Liverpool: 7 Bold Predictions for Next Season at Anfield
The Brendan Rodgers era is here.
Liverpool supporters are once again optimistic about their chances to stake a claim as contenders for the Premier League trophy.
Any frequent visitor to the club’s website would probably second me when I say that there has been a considerable increase in the number of articles hyping the Rodgers era at Anfield.
Far too many articles, dare I say, are hyping up the prospect of Rodgers’ managerial flair within a period of few days and may not appeal much to the hardcore supporters who’d only truly be convinced when results start coming their way.
This new approach shows that the club hierarchy are desperate to up Rodgers’ popularity amongst the supporters. However, it also shows the confidence the board have got in their man and that they are prepared to back him as much as they can.
Also, Rodgers’ promise of tiki-taka football has kept the supporters ticking and managed to keep their hopes alive.
Crucial to remember at this juncture is the reason for his appointment. Kenny Dalglish’s inability to lead the club into Champions League qualification placing was the reason behind the Anfield club icon’s removal from the managerial post.
This paved the way for Rodgers to come in and set upon doing business his way. But to do exactly that, it is essential for him to have the right set of players at his disposal. The transfer window is where Rodgers can back his claim by bringing in the players that he thinks he would need in order to build the club for the new season.
So an interesting offseason is in the pipeline to go with some international action at the Euro championships.
Let us round it off with my seven predictions for the season to come at Anfield.
Expect New Wingers
If Liverpool indeed mean business in an increasingly competitive Premier League environment, the Reds have got to become active buyers in the transfer market, strengthening the squad in every possible way and providing Rodgers with the perfect ammunition to set about challenging the top sides in the competition.
Rodgers’ season with Swansea saw the rise of Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair as prominent wingers who are more than capable of causing their fair share of troubles to the opposition defenders.
And indeed, the type of football proposed by the Irishman will necessitate the employment of quick, attack-minded wingers who will have no problems cutting in.
Liverpool’s season under Dalglish gave us enough evidence of Jordan Henderson’s inability to fill in at the right mid slot.
Dirk Kuyt’s departure means Rodgers has got to dig the market for a quality right winger to replace the Dutchman.
Stewart Downing, despite what the Opta stats suggest, had a bad first season in terms of return on investment at LFC. Rodgers may or may not look to replace the England international with a more efficient left winger.
Rest assured, a new winger is almost certain to arrive at Anfield.
Andy Carroll May Be Used Less
One of the casualties of Rodgers’ proposed playing policy may be Andy Carroll.
What use is a big man going to be in a system that involves so much passing and moving unless the player is equally very mobile?
Andy Carroll relishes playing in a target-man system with him leading the attack line.
A team with players chosen to complement his style of play is probably what works to his best.
Carroll’s lack of mobility was there for everyone to see during the early part of last season—a period which also saw him struggle with strength, balance, pace and aerial capacity—as the forward was working his way back to full fitness from a thigh injury.
Carroll did ultimately rejuvenate himself with a few good performances towards the end of the season; those have now resulted in him getting the nod for the Euros.
To get Carroll scoring was an area where Kenny Dalglish failed. Let us not get ahead of ourselves and discuss if Rodgers can better Dalglish in that area, as questions still remain over Carroll’s future under Rodgers.
20+ Goals from Suarez/Carroll
Let us keep the doubts over Carroll’s future to one side.
Now, if Rodgers indeed manages to play Suarez and Carroll together, then there is a high probability that the next season may see the first time since Fernando Torres in the 2007-08 season that a Liverpool frontman has scored 20+ goals in a Premier League campaign.
Liverpool’s attacking woes of recent years continued to show their head throughout last season, as several goal-bound shots didn’t end up in their destination while many others just sailed over and wide.
Put simply, Liverpool hasn’t quite managed to find that 20+ goals striker of the Fowler, Owen and Torres mould.
Despite paying over £50 million for their services, Suarez and Carroll haven’t managed to push Liverpool’s pride further up.
But who knows?
Maybe Rodgers is the man to change all that, and we may be in for a treat.
Jamie Carragher’s Last Season
His game time did severely decrease under Kenny Dalglish’s stewardship, but this season under Brendan Rodgers may well turn out to be the last for this 34-year-old veteran.
Carragher, who turns 35 in January 2013, should know more than anyone that the time has probably come to call time on his illustrious career.
It would do him better to prolong his association with Liverpool as a valuable member of the coaching staff than as a player because of what he brings to the table in terms of experience.
While the choice is still Carragher’s, questions over his agility and inability to fit in the proposed new system may force his hand.
However, if Giggs can carry on, then I see no reason why Carragher can’t. The causes that might force a player’s decision are the drive and passion to carry on playing, apart from the obvious health factor.
But I’m going to take a dare and state that this season may well turn out to be the swansong campaign for one of Liverpool Football Club’s greatest servants.
Champions League by the End of Season
Liverpool have now lived life outside of the Champions League for three successive seasons.
The club’s new owners, while explaining the reason behind Kenny’s departure, made it clear that failure to qualify for the lucrative competition was the main reason behind the dismissal.
And the same applies for Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers’ prime target should be a return to Champions League and if the results start coming in, there is no reason why Liverpool will not finish in one of the four qualification places.
So Liverpool supporters can expect a return of Champions League nights at Anfield in the not-so-distant future.
Increased Involvement of Academy Graduates
Young academy players like Sterling, Suso and the like were promised game time under Dalglish, but it never materialised under the Scot due to the pressure.
However, Rodgers may look to involve more academy talents in first team affairs while gradually bringing a change to the way the academy coaches teach football to the starlets.
To follow a successful setup like the one at FC Barcelona, it is essential to teach the club’s youngsters a method of football that will in future help their integration process into the first team much easier.
It does take time to build a strong youth setup that is capable of producing world-class talents for the first team. However, Rodgers’ little decision to give more game time to promising youngsters may help him score brownie points with the club’s supporters who have been longing to see an academy graduate, of the Fowler or Owen type, in club colours for a long time.
Tiki-Taka Style Is a Certainty
And last, but not the least—the style of play.
Rodgers has promised the club supporters a style of play that will definitely make Liverpool a tough opponent for any team that visits Anfield.
He has expressed what he plans to do with the team and the style of play so abundantly that the supporters need not have any concern over the type of performance to expect from the team.
Rodgers expects the supporters to back him in his new venture and in return promises action-oriented style of football from the Reds.
And pondering over all this leads me to think—isn’t revealing the team game plan even before the season has commenced placing the Reds in a more vulnerable position as it gives the opponents abundant information?
Maybe the original plan for the team is hidden somewhere in the pages of Brendan’s scribble pad. At this point, speculations will be our preferred poison.
Until the season gets underway, we will never have the clear picture.
The future looks bright for Rodgers. Whether he runs with the ball or drops it is a question that will demand patience from the supporter to reveal its answer.