20 Things Brendan Rodgers Must Do After Signing New Liverpool Contract
As per LiverpoolFC.com, Rodgers' latest contract is a "long-term" one, ensuring the continuity of the good work undertaken by the boss and his staff over the past two years.
Liverpool have made good progress in that time and will contest the Champions League next season once more as a result, but there still remains much work to do to ensure that is a regular feature of the Reds' seasons and to ensure silverware follows. Here are 20 things Rodgers needs to start looking toward over the summer, having wrapped up his own negotiations.
Steven Gerrard's Contract
Steven Gerrard, captain and midfield linchpin of Liverpool, is currently playing with a contract that expires next summer.
His new deal will almost certainly be the first order of business to take care of now that the manager's own deal is sorted; Rodgers stated earlier in the campaign, as per Liverpool Echo, that the No. 8 will get another year on top of that to keep him at the club until 2016.
There is little doubt Gerrard can handle another two years in the deep midfield position he now operates in, so the Reds want to get that wrapped up quickly and move on.
Decide on Other Expiring Deals
Next in line for the decisions for Rodgers will be the other three seniors who expire in summer 2015.
Kolo Toure could be offloaded this summer or allowed to play out next term as a backup again, while Jon Flanagan has both youth and impressive performances on his side—he'll get a new deal at the club.
The third defender is Glen Johnson.
An experienced international and an attacking full-back, Johnson has been largely poor over the past 18 months, and, aged 30 by the time next season starts and on high wages, it is far from certain what his future is.
Perhaps Rodgers wants to keep him and coax better performances out of him, but it's unlikely the club want to keep him on the same contract scale. This will have to be decided upon quickly.
Long-Term Futures of Senior Players
The natural course of events dictates that players will leave the club over the summer, with a handful of long-servicing senior players perhaps either looking to move on or being asked to do so as the club continues to progress.
Central defenders Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel might be two such players under consideration, with midfielder Lucas Leiva another.
There might be a surprise departure—or all three of those above, spoken in the media about being potential sales, could all stay.
Whichever players Rodgers decides he can do without, replace or upgrade upon will likely have already been decided to an extent. Confirming which are staying is important, before working on moving out those who can bring in additional transfer funds.
Confirm Quick Sales of Reina, Assaidi, Other Loaned Players
The Spanish stopper remains a good player but no longer has a future at his parent club. Whether Napoli opt to take up their option to sign him permanently or he heads back to Spain, Liverpool will want to get in a few million for Reina and, just as importantly, get his huge wages off the club's weekly bill.
Oussama Assaidi and other players who have been out on loan—Conor Coady, Jack Robinson and Seb Coates amongst them—are also likely to be available for permanent deals, raising the amount Rodgers is able to spend on new players in summer.
Which Kids Are to Play a Part Next Season?
Liverpool need a bigger squad for next season than they have worked with this term, that is for sure.
That's not to say, though, that it requires a net of five or six new signings—Brendan Rodgers has shown he will play youngsters coming through the club's system if they are good enough, and there are a handful who will be hoping that's exactly what they have shown over the past 12 months.
Jordon Ibe, Cameron Brannagan, Joao Teixeira, Jerome Sinclair, Brad Smith, Ryan McLaughlin...those, and others, will have hoped to have put themselves in Rodgers' thoughts with their performances in the under-21s, in training with the first team or on loan spells elsewhere.
Even if only a couple are deemed ready by the boss, that's two more bodies to call upon in cup games, as potential game-changers, two more who could save £10 million or more in the summer transfer market.
Decide on Who Is Involved in Pre-Season
The World Cup this summer means some of Liverpool's senior players could be on extended breaks over July, not joining up with preseason training from the outset.
Rodgers will have to call upon a number of youngsters no doubt, to flesh out the squad, while some players such as Fabio Borini or Suso will probably be involved with an eye on a final decision as to whether they can bring enough to the team to play a part in 2014-15.
Naturally the boss will want as many regulars involved as possible to start the reintegration process after the break, but pre-season isn't only about that—it's a time for assessing progress from a year ago, a time to impress...and for making decisions.
Work with Committee to Agree as Quickly as Possible on Best Targets
Liverpool's transfer committee decides between all the members who will be the new signings in each transfer window, though no official announcement has ever stated who has ultimate veto power.
What is clear is that players should only be brought in who the manager believes he can get the best out of—but similarly, the boss maybe needs to accept that others may have spotted talents in a player that he hasn't yet.
Or perhaps his new contract gives Rodgers greater control in that area.
Either way, the committee as a whole needs to ensure they work consistently and, if at all possible, quickly, to get absolute targets identified and closed in on, perhaps even bringing players in before sales are completed if necessary.
Identify the Few Problems the Team Had in 2013-14
Liverpool fans don't have too many games to look back at over the last year and point out, what a miserable, pathetic performance that was.
Of course, sides can't be perfect every week and bad games will happen, but Rodgers needs to—will have already done, in fact—look at those poor games such as Hull City away, Southampton at home and so on, and identify where the biggest factors at work came from.
Eradicating them for next season comes from a variety of methods: training ground exercises, changes in personnel, the improving mentality of the team over the past six months. Get to work on those issues—yes, defensive concentration being one of them—and Liverpool take another step toward being the side they want to be.
Review 2013-14 Champions League
It's been a while since Liverpool last played in the Champions League, exiting at the group stage against the likes of Debrecen, Fiorentina and Lyon, the latter two of which won't be in next term's competition.
Since the Reds guaranteed a top-three finish, they will hopefully have had match scouts preparing dossiers and films for Brendan Rodgers to review of the sides who progressed into the latter stages of this season's competition, so that the boss can get a full look at the level of quality needed all over the pitch to be competitive.
Liverpool have some very good players, but they need more.
Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and others struggled to get out of the groups in their first season back in the competition; the Reds need to be tactically aware for their return but they also need to appreciate just how good their individual players must be.
That will impact on the transfer market strategy...it would be hoped, at least.
Decide on Liverpool's Initial System for CL Fixtures
It would be great to think that Liverpool are at the stage where they can play their own game against any opponent and be confident of winning a game, but where the Champions League is concerned, they're possibly not.
Several of the squad haven't played there before, Brendan Rodgers hasn't managed on that stage yet and the side will come up against very different tactics, styles of play and individuals than they might find in the Premier League.
The group draw, the players' mentalities before games and how brave the Reds want to be will all impact on Rodgers' final decision, but he needs to decide how to approach and attack the Champions League. Press high and quick transitions, as has led to league success? Or more ball retention in deep areas, waiting their chance to strike?
Loans for Youngsters
After preseason decisions are taken and sales of seniors are taken care of or anticipated, Rodgers will be left with a handful of youngsters perhaps pushing for the first team but still with a number of starters ahead of them.
Those starlets will find themselves loaned out, as a clutch have this year.
Wing-back Ryan McLaughlin and powerful defender Andre Wisdom are both fighting for the same right-back slot, for example; at least one will likely have to depart on a temporary deal for next season.
New Full-Backs on Both Sides
And to perhaps Rodgers' biggest responsibility for the summer, deciding on which players to bring in as new transfers.
Full-backs have to be high on the Reds' list of priorities, on both sides of defence. Jon Flanagan has proven an able performer but will have to keep up his progress and improvement to feature as much next term, while Andre Wisdom may require another loan spell. Jose Enrique has never regularly impressed on the left and Aly Cissokho will not be permanently signed.
Ricardo Rodriguez, Ashley Cole and others have fans hoping for a big signing on the left, but it remains to be seen who comes in to challenge on the opposite flank, with few names thrown about so far.
Cover for Gerrard
One of those earlier decisions for Rodgers to make could impact on who is needed in midfield.
While a central midfielder of note—passing, pressing, power all as attributes—is an important signing for summer, the Reds might have to bring in another who can specifically cover in the deep midfield position for Steven Gerrard.
Lucas Leiva previously had the job, but will he hang around as a squad player? Will Rodgers want him to, if there is interest and a sale to be made?
Mignolet might be the Reds' No. 1 now, but there are areas of his game he must improve, and having a better challenger for his position is one way to work toward that.
Brad Jones is a popular member of the squad and would likely be retained as a third choice, but the Reds need to go into a season with four big competitions to aim for with a squad capable of changes without dropping the starting quality level.
Michel Vorm continues to be linked, transfer window after transfer window. True or not, it's an indication that Rodgers sees goalkeeper as an area that could be strengthened in the squad overall.
The Third Centre-Forward
Fabio Borini's loan season at Sunderland produced a goal return of one every four games in all competitions. Not all that bad, considering he played from the left a lot, wasn't in the team at the start of the campaign, played under two managers and was fighting relegation all season.
By the same token, it's also perhaps not hugely impressive to return to a club heading upward into the Champions League.
Back to that "pre-season decisions" slide: Is Borini the man to play backup to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge? If so, Rodgers has to be convinced he can add a dozen goals in all competitions next term.
If not, Liverpool need another signing this summer, and Borini may well be sold to accommodate that.
The transfer chase of Adam Lallana seems to be hinging at present on the transfer value being £25 million instead of £20 million, as per Mirror Football.
Where does Rodgers see Lallana fitting in? At the tip of the diamond? Wide in a front three? Can he play deeper for the Reds, where he has not really excelled for Southampton? Is Lallana a "must buy" for the manager and committee?
All these questions will impact on the terms of the deal and the ceiling that Liverpool are willing to go to to land the Southampton player. He's a good player, very good. But is he the one man Rodgers absolutely wants to add to his squad, out of all the available talent?
The Big Signing?
The implication of Lallana's signing isn't so much the financial deal but whether that is the ceiling of talent Rodgers believes he and the club is aiming for.
In reality, Liverpool should be looking another step up this summer. They need to be looking at the kind of player who can not only make the difference in Champions League matches, but who would be in the top few in the Premier League, week in, week out.
A few names have been mentioned of that calibre of player. It's perhaps subjective who crosses the line from very good to great—but let's put it this way: If Suarez was unavailable, how much would Liverpool miss him if Sebastian Giovinco was to be his replacement...and how much if it was Marco Reus?
Central Defensive Partnership
One big thing Rodgers needs to decide on, and get right, is his central defensive partnership for the new season.
Martin Skrtel partnered both Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho for much of the campaign, with Kolo Toure flitting in and out as injuries dictated need.
No partnership looked completely solid, all had defensive errors in them and own goals were a far too regular occurrence during the season.
Sakho would presumably be the ideal starter, plus one to accompany him—so Rodgers must decide if Skrtel still has improvements left in him, whether he (and Agger) is sold and if he needs to bring in another new centre-back signing this summer.
There's also the impressive matter of Tiago Ilori to consider. Again, pre-season may play a big part in Rodgers' thinking there.
Support Costa Rica!
The wisest words Rodgers might utter in early June, from a purely selfish point of view, might be "keep clean sheets against England and Uruguay and I'll sign you for Liverpool!"—to Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The Levante keeper might not need those words of encouragement; he's been in blinding form all season long, La Liga's best stopper in 2013-14, and he will be looking to help his country cause a shock at the World Cup.
He'll be looking to prevent the likes of Suarez, Sturridge, Gerrard and Raheem Sterling from scoring goals...perhaps even sending them home early, which Brendan Rodgers might just love a little bit.
Just kidding, of course.
Start 2014-15 Season in Positive Fashion
Two recent opening games from recent seasons that stick in the memory: Spurs in 2010, which the Reds lost when they were supposed to challenge for the title—preceding a woeful season and the start of the side's decline—and the Stoke match from this term.
Simon Mignolet's last-minute penalty save kept the Reds on course to win 1-0, generating instant feel-good auras around the ground and similarly setting the tone for an amazing campaign.
Expectation will be through the roof next season, so Rodgers has to keep that momentum going with an early win once the season starts.
From there on, the only way is up for the Reds.
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