Why 2013-14 Will Be A Watershed Season for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers
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Brendan Rodgers is a man who likes to work under pressure, believing it brings the best out of him as a manager, and next season at Anfield the Northern Irishman is going to get his wish.
Rodgers, who replaced head coach Kenny Dalglish on a three-year contract last June, was given a fair amount of leeway in his debut campaign on Merseyside with the club’s American owners well aware of the many hurdles that the young trainer had to overcome.
As a result, Liverpool’s eventual seventh-place finish in the Premier League and their limp displays in the three cup competitions they took part in last season were viewed with a certain degree of sympathy by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
For one thing, the Reds claimed nine more points under Rodgers’ management than they had in the whole of the 2011-12 campaign with Dalglish at the helm, winning more and losing fewer league encounters in the process, while there was also significant progress made in the team’s goals output, with 24 more efforts hitting the back of the net than 12 months previously.
However, as positive as those visible improvements in the team are, another season with the same end result in the 2013-14 campaign would not be greeted so enthusiastically by FSG or the club’s loyal and patient fans for that matter.
The encouraging thing for Liverpool though is that the man in charge would also not view a repeat performance next season as anything to shout about either, with Rodgers recently boldly declaring that he was targeting nothing less than a top-four finish in the Premier League next year, and with it entry into the UEFA Champions League once again after what will have been a five-year hiatus for the club.
“I’m not here to be comfortable and sit and earn the money and just enjoy being the Liverpool manager,” Rodgers is quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.
“I think we can do (qualify for the Champions League) but it will be a tough ask because as we improve other clubs will have masses more money to improve also. But I believe we have built a real good base this year. It’s not my job to look for excuses, I have to find the solutions to try and push us in there and I believe we won’t be too far away.
“There’s a pressure that comes with being Liverpool manager. And I believe we’re in a much better place to achieve. What we have shown this season is promise. There have been moments of disappointment and moments of delight but when I look at the reality of it we scored 47 goals last year and this time got 71. I believe we will improve again and we have to because we want to sustain a challenge.”
And there is good reason for the 40-year-old to feel so optimistic about the 2013-14 campaign, especially when one considers what the Reds managed to achieve last season on the back of such comparatively meagre playing resources.
Rodgers added just Fabio Borini (£10.4m), Joe Allen (£15m), Oussama Assaidi (£2.4m), Nuri Sahin (loan) and Samed Yesil (£1m) to his roster in the corresponding transfer window last summer, with Liverpool proceeding to win just two of their opening 11 Premier League fixtures as they still sat in the relegation zone in September.
However, since those disastrous close-season purchases the manager has since been spot on in his recruitment, adding Daniel Sturridge (£12m) and Philippe Coutinho (£8.6m) in the January transfer window, with both players fully justifying the manager’s faith in their abilities with some eye-catching performances since the turn of the year.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has already been busy bringing new faces to Anfield this summer, with experienced Arsenal and Manchester City utility player Kolo Toure arriving on a free transfer at the start of next month, hopefully to also be joined by Celta de Vigo striker Iago Aspas according to reports in the Daily Mirror, and with as many as possibly three other new signings also being targeted before the window closes on August 31.
“Naturally we need one or two centre-halves (Schalke 04’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld, reports the Liverpool Echo), and I’m looking to bring 20 more goals into the team,” explained Rodgers.
“We’ve been looking for an offensive player to give us a real threat on goal (Aspas) and another attacking midfield player (Sevilla’s Luis Alberto, say the Daily Mail). We definitely need to do that, especially if we’re going to put some young ones out on loan to gain experience.
“It’s not easy when you can’t make mistakes. We want to keep the acceleration and pushing on so this is a very important window for us in the summer. We have to do our best to make it right because the players who need to come in have to be effective right from the off.”
All of which points to a watershed season for the Reds next time around in which the pressure on Rodgers and his players to achieve success, both in the league as well as the cup competitions, will be greatly intensified from that which they experienced in the previous campaign.
Will Liverpool finish in the top four of the Premier League next season?
However, Rodgers and Co know full well just how huge the expectations will be on them next season, with Europe’s premier club competition the Reds' ultimate aim come May 2014, and Liverpool’s boss has bravely stuck his neck on the line by claiming that the Merseysiders are capable of reaching for the stars in what would truly be a turning point for the Anfield club were it to happen.
“We had a paper-thin squad last year, we had kids all the way through. Obviously those players who have come in have added quality and it’s no coincidence that we have kicked on when we’ve had quality in the group,” said Rodgers.
“We need to improve the group and the depth but that's what gives me great hope for the summer. If we can add that, we can make a real start and then we’re ready to challenge.”
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