Liverpool: Player-by-Player Guide to Their 2013-14 Premier League Squad

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

Liverpool: Player-by-Player Guide to Their 2013-14 Premier League Squad

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    It’s official: There’s less than a week to go until the Premier League makes its long-awaited return, with Liverpool facing a season of uncertainty, as are most of the division’s higher powers.

    Entering his second campaign at the club’s helm, Brendan Rodgers has gone some way in developing an impressive squad at Anfield as the Northern Irishman looks to make his side one of Champions League pedigree.

    Looking at each player on an individual basis, the following slides will discuss the abilities of each player under Rodgers’ command, as well as their prospects for the coming 10 months and what they can hope to achieve.

    Only including players currently at the club and those players with realistic enough chances of actually figuring in the Premier League season, read on to get a little closer to the Reds’ roster ahead of their latest examination.

    All statistics are courtesy of Squawka and WhoScored unless stated otherwise.

Simon Mignolet

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Age: 25

    Biggest Strength: Shot-Stopping

    Area of Improvement: Tendency to Punch

    Upon his Anfield arrival, it was up in the air as to whether it would be Simon Mignolet or Pepe Reina starting in goal for the Reds this season.

    However, with the latter heading to join former mentor Rafa Benitez on loan with Napoli, it’s Mignolet who’ll now be permitted to test his mettle as Liverpool’s No. 1 following a period of slight decline from Reina.

    Last season, the Belgian international was easily one of Sunderland’s standout performers, his fine shot-stopping responsible for more than a few of the Black Cats’ points alone.

    Now, with a higher standard of defence sitting in front of him, Mignolet will look to take his career to the next level and improve upon last term’s record of 11 Premier League clean sheets.

Brad Jones

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Age: 31

    Biggest Strength: Reflexes

    Area of Improvement: Distribution

    While it may have been long overdue, the 2012-13 season was by far Brad Jones’ most productive in Liverpool colours. The stopper made 15 Premier League appearances in the absence of Pepe Reina.

    While only managing to keep four clean sheets in that time, Jones showed good promise as a secondary option, particularly in terms of his shot-stopping, while still showing the tendency for having the odd lapse in concentration.

    So strong was his form that Jones put pen to paper on a new three-and-a-half-year contract extension in December 2012 and will this term be playing as backup to Simon Mignolet.

Glen Johnson

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    Position: Right-Back

    Age: 28

    Biggest Strength: Dribbling

    Area of Improvement: Crossing

    Playing the full 90 minutes in no less than 35 Premier League matches last season, Glen Johnson managed to stay injury-free for the majority of the campaign.

    Growing to become one of the most consistent components in the Liverpool side, Johnson’s versatility even allowed him to fill in at left-back for Jose Enrique at times.

    This season, Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly will be applying even more pressure at the right-back spot, but that could be of even greater benefit to Johnson, one of the finest attacking full-backs in the English top flight.

Daniel Agger

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    Position: Centre-Back

    Age: 28

    Biggest Strength: Passing

    Area of Improvement: Tackling

    According to recent reports, Barcelona are the latest club to show an interest in signing Liverpool’s newly announced vice-captain, Daniel Agger.

    The Daily Mail’s northwest-based reporter, Dominic King, has alleged Agger’s representatives are open to the idea of a Spanish switch, although nothing concrete has emerged yet.

    With the departure of Jamie Carragher, Agger becomes the second-most senior member of the Reds’ squad, making his appointment in a more advanced leadership role an unsurprising one.

    The central rock of Brendan Rodgers’ defence, it would be very damaging if Agger were to leave the club this summer.

    Having not featured in all of preseason, the campaign’s beginning may be a slightly slower one for the Reds’ stalwart, but the Danish international is sure to get back up to speed swiftly.

Kolo Toure

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    Position: Centre-Back

    Age: 32

    Biggest Strength: Tackling

    Area of Improvement: Aerial Duels

    Although Toure was deemed surplus to requirements at the Etihad Stadium, the Ivorian looks to have been a good pickup for Liverpool out of free agency.

    In preseason, the 32-year-old has been an impressive part of Brendan Rodgers’ back line and provides another good option in central defence.

    Now, at Anfield, Toure has a golden opportunity to prove just why Manchester City were perhaps wrong not to utilise him more often as he looks to fire his new club back into the top four.

    Strong in the tackle and not incapable of a pass either, the aerial side of things is one area where the older of the Toure brothers does fall short, however.

Andre Wisdom

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    Position: Right-Back/Centre-Back

    Age: 20

    Biggest Strength: Passing

    Area of Improvement: Strength

    Last season saw Andre Wisdom’s most prominent season in terms of first-team involvement, Brendan Rodgers handing the youngster his Premier League debut in September 2012.

    In turn, Wisdom turned in some very impressive performances for the Reds and went on to make no less than 12 league appearances, all of which were starts.

    Although much more effective from his natural right-back position, the 20-year-old also showed he can do a job at centre-back, making for a promising young utility man.

    Having signed a long-term contract in January, Wisdom would certainly appear to be in Rodgers’ plans for this season and is likely to only see his number of appearances rise.

Jose Enrique

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    Position: Left-Back

    Age: 27

    Biggest Strength: Dribbling

    Area of Improvement: Passing

    One of a few Spanish stars now among Brendan Rodgers’ roster, Jose Enrique only managed to make 25 Premier League starts last season thanks to a post-Christmas injury that ruled him out of action for a month.

    However, scoring two goals and making five assists when he was present, the 27-year-old managed to make good use of his time on the pitch and was actually more akin to that of a left-winger than a left-back for decent stretches.

    Grabbing assists in some crucial results against Tottenham and Manchester City last term, Enrique showed up at the big games and showed just why he’s still a vital part of not just Liverpool’s defence, but also their platform in attack.

    The same story is likely to be played out this season, with the utility now entering what should be the most fruitful years of his career.

Martin Kelly

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    Position: Right-Back/Centre-Back

    Age: 23

    Biggest Strength: Tackling

    Area of Improvement: Ball Retention

    The 2012-13 season can only be considered a write-off for Martin Kelly, one of the most promising youngsters to emerge from the Liverpool academy in recent years.

    Picking up a serious ACL injury in September 2012, Kelly was able to make just seven appearances across all competitions.

    However, in the months leading up to said injury, the 23-year-old made his full England debut under Roy Hodgson and was poised for a potentially breakout campaign with the Reds.

    Able to play at right-back or in the heart of defence, Kelly’s presence will be key, especially if either Agger or Martin Skrtel decide to move on in the coming weeks.

Martin Skrtel

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    Position: Centre-Back

    Age: 28

    Biggest Strength: Aerial Duels

    Area of Improvement: Discipline

    If rumours are to be believed, Martin Skrtel may not remain a Liverpool player for much longer, with a host of European outfits apparently interest in his services.

    Another ex-charge that Rafa Benitez is looking to take to Napoli, the signing of the Slovakian international has been supported by Pepe Reina, per Sky Sports, who just recently moved to the Italian club on loan himself.

    At 28 years of age, another opportunity to sell Skrtel for a premium price may not come around again, but Rodgers will still have a fine centre-back on his hands should the player stay.

    In recent seasons, Skrtel has grown into a more senior role on Merseyside, at times forming a very fruitful partnership with Daniel Agger, although the arrival of Toure will add some fierce competition to the battle.

Sebastian Coates

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    Position: Centre-Back

    Age: 22

    Biggest Strength: Passing

    Area of Improvement: Positioning

    Far more was expected of Sebastian Coates when the Uruguayan arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2011, having just won the Copa America’s Young Player of the Tournament award.

    In two seasons at the club, the 22-year-old has made just 12 Premier League appearances and would appear to have struggled in adapting to the English top flight.

    However, Brendan Rodgers appears to continue in holding out some hope for the South American and has kept Coates close during preseason.

    Last term saw the centre-back line up on Rodgers' bench in 17 different Premier League encounters without actually featuring.

    Coates can only hope that he’s done enough to warrant further inclusion in first-team matters for the coming campaign, although a lack of preseason minutes might suggest more of a waiting period.

Lucas Leiva

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    Age: 26

    Position: Defensive Midfield

    Biggest Strength: Positioning

    Area of Improvement: Key Passes

    For several seasons now, Lucas Leiva has largely been seen as the potential lynchpin of the Liverpool midfield, but the Brazilian is forever victim to his own injury tendencies.

    That said, Lucas did return from a hamstring injury just prior to Christmas last season and impressed in the second half of the season.

    Prior to the 26-year-old’s involvement, Rodgers’ side had lost four and drawn seven of their first 14 matches of the campaign. With Lucas back in the side on a regular basis, the Reds would only go on to lose five and draw another six of their remaining 24 matches, a substantially more successful ratio.

    Although the player doesn’t contribute an awful lot directly to the attack, his breaking up of play and ability to get in the correct position is essential to his team’s hopes.

Joe Allen

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    Position: Central Midfield

    Age: 23

    Biggest Strength: Passing

    Area of Improvement: Aerial Duels

    The sole acquisition for Brendan Rodgers from former club Swansea City, Joe Allen’s contributions at Anfield perhaps weren’t as extraordinary as he would’ve hoped in his maiden season with Liverpool.

    However, the 23-year-old will now look to bounce back from the shoulder injury that ruled him out for the last two months of the 2012-13 season by winning his place back in the manager’s good books.

    Last season saw Allen finish with an average pass completion of 90 percent, maintaining the high standards that earned him a move to Merseyside in the first place.

    Although Steven Gerrard’s playmaking abilities are something to be marvelled, Allen could perhaps do with rounding off that aspect of his game and adding more offensive value, rather than strictly providing a passing conduit in midfield.

Jordan Henderson

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    Position: Central Midfield/Attacking Midfield

    Age: 23

    Biggest Strength: Playmaking

    Area of Improvement: Tackling

    Like a lot of the Liverpool squad, only after the New Year period did Jordan Henderson really find his feet last season, garnering far more starts than he did in the first half of the season.

    And for good reason, too, as Henderson adapted well to an attacking-midfield role alongside the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Stewart Downing to great effect.

    Originally a central midfielder, the 23-year-old may have found his new favourite position under Rodgers, but he will be expected to have as hearty a fight as ever on his hands in tying down a spot in the side.

Luis Alberto

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    Position: Winger/Wide Midfield

    Age: 20

    Biggest Strength: Movement

    Area of Improvement: Speed

    Arriving from Sevilla earlier this summer, Luis Alberto comes to the Premier League as somewhat of an unknown quantity, making just seven La Liga appearances before moving to England.

    However, in his 38 appearances in Spain’s second tier while on loan with Barcelona "B" last season, the Spaniard did make 18 assists and score 11 goals, showing some reason as to why he warranted a price-tag of almost £7 million.

    Although a winger by nature, the 20-year-old is capable of featuring in a more withdrawn role, closer to that of a wide midfielder but maintaining a steady chain of crossed ammunition.

Steven Gerrard

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    Position: Central Midfield

    Age: 33

    Biggest Strength: Chance Creation

    Area of Improvement: Discipline

    With the midfielder once again stepping up his standards last season, it’s really no surprise that Steven Gerrard signed a two-year contract extension over the summer.

    Even at the age of 33, Gerrard continues to assert a massive impact on the Reds’ lineup and contributed no less than nine goals and nine assists over the course of the campaign.

    Having committed 36 fouls in that space of time, however, the Liverpool poster boy averaged almost a foul per game and completed just 75 percent of his tackle attempts.

    All that said, Gerrard is near faultless when on the ball and created a squad-high tally of 92 scoring opportunities for his side, meaning he’ll be a crucial supply for the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas and perhaps Luis Suarez, too.

Raheem Sterling

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    Raheem Sterling

    Position: Winger/Wide Midfield

    Age: 18

    Biggest Strength: Dribbling

    Area of Improvement: Crossing

    Currently embroiled in a controversial court case following accusations of assault against his girlfriend, per The Independent, there’s a good chance that Raheem Sterling’s involvement in the 2013-14 season could be limited.

    However, Liverpool can hold out hope for the wide player, who managed to make an impressive 24 league appearances for his team last season.

    Sterling’s only fault last season was over-involvement, featuring too much for the club before his development was anywhere near complete, bringing on some signs of exhaustion.

    A year further on in his growth and Sterling will have a better chance of coping with the demands of a Premier League campaign, where Brendan Rodgers’ tactics promise to make the most of his speed and talent on the wings.

Philippe Coutinho

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    Position: Attacking Midfield

    Age: 21

    Biggest Strength: Movement

    Area of Improvement: Passing

    An emerging hero of the Kop, Philippe Coutinho may have only arrived in England this past January, but is already making a considerable name for himself as one of Brendan Rodgers’ more promising stars in a new-look Liverpool attack.

    Starting just 12 Premier League matches last season, the Brazilian scored three goals and made a very strong contribution of seven assists, moulding to the Premier League’s shape incredibly swiftly.

    Although his quality in passing is a large part of his game, a success rate of just 76 percent is far from the area Coutinho will be satisfied with, however, and his game would improve tremendously were that to be resolved.

    Now that the English top flight is aware of his pedigree, even more of a conscious effort will be made by teams to restrict Coutinho in the coming campaign, meaning the South American has a tough time ahead.

Iago Aspas

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    Position: Striker/Supporting Striker

    Age: 26

    Biggest Strength: Long-Range Shooting

    Area of Improvement: Dribbling

    One of only a few summer acquisitions at Anfield, Iago Aspas’ last season at Celta de Vigo was a rousing success that saw the 26-year-old fire in 12 La Liga goals, as well as six assists that undoubtedly kept the club in the Spanish top flight.

    Clearly a step above the level he was then playing at, Brendan Rodgers saw fit to bring the utility forward to Anfield.

    Aspas has shown that he’s capable of playing both off the wing and as the central focus of the attack, precisely the kind of malleable talent the Reds were looking for.

    Should Luis Suarez indeed end up leaving the club this summer, the Merseysiders have another attacker capable of filling in a similar role and in a similar style at that.

    Should the Uruguayan stay, the Reds have still brought in a versatile player suited well to the 4-3-3 and 4-2-2-2 formations that Liverpool have looked to use of late.

Daniel Sturridge

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    Position: Striker

    Age: 23

    Biggest Strength: Finishing

    Area of Improvement: Physicality

    Like Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge only arrived at Anfield in January, but he was largely responsible for their post-Christmas success, forming a fruitful relationship alongside Luis Suarez.

    However, the former Chelsea and Manchester City attacker really came into his own in Suarez’s absence, relied upon as the centre-forward in Rodgers’ setup.

    Over the last four games of the campaign, the 23-year-old pitched in with five goals, including a hat-trick at Craven Cottage.

    In truth, there might be some Reds who hope that their club cashes in on Suarez’s signature and allow Sturridge to blossom as the main striking threat rather than pushed out to the wide role he disliked so much at Stamford Bridge.

    However, the fact that Sturridge is versatile enough to fill that position makes him a suitable candidate for Rodgers’ plans nonetheless, Suarez or no Suarez.

    In total, the England forward scored 10 goals and made four assists in his first 15 appearances for Liverpool, spelling out great things for the campaign ahead.

Samed Yesil

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    Position: Striker/Winger

    Age: 19

    Biggest Strength: Finishing

    Area of Improvement: Strength

    Another Liverpool attacker whose 2012-13 season was halted by injury, the coaching staff at Anfield can only hope that Samed Yesil’s prestige is maintained after a cruciate ligament tear suffered last year.

    Prior to his season-ending blow, Yesil had scored seven goals in seven international friendlies for the German Under-19 side and was showing some promising form for the club’s reserves.

    Depending on how Rodgers feels the former Bayer Leverkusen starlet has fared in preseason, this term could provide Yesil with the platform needed to begin his story with Liverpool’s first team or signal the need for further development.

Fabio Borini

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    Position: Striker/Winger

    Age: 22

    Biggest Strength: Interlinking

    Area of Improvement: Crossing

    Although his Liverpool stay hasn’t allowed him to feature in the position all that much, Fabio Borini is one such face that could benefit from the departure of Luis Suarez.

    Instead, the Italian has featured largely off the wing, restricted to playing second fiddle and suffering with injury in his debut season with the Reds, too.

    In the end, Borini would make just five Premier League starts in his first season back in the division, but he will feel his opportunity is starting anew ahead of the 2013-14 season.

    Due to the very promising form shown at Swansea City and then AS Roma, hope still hangs high above this particular attacker’s head, and the 22-year-old will feel almost like a new signing for Rodgers this term.

Jordon Ibe

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    Position: Striker/Winger

    Age: 17

    Biggest Strength: Shooting

    Area of Improvement: Strength

    The very latest sensation to emerge from Liverpool’s renowned academy, Jordon Ibe came into the Liverpool senior squad for two Premier League games last season, featuring in one.

    In that match, the 17-year-old not only started, but grabbed a vital assist in May’s 1-0 win over QPR, showing a glimpse of what the Reds might come to expect from their newest forward.

    Equipped with a wicked shot and a great deal of speed in his locker, Ibe’s talents already appear to be not far from what Rodgers requires for his first team, although one shouldn’t expect his appearances to head into the double figures just yet.

    That being said, the Liverpool boss has involved Ibe sparingly in preseason, meaning the teenager could be closer to the first-team plans than first thought.

Luis Suarez

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    Position: Striker

    Age: 26

    Biggest Strength: Finishing

    Area of Improvement: Discipline

    Possibly the most talked about transfer saga of the 2013 summer period, Luis Suarez’s situation at Anfield remains about as precarious as ever and leaves a lot of doubt heading into the new campaign.

    According to the Daily Mail’s Sami Mokbel and Dominic King, Suarez is still of the impression that he was promised a departure from the club if the right offer was received and is refusing to apologise for the way he’s gone about his business.

    However, even with all the controversy that seems to follow him, the Uruguayan remains an undeniable talent at the Premier League level and one who the neutrals would ultimately suffer from losing.

    One of the strongest strikers in the English top flight, Suarez’s tenacious manner and eye for goal were one of the few factors that led Liverpool to a respectable finish last term, and it would be difficult to determine just how the club would fare without him.