Liverpool with Plenty of Work Remaining in Big Summer for League, European Hopes

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during their English Premier League soccer match against Newcastle United at Anfield in Liverpool, England, Sunday May 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)
Clint Hughes/Associated Press

Liverpool rounded off a season of terrific progression in 2013-14 by finishing second in the Premier League, just missing out on the championship title, and secured themselves a return to the UEFA Champions League for the forthcoming campaign in the process.

While the performances and the upward movement certainly intimated that the club is back on the path toward the sustained success it craves, it by no means signals that continued progression is assured.

If anybody needed reminding of that, the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona was an indication of how much work yet remains over the summer to capitalise on last term's relative success, both in terms of transfers and the shape of the squad.

 

Suarez

The best thing that Liverpool could have hoped for, once it became apparent that Suarez was off, was that the deal was completed nice and early—and they got the full amount they wanted. With a £75 million move all but completed now, it seems the Reds have won out on both counts.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JULY 12:  A shirt of new FC Barcelona player Luis Suarez are seen on display at the FC Barcelona official store on July 12, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Such a player as the irrepressible, but irresponsible, Uruguayan cannot be simply replaced; instead, Liverpool are going to have to reinvest the funds wisely to cover both his goalscoring prowess and his final-third creativity, as well as the work ethic Suarez brought on the pitch and his tactical versatility.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19:  Marco Reus of Germany in action during the international friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on November 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It's all well and good going straight out and signing a £30 million or £40 million player to fit into the team in his place—and perhaps the club will do that, if rumours of Marco Reus being a target, per Express' Ben Jefferson, are to be believed—but Brendan Rodgers has other areas of his team to attend to as well.

Not only that, but the final third has already gotten plenty of transfer attention this summer, meaning any further attacking signings should almost be first-choice-only players, of the standard who can come in and immediately impact in the Premier and Champions League.

 

Attacking Options

Those attacking signings have seen Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert arrive for a combined £26 million from Southampton, while Lazar Markovic is on the verge of finalising his move for around £20 million from Benfica, as per BBC Sport.

Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Divock Origi is also a supposed target, though he would seemingly spend next season back on loan with Lille regardless.

To add to the mix, Suso has returned from a loan spell in Spain last summer, and youngsters Jordon Ibe and Jerome Sinclair are expected to get a chance to be involved with the side in pre-season.

Taking into account manager Brendan Rodgers' preference for switching between a diamond midfield with two forwards and a wider, three-pronged attack at different stages of last season, it would be feasible to expect another centre-forward to come in—though as noted, positional versatility would be a must, having the capacity to play from a flank, through the middle or off the forward—all positions which Suarez took up with the Reds.

Mirror: Wilfried Bony, Jay Rodriguez, and Loic Remy are attacking targets for Liverpool as they are close to signing Divock Origi

— Transfer Central TNC (@TransferNewsCen) July 15, 2014

 

Defence Restructure

Speak to the majority Liverpool fans and the positions they would most like to have seen strengthened this summer would have been the full-back areas.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Nathan Redmond of Norwich City clashes with Glen Johnson of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Jose Enrique all had varying form and fitness issues last season, leading to the re-emergence of Jon Flanagan as a first pick. Suffice to say, although the local-born defender impressed and deserves his shot at being in the first team from this point onwards, full-back was an absolute must-attend-to zone of the team for summer.

Rumours have flown surrounding various players for the left-back position in particular, but no concrete move has come off yet, with Liverpool starting their pre-season preparations on Wednesday with a game against Brondby.

Sevilla boss Unai Emery admits he is prepared to let Liverpool target Alberto Moreno leave the club. (Source: talkSPORT)

— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) July 15, 2014

Central defence could also do with a particularly good addition, if one can be found and agreed upon, with Liverpool set to face more consistently impressive attacking opponents this term in the Champions League.

 

No Cakewalk from 2nd

If the history of the Premier League has taught Liverpool anything that needs to be remembered, it's that there is no linear progression from second to first—or even from second to keeping themselves in second.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwic
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez both took the Reds to runners-up spots, as has Rodgers now.

Neither of the first two managed to push on for the final step—and indeed when both the former managers were in charge, the very next season after finishing second, Liverpool instead dropped out of the top four altogether.

With the change in Champions League revenue effective from next season, it has never been more imperative that the Reds solidify themselves in the top four of the domestic table this coming season, even in the face of hugely increased competition.

Louis van Gaal will be steering United back up from seventh...
Louis van Gaal will be steering United back up from seventh...Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Manchester United will not be as poor again as they were last season, while Arsenal have strengthened significantly already. Chelsea and Manchester City are almost guaranteed top-four finishers, which means Liverpool will have another almighty fight on their hands just to stay where they are, never mind improve.

...whilst Alexis Sanchez means Arsenal have improved their attack no matter who they sell.
...whilst Alexis Sanchez means Arsenal have improved their attack no matter who they sell.Ian Walton/Getty Images

And all the while, Rodgers will be expected to make a better fist of the domestic cups than he has so far, and try to guide the Reds through the group stage of the Champions League at the first attempt. The latter points may not be particularly set in stone; domestic cup success did not help Kenny Dalglish, and the likes of Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund both struggled initially after returning to the Champions League.

The Reds are trying to get better at walking even as external factors are pushing them to run at the same time.

It's going to be a very delicate situation to manage throughout the 2014-15 campaign, with the money now at Ian Ayre's control absolutely vital for wise reinvestment, ensuring the club strengthens sufficiently to keep fighting on all major fronts, both this season and beyond.

 

Liverpool's season review for 2013-14 is available here in paperback or for Kindle.