Rewind to spring of 2009. Liverpool were flying high. They had done the double over both Manchester United and Chelsea (including a 4-1 stomping at Old Trafford), were responding to seemingly every challenge from the league-leading Red Devils, and had only suffered two league defeats all season. Though it would ultimately be United who would win the Premier League by four points over second-placed Liverpool, things were looking good for the Reds coming into the 2009-'10 campaign.
It would soon occur to Liverpool fans that the new season would be anything but their foreseen title-challenging campaign. The Reds lost two of their first three games, equaling their defeat total from the previous season within the first tenth of the campaign. Captain Steven Gerrard, the lynchpin of the side, scored just 11 goals, less than half of the 24 he netted in 2008-'09. Liverpool eventually finished seventh, five places below their performance of the year previous. Like the wheels coming off of a speeding train, the Reds had gone from beast to bust in no time.
Hypothetically speaking, there are many possible reasons for Liverpool's demise. Some say the injuries of Gerrard and Fernando Torres exposed the team's lack of a spine. Others will claim that other sides discovered how to negate then-manager Rafa Benitez's counterattack. Still more argue that the Reds were unable to perform under expectations. Yet, despite all of these very plausible hypotheses, I feel it was something else: the departure of Xabi Alonso.
Alonso, despite not possessing the best trickery or the highest goalscoring return, played a vital part in the side. Playing in the center of the park, he possessed the unique ability to play that killer 60-yard ball, having been the most accurate long passer in the Premiership during the '08-'09 campaign. He bossed the midfield, supporting Gerrard while the latter pushed forward. Indeed, Alonso's presence proved something Liverpool hadn't replaced following his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009.
However, the arrival of Charlie Adam could fill the void that Alonso left. Adam, a left-footed central midfielder, has Premier League experience. He can play the long ball very well, he has a deadly left foot (especially from set pieces), and can fit seamlessly into a 4-4-2. Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, and Raul Meireles can all pass well, but Liverpool have been missing a "new" Alonso for hitting long balls and holding down the midfield. Adam could prove to be that "new" Alonso.
Now that's not to say he's flawless. Adam, like Alonso, isn't the most skilled. He's not a proven midfield dynamo like Gerrard. He's not a big-ticket, glamorous signing. Yet, despite possessing shortcomings like everyone else, Adam could prove a vital contributor to the Scousers.
And, coupled with a few new additions, he very may well prove an integral piece to the Liverpool puzzle.