Brendan Rodgers is close to finishing his first season in charge of Liverpool, in his long term bid to bring success back to Anfield. With a 6th place finish above neighbours Everton still a slim possibility, the Reds will need to keep pushing to have any hope of finishing higher than 7th place in the Premier League. Despite being led in attack by Luis Suarez, who has got 22 league goals this season, Liverpool’s English contingent have shown a massive improvement under the Northern Irishman’s reign.
Captain fantastic Steven Gerrard has once again been a key figure at the club, playing every single minute of Liverpool’s 33 league games so far, without showing a sign of fatigue. Fast approaching his 33rd birthday, Gerrard has scored nine goals this season, as well as assisting nine for his team mates to score too, and has arguably had his best campaign in the last three years. His Scouse team mate Jamie Carragher has also raised his game this season. Despite many thinking the soon to retire defender was too slow, the Liverpool legend has featured in over half of the Reds’ Premier League matches this season. In a sudden burst of form that has led to fans calling for the centre-back to delay his retirement, Carragher looks set to bow out on a high note.
Staying in defence, Glen Johnson has enjoyed a strong season with the club once more, despite at times having to play at left-back instead of his preferred position on the right hand side. Missing just two league games all season, the former Chelsea defender has been a key part to Rodgers’ defensive set up this year. Along with Johnson, midfielder Jordan Henderson has dramatically improved this season under the management of Brendan Rodgers. Henderson struggled in his first year at the club last year, but since being brought in to replace the unpopular Joe Allen midway through the campaign, the 22-year-old has started to show fans why Liverpool paid £16million for his potential.
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Stewart Downing is another 2011 signing that has enjoyed a sudden change of fortunes at the club. A further player who was highly criticised in his first season at Anfield, Downing has noticeably improved as this league campaign has progressed for Brendan Rodgers. Despite fierce competition for his place, Downing has reacted strongly to the threat of being sold by the club. Fighting for Stewart Downing’s place in the team has been Raheem Sterling, who has burst onto the Premier League stage with speed and trickery. Set to miss the rest of the season due to injury and fatigue, Sterling could play a major part for Rodgers next season.
Finally, new signing Daniel Sturridge is only four months into his Liverpool career, yet already has four Premier League goals in a red shirt. Scoring three in his first three games in all competitions, Sturridge has given signs to fans that he could be a great addition to the team, after a tough time at Chelsea. With Liverpool youngsters Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson all tasting first team action this season as well, Liverpool’s English talent can be happy with their progress this season. Mixed with the foreign flair of Coutinho and Suarez, and the strong defence of Daniel Agger and Lucas, The Reds could be in a great position to push for a top five place next season and a place in one of the European competitions.
Rodgers could be set to add more British talent to the squad in the summer too. The Daily Mirror have reported that the Reds are interested in signing Manchester City wing-back Micah Richards. But is there any need for Richards? With Johnson and Enrique doing well for the team this season, and with young English talents Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan all progressing in the youth academy, there seems little room for Richards to fit in. But with Johnson’s ability to play left-back, Rodgers may see Richards as a good player to compete with the English wing-back and Enrique for a starting place, with Johnson able to cover for the Spanish left-back if needed. Although it would seriously hinder the progress of the youth cover for the Reds, at just 24-years-old, Richards has plenty of time and potential to grow.
But is there need for English talent greater than that? The argument for is to bring the club right back to its roots, such as when Rodgers restored the traditional ‘This is Anfield’ sign in his first week at the club. With the mind frame of Liverpool’s successful history, with the young, British talent that can keep progressing, Rodgers may find fame and success.
However, some fans will demand a mixture of British and foreign players. Talented forwards such as Coutinho and Suarez have a flair that is rarely seen in English players, and although attacking midfielder Gareth Bale is only five goals short of Suarez in the Premier League this season, the highest ranked British striker is Rickie Lambert with 14 goals. An impressive total, but eight short of the Uruguayan’s. And there aren’t many supporters who would rather swap Lucas for an English defensive midfielder. The Brazilian is extremely popular in The Kop, due to his work rate and willingness to tackle players instead of attacking. And after Liverpool lost Xabi Alonso due to Benitez’s desire to sign Gareth Barry, the Anfield faithful will be defiant in keeping Lucas.
It’s great to see so much home-grown talent on offer at a competitive club like Liverpool. Especially compared to clubs like Arsenal, who only have five British players in their main Premier League squad that aren’t on loan, or Chelsea who only have seven players in theirs.
But with the Premier League being one of the top leagues in the world, clubs battling with Liverpool are going to look across the globe for the best talent available. The Reds have a fantastic amount of home grown talent, but should only add to that with players that are needed. If a Spaniard can do a better job than an Englishman, then bring the Spaniard in.
Richards could be a great signing for the Reds, but that doesn’t mean Rodgers should only sign players from the British Isles. Liverpool should keep what they have, but bring in the best players available for the needed position, not just because they’re flying the flag for homegrown talent.
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