Liverpool FC: Grading Each of the Reds Players Through Three Games in 2011-12
Liverpool have looked impressive through the first three games of the 2011-12 season. If not for one disastrous marking mistake in the opener, the Reds would have nine points from nine and would be joint at the top of the league.
Liverpool 1 - 1 Sunderland
Arsenal 0 - 2 Liverpool
Liverpool 3 - 1 Bolton
As far as the players, many have impressed and many have been disappointing. The management of the club will surely take a look and make their own judgements, but these appear to be the general opinions regarding grades out of 10 for every Anfield player who has appeared for the club through three matches of the season.
Pepe Reina has played every minute so far this season for Liverpool, nothing short of what was expected. New-signing Doni was brought in to provide competition for the Spaniard, and so far this season, it seems to have worked. The 28-year-old appears to be playing with a certain renewed enthusiasm and has looked very solid.
Reina has only given up two goals through the first three games, and he has made no glaring mistakes. The Liverpool defense has looked solid so far, and Reina is at the centre of that.
John Flanagan has only made one significant contribution this season, and that was in the wrong net. Terrible marking allowed Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson to break open during the first game of the season and, while it was a great finish, essentially rob Liverpool of two well-deserved points. The youngster has a bright future ahead of him, but the mistake was a stark reminder of his inexperience. He did not feature on the substitute bench against Bolton.
Martin Kelly came in to the Arsenal game with high expectations. He needed to stabilize the left defense after Flanagan's disappointing opening-game disaster. Fortunately, he did just that. He did a great job keeping Arsenal's strong attack quiet all game; they never looked threatening.
He left the Bolton game with what looked like a hamstring injury, so Liverpool may need to rush Glen Johnson back from an injury of his own.
The Sebastian Coates signing could well signal the end of Jamie Carragher's reign as the centre piece in Liverpool's back four. Coates is younger, has more energy, and his 6'6" frame is more adjusted to the modern English game. He hasn't been great through the first three games, essentially giving up the goal against Bolton, and has looked slow.
Daniel Agger has one defensive spot locked down. It should be great to watch the other unfold.
It's incredible what a difference Daniel Agger makes when he is in the squad.
The whole team is improved. It is a known fact that, when fully fit, Agger is one of the best defenders in the league, and he has shown it this season. Liverpool have looked solid in the back, and neither of the goals given up have had anything to do with Agger. If he continues to play as he is now, the prospects for Liverpool this season are bright. A lot of their hopes revolve around the 6'3" Dane.
Martin Skrtel hasn't played much, but he has scored. That is why he gets such a high grade.
Skrtel came on in the 30th minute against Bolton, stepping right in to his unnatural right back position and looking surprisingly comfortable. His performance was encouraging to Reds' fans, who saw firsthand the depth that the management has managed to amass here. Skrtel showed that he is a top tier defender who can be a producer off the bench.
When Liverpool signed Jose Enrique in the twilight of the transfer window, they got a top quality left back for the first time since John Arne Riise left. The Spaniard came in from Newcastle and immediately built good chemistry with Stewart Downing, all of a sudden transforming the Anfield left wing into one of the strongest in the league.
He was named Man of the Match in the matchup against Arsenal.
Up to the beginning of last season, Lucas was one of the most ridiculed players in English football. Simply put, he was awful. That said, he has seen his stock rise immensely in the past year, emerging as one of the elite defensive midfielders in the Premier League. The Brazilian has become a centre-piece in the Liverpool XI, and the team looks incomplete without him.
Lucas, who is still only 24, has been a huge part of Liverpool's success early on this season. He is the kind of player you'd want to build your team around. Liverpool are lucky to have him.
New signing Charlie Adam has been impressive through his opening three games. Liverpool fans were unsure of Kenny Dalglish's relentless pursuit to say the least, but he has proven any doubters wrong with a goal and two assists and his emergence as the team's playmaker. While losing Raul Meireles was a tough blow, Charlie Adam is ready to step up and become a better player in the heart of the Liverpool team.
With the return of Steven Gerrard, Adam could move back and play in a supporting role alongside Lucas in a five man midfield.
Much like Charlie Adam, fans were worried about the transfer. This time, they weren't worried about the quality of the player, but rather the elevated price the club paid.
Unfortunately, Henderson has not yet proven himself to be worth the estimated £16 million transfer fee. He has looked out of place on the right wing, and has failed to get any penetration moving forward. He is still only 21, and fans should be patient with him. He is a bright talent, and will be a great player in a matter of seasons.
He scored a nice goal against Bolton.
Maxi has only played 14 minutes of the Premier League season, so it is difficult to give a judgement as to how good he has been. With the new signings, Maxi has predictably fallen back in the pecking order at Anfield. Many expected him to leave this summer, but the opposite may have happened. With the departures of Alberto Aquilani and Raul Meireles, Maxi have been given an opportunity to revive his Premier League career. He should get more opportunities in the coming games.
He scored the second goal in the 3-1 Carling Cup victory over Exeter City.
Stewart Downing was another player who Liverpool fans worried about, but he has certainly proved he was worth every penny. Contrary to Jordan Henderson, he has looked very dangerous moving forward, and while he has yet to show up on the scorecard, he has been behind many of Liverpool's attacking moves. When Steven Gerrard returns, the Reds could move to a 4-2-3-1, with a front three of Downing, Gerrard, and Kuyt. The team all of a sudden looks really strong.
Dirk Kuyt has featured in all three Liverpool games this season, starting two. The Dutch forward has mostly played alongside Luis Suarez, offering support to to the superstar. While he hasn't impressed hugely, he has done a lot of the behind-the-scenes things well. The arrival of Craig Bellamy could mean Kuyt makes his move to the wing permanent. His numbers should improve with the inevitable increase in playing time.
So far, Andy Carroll has not lived up to his 35 million pound transfer fee. He has just two goals in 10 Premier League matches, and has looked behind the play alongside his offensively skilled teammates.
That said, Carroll is a key cog in the Liverpool machine. His size and power demands attention, and that frees up room for Downing and Luis Suarez. His goal against Exeter saw him hold off five players before smashing it into the back of the net. When Dalglish signed Carroll, it was a smart move. He has built arguably the best complementing strike partnership in the league.
Luis Suarez has been exactly the player Liverpool bought him to be. He has been fast, dynamic, and lethal. In four all-competition games so far, Suarez has scored three goals and been behind many more. He is rapidly emerging as one of the elite players in the league, and Steven Gerrard's return will only continue that.
Liverpool finally look like a dominant team again. Luis Suarez is a big part of that.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @jacobware95