Brendan Rodgers will hope that Liverpool’s friendly defeat to Celtic is the nadir of what is proving to be a testing summertime. The Ulsterman will now wish to look forward to the impending Premier League season and anticipate that the worst is behind him and his club.
However, in the immortal words of Chief Clancy Wiggum, “This is going to get worse before it gets better.”
The eternal debacle and controversy surrounding the future of Luis Suarez may or may not be solved by the time the transfer window closes. If he stays, Rodgers will need to put all of his diplomacy skills to the test in order to appease this toxic influence.
If he departs, the Northern Irish boss will need to meld together a side sans their top star and primary threat—judging on the evidence provided during their defeat to Celtic at the Aviva Stadium, this may be quite a job.
This article profiles five Liverpool players Rodgers will need to stand up and be counted on over the coming weeks and months. Without a serious contribution from the ensuing names, it risks being a difficult season for everyone at Anfield.
Were Suarez to leave, Philippe Coutinho would likely be Liverpool’s go-to inspiration…if not their only inspiration.
The pint-sized Brazilian showed flashes of his brilliance last season and, with added experience and greater cohesion with his teammates, could be set for a sterling season. Brendan Rodgers has expressed his excitement at the potential effectiveness of the Coutinho-Sturridge partnership, and indeed, the pair combine to make a fluid, creative and often lethal forward line.
This was on display again against Celtic but without a tangible end product. More will be demanded of both Coutinho and Sturridge as the season unfolds.
I doubt many of us can imagine the loss and the absence felt in the Liverpool dressing room following the retirement of Jamie Carragher.
Imagine the deafening silences during the half-time break where once his Scouse twirl bellowed out instructions, encouragement and condemnations.
Picture Stevie Gerrard, turning to one side for a quiet word with his lieutenant, only to find a scrawny Iago Aspas responding with a nervous twitch and a “que?”
Finally, visualise that iconic No. 23 shirt, hanging lonely now, or perhaps sequestered in the club museum, never again to be smeared with the Anfield turf and mud.
Instead, you will have Kolo Toure, a man who reportedly had an affair with a woman for years, telling her that he was a used-car salesman named Francois.
They are big shoes to fill, and the Ivorian will have to find reserves of inspiration not seen for some years. The Kop will be expectant.
Allen was to the club as the first building block of the revolution, the cornerstone from which Rodgers would build his Scouse Swansea, an upgraded model of his terrifically stylish Welsh success story.
It’s fair to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan thus far. Injuries certainly played a part in Allen’s underwhelming start to life in Merseyside, but even so, his anonymous performances—after an encouraging start—did little to suggest that he was worth the £15 million Rodgers paid to snare him from South Wales.
There are fears that alongside Lucas and Gerrard, two ostensibly similar players, he will form a steady midfield that will bolster the side without providing an enormous goal threat. Perhaps Allen, as he did so impressively at Gerrard’s recent testimonial, needs to begin imposing himself on games and finding the net more regularly.
If he does, he can be a valuable asset to the Rodgers revolution.
While Pepe Reina's form had diminished greatly toward the end of his tenure on Merseyside, the Spaniard was a constant for so long at Anfield and often proved to be a mark of class and quality while those around him bungled.
Over the coming months and years, Simon Mignolet will need to show the same levels of consistency, concentration and character—three qualities that will determine his standing and reputation within the game.
The likes of Manuel Almunia, Heurelho Gomes, Mark Bosnich, Lukasz Fabianski and Tim Howard all provide fitting examples of how able men (perhaps not in the case of Gomes) can flounder when placed in a high-pressure environment at the elite level of the sport.
Anfield is no Stadium of Light, and Mignolet will need to demonstrate his capacity to organise and his ability to rise to the occasion almost immediately. Liverpool fans have grown very disenchanted recently with players from lesser English clubs who have struggled to adapt to the demands of the Kop.
Mignolet will need to prove that his is not a name to be added to the list.
While his role within the side may be changing, as his ageing body adapts the ever-demanding Premier League, Gerrard’s influence and force of will remains as emphatic as ever.
Shorn of his trusty companion Carragher, no one but Rodgers will be required to shoulder the burden of Suarez’s treachery and betrayal as much as Liverpool's skipper.
Imagine seeing your beloved infatuated with a new partner, a charlatan, only for the newcomer to drag your sweetheart through the mud, desecrate their reputation and show little regard for their state of mind.
Perhaps this analogy can begin to approach exploring the sentiment and disgust felt by Gerrard at the sight of his darling L.F.C.—the bosom of Carragher, Callaghan and Clemence—so ill-treated by one with whom she was besotted.
Whiston-born Gerrard may prove to be the saving grace; the shoulder to cry on and the one ray of sunshine following the inevitable breakup.