They may have been the only “stars” in the side before this year, but defending against a Liverpool team-sheet that included Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres proved a difficult enough task in itself.
Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the task of containing the Merseysiders just got even more difficult.
Though Torres left the club in January amidst acrimonious circumstances, the arrivals of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll give Liverpool new attacking options that will surely see them improve. With an eye on the future, the purchase of Suarez and Carroll, coupled with Gerrard’s return from injury next season, gives Liverpool three star players to work with.
Add in the emergence of Raul Meireles, who one could make a case for being a star for Liverpool this term, and you’ve got a very strong four stars (two more than last year) in a potent attack that nobody will want to go up against.
Torres and Gerrard, in their day, could rip apart even the stingiest of defenses. Case in point: March of 2009. Having beaten Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Champions League Round-of-16, Liverpool proceeded to demolish the Spaniards 4-0 at Anfield, with Gerrard grabbing two goals and his Spanish counterpart netting once.
Four days later, they made their way to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, a game in which the hosts were largely favored. Apparently those two missed the memo, however, as Torres, causing problem after problem for the United back-line, netted one, while Gerrard added another from the penalty spot. Add in Gerrard’s hat-trick in the 5-0 victory over Aston Villa, and one should need no further convincing; the partnership between those two proved devastating.
However, the decline of Torres and Gerrard losing his form (mostly due to injuries) played a large part in Liverpool’s slipping from second in the League in 2008-09 to seventh in 2009-10. And while Liverpool may not finish higher than sixth in this 2010-11 campaign, it has to be said that the Merseysiders have reason to be optimistic for the upcoming season.
Let’s have a look at the attacking talents of Suarez and Carroll. This partnership epitomizes differences, something that could do very much good for us. While Torres’ pace and trickery may have looked irreplaceable this past term, Suarez has proven he not only possesses those attributes, but also drive.
I’m not saying that Torres wasn’t driven—he loved the club and he loved to score. However, Suarez has what I like to call, the “Dirk Kuyt Gene” in that he runs and runs. During the Manchester City game, Ian Darke went so far as to compare Suarez’s presence to that of a fly—quick and omnipresent. Torres may have been quick, but he could be out of a game for 89 minutes, only to pop up with the winner in the last minute. This is an effective tactic, but surely, he could have grabbed a few more goals if he possessed the presence and desire that Suarez has.
Then there’s Andy Carroll. If Suarez is silk, Carroll is rock. While Suarez’s pace and trickery causes opposing defenses problems, Carroll’s presence can unsettle any back line. At 6'3", he’s a big man for a striker, compared to, say, 5'7" Carlos Tevez. He’s solid in terms of trickery and pace, but his real attributes come in other forms: heading and striking of the ball. He displayed both of those in bagging a first-half double against Manchester City, slamming a ferocious half-volley home for his first goal before heading into the top corner to double his haul.
Torres may have been able to do both those things, but he was more of a “flair” player. Couple Suarez’s attributes with Carroll’s beastliness, and you’ve got a frightening strike partnership that nobody will want to have to go up against.
Despite the focus on Gerrard (whose ability needs no introduction) and the two new arrivals, Liverpool have two more great players up their sleeve in Meireles and Dirk Kuyt. Upon his initial arrival, many would have deemed the former Porto man just an “average” player. However, his quality in midfield has become more evident, proving a more than capable partner for Gerrard (he’s even bagged a few goals in the process—including a screamer against Wolves.)
Kuyt, on the other hand, has been in the side for some time. While his skill may not be astounding, his finishing ability and work-rate are flawless. He also has the knack of popping up with vital goals (he’s scored against Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter and, more recently, Manchester United.) While he’s been a definite asset to our side since his arrival in 2006, his emergence into a top player this season has been a pleasant one.
So there you have it. They may have lost Torres, but Liverpool’s recent acquiring of Carroll and Suarez have given Kenny Dalglish’s side two new dimensions. Add in Gerrard’s return from injury, Meireles’s quality in midfield and Kuyt’s work-rate and poaching record, nobody will want to face Liverpool next year. Seventh last year, (probably) sixth this year, but next year…well, I can only imagine it’ll be even better.
The only way to go is up. I fully expect us to do just that.