Will Liverpool repeat last season's catastrophe?
With Liverpool Football Club being one of the most active teams of the Premiership in this season’s now closed transfer window, how does the current squad compare to last season? Putting aside the fact that Fernando Torres will once again be their sole striker, you have to wonder if the “world class players” the Spaniard hinted at are present at Anfield and if this squad can do better than last season’s dismal seventh-place finish.
Since coming in to manage Liverpool earlier in the preseason, Roy Hodgson has added and subtracted from the Liverpool squad with mixed results. He’s made key additions in the form of Raul Meireles, Paul Konchesky, and Joe Cole, who will undoubtedly bring something to the club. On the opposite end of the scale, however, the departures of Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun have left spaces which the former Fulham manager will need to address.
In goal, Liverpool have one of the world’s finest keepers in Pepe Reina. The charismatic Spaniard is of unquestionable class despite his rare error against Arsenal. Diego Cavalieri has said goodbye to the club with Hodgson opting for the young Australian keeper Brad Jones as a backup. Unless Reina becomes injured, Liverpool fans need not fret.
Defense is an area that has often divided Liverpool fans for some time now, with the left back position being a spotlight for the last few months. Last season saw Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio alternating roles with the Argentine being the preferred choice.
With Insua now on loan and Andrea Dossena a forgotten memory, the left back position has been briefly occupied by Daniel Agger, who despite his best efforts, was ineffective.
To address the problem, Hodgson has brought in Paul Konchesky from Fulham. The experienced left back has worked under Hodgson before and will relish the opportunity to play for Liverpool and is seen as a consistent enough performer to warrant a place in Liverpool’s starting lineup.
Right back, though, has been occupied by Glen Johnson, who has often been praised for his forward movement and equally dismissed for his oft-suspect defending. He is one of the few players in the Liverpool squad able to whip in a decent cross. Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, and Dan Agger constitute what should be Liverpool’s best defensive options with Agger and Carragher paring up and Skrtel covering for both. The aerial ability of these three defenders is noteworthy and the experience and diehard attitude Carragher has is the driving force behind the entire defensive unit.
Like last season, Liverpool will begin their campaign after the loss of an influential midfielder. The impact of Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid was clearly felt at Anfield and one has to wonder whether the loss of the Argentine captain, Javier Mascherano, will have a similar effect.
We have already seen how the current stock of defensive midfielders were trounced by their opposite numbers in the game against Manchester City, a particular highlight being the rather ineffectual form of Lucas, who seems to be the favored replacement.
The arrival of Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles over the past few weeks could push Lucas down the pecking order and provide a dynamism and creativity which have been lacking in the center of the park needed to support Steven Gerrard. Alberto Aquilani was tipped to be the solution to that but he was injured far too often; when he did play, he showed glimpses of his price tag. Aquailni has since moved to Juventus on a season-long loan.
Liverpool have long been lacking natural wide players with Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole, Dirk Kuyt, Milan Jovanovic, and Twitter fiend Ryan Babel plying their trades here. The wealth of options for these positions is enviable but they have yet to produce commendable performances.
As far as forwards are concerned, Liverpool fans will have to look forward to another season of over-reliance on the brilliant but injury prone Fernando Torres. The Spanish international has already reminded Liverpool fans exactly why he is their No. 1 striker with a goal against West Bromwich but is still not 100 percent fit.
While David Ngog is a promising talent, his lack of experience could be damaging to the Liverpool club and he could have benefited from a season loan. Hodgson recently promised Ryan Babel the chance to play in his favored forward role. The inability of Hodgson to bring in a suitable backup/partner for Torres could be costly should he become injured. A wealth of names had been tipped to be signed by the Reds but, alas, not even one has made it to Melwood.
Has Liverpool’s squad improved? Despite the obvious absence of potent striking ability beyond Torres, the squad seems to have improved and should mount a challenge to unwary teams. The squad has a decent level of depth and enough promising youngsters, notably Daniel Pacheco and Jonjo Shelvey.
What remains to be seen is Roy Hodgson’s implementation of all the players that he has available to him and how well they play in the coming months. It is still too early to judge their ability to challenge the teams that finished above them with four points from three games, but Liverpool fans will be excited to see their team in action after the international break.