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Liverpool: Full Report Card for Every Position for August

Jack LusbyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

Liverpool: Full Report Card for Every Position for August

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    After a barnstorming sophomore season in charge of Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers can look to the 2014/15 Premier League campaign with great encouragement. The report card for the Reds’ first month reflects a promising start, with room for improvement.

    Marking the Liverpool players on their performances during August will be based on their overall contributions and value to the team.

    A summer of immense change was prompted by the record sale of talismanic striker Luis Suarez, and the Reds have signed nine new players.

    Belgian striker Divock Origi is the only of these acquisitions not remaining in the Liverpool squad for the season, having returned to Lille on loan.

    Rodgers’ charges have begun their season in form, with six points from a possible nine.

    An opening weekend 2-1 home victory over Ronald Koeman’s Southampton saw Liverpool grind out a result, with Daniel Sturridge’s glancing finish cancelling out Nathaniel Clyne’s equaliser.

    Not so fortunate in the following fixture, however, Rodgers was dealt a lesson in clinical tactics as Manchester City overran the Reds defence in a 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

    Liverpool finished the month with a welcome visit to White Hart Lane, however, the scene of great joy last season; goals from Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Alberto Moreno saw the Reds take all three points, leaving them in fifth place before the international break.

    As his newly formed squad gels, Rodgers will hope for improvement and consistency as the season progresses.

    Here is Liverpool’s full report card for every position for August.

Goalkeepers

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    Simon Mignolet

    The Belgian goalkeeper continues his reign as the de facto No. 1 within Rodgers’ squad, with three appearances in three so far this season.

    According to Squawka, keeping one clean sheet in three so far, Mignolet has made an average of 1.33 saves per game, with an average of 1.33 goals conceded per game to boot.

    A remarkable reflex save arguably gifted Liverpool the three points against Southampton, but question marks still remain over the 26-year-old’s overall contribution between the posts.

    Namely, Mignolet is oft-criticised for a lack of a vocal presence in the penalty area, and while the goalkeeper was seen bellowing at Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho following a collective mistake at White Hart Lane, this is a valid point.

    With former Barcelona shot-stopper Victor Valdes rumoured to be on his way to Anfield this season, per Ian Herbert in The Independent, perhaps a little competition is what Mignolet needs to up his game.

    Grade: B-

     

    Brad Jones

    Acting as Mignolet’s deputy under Rodgers, Australian goalkeeper Jones rarely sees the light of day for Liverpool.

    Happy to take his place on the substitutes’ bench throughout this season once more, the 32-year-old does not offer the competitive impetus Mignolet requires to push on.

    Grade: D

Right-Backs

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    Javier Manquillo

    Signed on a two-season loan from Atletico Madrid this summer, 20-year-old Spanish right-back Manquillo is an interesting acquisition for Rodgers.

    The Under-20 international suffered a serious vertebrae injury last season in La Liga, hampering his impact under Diego Simeone.

    However, for Liverpool the youngster has raced out of the traps, performing admirably.

    The No. 19 has made two appearances so far for the Reds, contributing to both victories in the Premier League this campaign; particularly impressive was Manquillo’s debut against Southampton.

    Offering immensely in terms of defensive work, Manquillo has made an average of five tackles and five interceptions per game according to WhoScored.com.

    The right-back will need to up his game in terms of attacking support, but he can boast a promising start so far.

    Grade: B

     

    Glen Johnson

    England international Johnson’s stock at Liverpool could not be lower at this current juncture, and it remains a mystery how the 30-year-old’s form has been allowed to dip so low.

    A series of lethargic, often witless performances in both the defensive and attacking sectors so far in two appearances this season has seen the right-back make zero tackles and zero crosses, per WhoScored.com.

    With Manquillo ramping up the pressure this campaign, Johnson will have to kick on greatly to ensure a consistent starting place under Rodgers.

    Grade: C-

     

    Jon Flanagan

    Liverpool-born defender Flanagan has unfortunately spent the opening of the 2014/15 season in the treatment room, having suffered injury during pre-season.

    The 21-year-old’s surprising impact last season at left-back is set to be rewarded with a new, long-term contract in the near future, according to the Liverpool Echo.

    This suggests that Flanagan will feature heavily once more this season, and a return from his current lay-off could spell further trouble for Johnson in the right-back pecking order.

    Grade: B-

Left-Backs

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    Alberto Moreno

    Signed for a fee of £12 million this summer, from La Liga side Sevilla, Spanish left-back Moreno has had a mixed start to his Liverpool tenure.

    Making his debut in the 3-1 loss to Manchester City, Moreno initially impressed with diligent and dangerous forays forward; for 35 minutes, the 22-year-old had experienced Citizen Pablo Zabaleta shackled.

    However, a lapse in concentration gifted Stevan Jovetic the opener, underlining a naivety in Moreno’s introduction to the league.

    Learning swiftly from his mistakes, Moreno was imperious in the following away victory over Spurs, capping a dominant performance with a Gareth Bale-esque solo goal from left-back.

    It is early days, but Moreno looks to be the real deal for the Reds’ left defensive flank.

    Grade: B+

     

    Jose Enrique

    Fellow Spaniard Enrique remains somewhat of an enigma under Rodgers at Liverpool, with a run of fine form in the Ulsterman’s maiden campaign in charge suggesting a new lease of life for the former Newcastle United man.

    However, a series of mysterious injury lay-offs has seen Enrique become a peripheral figure on Merseyside, and the signing of Moreno has hampered the 28-year-old’s progress further.

    Enrique made his first appearance of the season with a cameo on the left wing, suggesting a bit-part future for the Reds No. 3.

    Grade: C

Centre-Backs

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    Dejan Lovren

    Summer signing Lovren arrived as heir-apparent to previously retired Reds icon Jamie Carragher, and is ostensibly set to fill the void left by the Englishman as a vocal presence in the back-four.

    The 36-year-old believes Lovren has what it takes, per the Liverpool Echo, claiming the Croatian “looks like a leader.”

    So far, Lovren has performed adequately, but the 25-year-old’s defensive authority came under question in the defeat to Manchester City; in particular, the shambolic approach during Sergio Aguero’s goal saw the defender fail to keep his defensive line.

    However, Lovren has proved himself defensively dominant, with an average of 13 defensive actions per game second only to Martin Skrtel, according to Squawka.

    Lovren’s leadership will develop over time, but there is much work to be done.

    Grade: B-

     

    Martin Skrtel

    Slovakian centre-back Skrtel was a revelation under Rodgers last season, earning his place in the starting line-up with consistent, dominant displays.

    This has continued so far during 2014/15, with Skrtel giving a solid account of himself in his two appearances to date.

    However, the 29-year-old will need to work on his partnership with Lovren if the duo are to continue to steward the Reds’ defence.

    Suffering injury late on against City, Skrtel will face a fight to win back his first-team place.

    Grade: B-

     

    Mamadou Sakho

    French defender Sakho was described by Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre as the Reds’ “marquee signing” following an £15 million move to Merseyside last season, per the Liverpool Echo.

    However, the 24-year-old has begun this season as third choice, making just one appearance following injury to Skrtel.

    This appearance coincided with Liverpool’s first clean sheet to date in this campaign, and a promising partnership with Lovren blossomed against Southampton.

    Per WhoScored.com, Sakho made two interceptions and five clearances against the Saint, with a passing accuracy of 89.2 per cent.

    With the Croatian having spent time with Lyon in Sakho’s native France in Ligue 1, the language barrier that the latter suffered last season would be eradicated; working in tandem with a more vocal Mignolet would see this partnership bloom.

    Deceptively accomplished on the ball and aggressively dominant without, Sakho should be Liverpool’s future left-sided centre-back of choice.

    Grade: B+

     

    Kolo Toure

    Experienced central-defensive option Toure reportedly turned down a move to Turkish side Trabzonspor this summer, with The Independent reporting that the Ivorian would prefer to fight for his place with the Reds.

    The 33-year-old is now fourth-choice, with Rodgers sanctioning the loan departures of Sebastian Coates and Tiago Ilori this summer, but barring a major injury crisis, Toure will unlikely feature prominently in the league.

    Grade: C-

Central Midfielders

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    Steven Gerrard

    Reds captain Steven Gerrard suffered a tumultuous summer for both Liverpool and England, with the Merseyside club failing at the last hurdle in the Premier League and the Three Lions crashing out of the World Cup at the group stages.

    Nevertheless, the 34-year-old looks to have a renewed vigour this season and has performed comfortably in his three appearances to date.

    Deployed in the deep-lying regista role, Gerrard has been particularly impressive defensively, winning an average of 2.3 tackles per game, according to WhoScored.com.

    Despite the summer arrivals of spot-kick maestros Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli, Gerrard remains Rodgers’ first-choice when it comes to set pieces, and the midfielder dispatched his penalty with consummate ease as the Reds ran rampant at White Hart Lane.

    Gerrard is still an important option for Rodgers.

    Grade: B+

     

    Jordan Henderson

    The rapid rise of Rodgers on Merseyside has been complemented by the rapid rise of central midfielder Henderson in a Liverpool shirt; the England midfielder has become one of the most important players at the club.

    A determined attacking front against Southampton saw Henderson provide Sterling’s opener against Southampton, and the 24-year-old turned provider once more for the winger at White Hart Lane.

    Perhaps most prominent in Rodgers’ midfield diamond formation, Henderson has been Liverpool’s best player throughout August.

    Grade: A

     

    Joe Allen

    Welsh midfielder Allen has so far failed to nail down a regular first-team role at Liverpool but, despite this, remains an important option for Rodgers.

    Replacing Lucas Leiva in the opening-weekend victory over Southampton, Allen provided the energy Liverpool required to push themselves over the line.

    With a further two appearances so far in the Premier League, Allen was particularly impressive in the opening half-hour against City, with his harrying and pressing vital as Liverpool dominated proceedings.

    It will be interesting to see if Allen vacates his first-team place when Adam Lallana returns from injury, but the Welshman should take heart from his performances so far.

    Grade: B

     

    Lucas Leiva

    27-year-old Brazilian midfielder Lucas looked set to depart Merseyside this summer, but a deal never materialised; a dramatic drop in form may underline this lack of interest.

    According to the Liverpool Echo, Lucas’ game-time at Liverpool this season is “likely to be limited,” and the vitality of Gerrard, Henderson and Allen, along with the emergence of Emre Can, seem to suggest just as much.

    Making one appearance so far, against Southampton, Lucas failed to impose himself as a holding midfielder, failing to make a single tackle according to WhoScored.com.

    Replaced by Allen in that encounter, this likely signalled the end of Lucas’ regular role at Liverpool.

    Grade: C

     

    Emre Can

    Hulking German midfielder Can joined Liverpool this summer in a £10 million deal and is set to feature prominently in the Reds’ midfield this season.

    The 20-year-old impressed during pre-season, but has been limited to two substitute appearances so far in the Premier League; despite this, Can was dominant in the centre of midfield once introduced against Spurs.

    Making three tackles so far, per WhoScored.com, Can should leapfrog Lucas in the race to deputise for Gerrard as holding midfielder this season; the versatile No. 23 can look forward to further appearances elsewhere, too.

    Grade: B

Wingers

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    Raheem Sterling

    After a slow start under Rodgers last season, 19-year-old Englishman Sterling developed into one of the Reds’ key players towards the end of 2013/14.

    A promising World Cup outing followed, and Sterling is set to continue this prominence for Liverpool this season.

    Making three starts so far this season, Sterling has scored two goals and made one assist, along with seven key passes, according to WhoScored.com.

    Deployed, so far, as a left-winger, a No. 10 and a right-forward, Sterling’s versatility and consistency have made the attacker one of the most important players at the club.

    Grade: A

     

    Lazar Markovic

    A £20 million signing from Portuguese side Benfica this summer, Serbian winger Markovic joins Liverpool with huge potential.

    Making two substitute appearances so far for Rodgers’ side, Markovic will surely push for a starting role in September.

    Markovic particularly dazzled when introduced against City and looks completely fearless on either flank.

    Per WhoScored.com, the 20-year-old has made an average of one key pass and one successful dribble per game so far this season, despite featuring sparingly.

    Grade: B

     

    Adam Lallana

    Big-money summer signing Lallana has suffered a disappointing injury lay-off so far this season, failing to appear during pre-season and in the Premier League.

    However, set to return in September, the England international should slot straight into the Liverpool starting line-up.

    An underrated option, Lallana will be key to the Reds’ success this season.

    Grade: B-

No. 10s

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    Philippe Coutinho

    Brazilian playmaker Coutinho was the star turn throughout Liverpool’s pre-season and was tipped for a focal role in the starting XI in 2014/15.

    However, this impressive form has so far failed to translate to the Premier League this season, and Coutinho lost his place in the side for the Spurs game.

    Marked out of the game by Victor Wanyama against Southampton, Coutinho was replaced by Rickie Lambert, and the Reds flourished in an adapted system.

    Once more the No. 10 failed to make an impact against City and will need to up his game when the going gets tough in order to remain a first-team choice within a packed midfield at Liverpool.

    Must try harder.

    Grade: B-

     

    Suso

    Spanish midfielder Suso drew interest from Serie A side Milan this summer, per the Daily Mail, but no deal materialised.

    This leaves the No. 10—who impressed during pre-season—with the task of forcing his way into Rodgers’ first team at Liverpool.

    Failing to make the bench so far this season, Suso has a real task on his hands.

    Grade: C-

Centre-Forwards

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    Daniel Sturridge

    Despite the arrival of Mario Balotelli this summer, England international Sturridge remains Rodgers’ first-choice centre-forward, and performances so far have vindicated this.

    Making three appearances, Sturridge has scored one goal and made an average of 2.3 successful dribbles per game, according to WhoScored.com.

    Particularly impressive in tandem with the Italian against Spurs, Rodgers will likely see Sturridge continue to flourish in a forward-two this season.

    Grade: A-

     

    Mario Balotelli

    The acquisition of Balotelli this season came as a surprise to all, particularly given the fact that Rodgers “categorically” denied interest in the forward during pre-season, according to the The Telegraph.

    However, the maverick forward is now a Liverpool player and will likely feature prominently this season.

    Making one appearance following his move in August, all eyes were on Balotelli—and the 24-year-old’s performance was a mixed bag.

    With just one shot on target from five attempts, per Squawka, the Italian will need to work on his finishing under Rodgers, but particularly impressive against Spurs was Balotelli’s uncharacteristic work-rate.

    Grade: B-

     

    Rickie Lambert

    A dream move to Merseyside beckoned for England forward Lambert this summer, with the veteran making a £4 million transfer from Southampton.

    Likely accepting a bit-part role under Rodgers, Lambert has been limited to two substitute appearances so far in Liverpool red.

    However, against both Southampton and City, Lambert’s introduction proved a catalyst to effective systematic change; the 32-year-old is proving an important plan B.

    Grade: B

     

    Fabio Borini

    In a bizarre turn this transfer deadline day, Borini reportedly turned down moves to both Sunderland and QPR in favour of a prolonged stay under Rodgers at Merseyside.

    The Italian forward will find his options severely limited this season and will face a fierce fight to even make the substitutes’ bench.

    Grade: C

Manager

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    Brendan Rodgers

    Reaching 100 games in charge of Liverpool with the 3-0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane, Rodgers celebrated a successful century on Merseyside so far.

    This season, Rodgers’ tactical nous has been probed with some testing ties, but on the whole the Ulsterman has proved his dominance.

    A 4-2-3-1 formation utilised against both Southampton and City was tweaked to a favourable 4-1-2-1-2 against Spurs, and it is this flexibility that underlines Rodgers’ success.

    The 41-year-old is a flexible, pragmatic manager with proven Premier League credentials and, entering his maiden Champions League campaign this season, will look to continue to prove himself at Liverpool.

    It's been a promising start to the season for Rodgers.

    Grade: A-

     

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