen Johnson, who attempts to make up for his shortcomings through attacking play, but generally disappoints in that area of the pitch too.
If that isn’t enough, Liverpool are in need of a genuine defensive midfielder.
Steven Gerrard took on a lot of flak following England’s loss to Uruguay at the World Cup. The Liverpool and England skipper was singled out for not actually addressing both teams’ defensive needs and playing a part in their respective downfalls.
That level of criticism is harsh, but that level of responsibility shouldn’t fall solely on Gerrard. His transformation to deep-lying playmaker his been fantastic to watch, but it’s right that he isn’t a defensive player. At Barcelona and Juventus, Xavi and Andrea Pirlo have players around them offering that protection. But Liverpool, regardless of Lucas Leiva’s description and Jordan Henderson’s work rate, don’t have a player who can offer that presence, while England’s only player who could fill that role was Gareth Barry. And let’s be honest, after the hysteria calling for and supporting the youthful approach, the 33-year-old was never going to be picked.
Liverpool will find goals next season, even in the absence of Suarez. No other team in the Premier League had the fortune of being able to call on two strikers who had hit over twenty goals in the league. With the additions and improvements of others, they should be able to survive on just the one.
But the money generated from Suarez’s sale – and let’s assume it’s closer to £50 million now after Markovic’s signing – must be spent on shoring up the defence, both in the back line and just ahead in midfield. Without adequate signings, the club will struggle both domestically and in Europe, and it shouldn’t be thought of as out of the question that they’ll drop out of the top four once again.