Liverpool: 7 Things Brendan Rodgers Must Do Before Start of EPL Season
Saturday, August 18.
The day we English Premier League fans are all looking forward to.
A week from this Saturday, the 2012-2013 EPL season kicks off—which means that all 20 Premier League clubs only have a week and a half to prepare for their first fixtures.
Separating Liverpool from their away trip to West Brom are a second-lie home tie against FC Gomel in the Europa League third qualifying round and a weekend friendly against Bayer Leverkusen that will see the return of Anfield favorite Sami Hyypia, now in charge of the Bundesliga giants.
But Liverpool’s pre-EPL season preparations are by no means over yet.
Here are seven things Brendan Rodgers must do before he takes his Liverpool team to the Hawthorns next Saturday—and, as usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.
Go Through to the Next Round of the Europa League
First things first: Liverpool, after a year of complete absence from Europe, are back in the Europa League.
If they take care of business at Anfield against Belarus’ FC Gomel.
No matter how obscure their opponents this Thursday may be, Liverpool only hold a one-goal advantage, and any slip-up could be costly.
Liverpool and European football go together.
While the target for the season is to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League next season, they will need to ensure that they aren’t out of Europe this season before a Premier League ball is even kicked in anger.
Complete Deals for Joe Allen, Gaston Ramirez
Now onto transfer business.
For a side that requires a metronomic playmaker in the midfield to keep the ball moving alongside a more defensive-minded partner (Lucas Leiva), Allen makes sense as an acquisition to bring more creativity and stability in the midfield, and he would also release Steven Gerrard to play in a more advanced position.
Ramirez would add speed and skill to the wings, which should be a key emphasis in Rodgers’ 4-3-3 formation. With few out-and-out wingers in the squad, Rodgers would do well to address this area by bringing in Ramirez.
The Liverpool squad would look much more complete if these two players are finally brought in—and it would do the squad a world of good if their transfers were secured before the Premier League starts for real.
Sign Daniel Agger on a New Contract
Besides bringing in some additional quality players, Rodgers will also need to keep hold of his star players.
Daniel Agger has been strongly linked with a big-money move to Manchester City (The Guardian), whose place at the top of English football, regular Champions League action and riches on offer will certainly be enticing.
Agger is one of the best defenders in England, ball-playing or not, and his passing quality and attacking instincts make him a perfect fit for Rodgers’ system.
To sanction such a move would not only be a PR disaster in Rodgers’ case—branding Liverpool as a selling club—but also a huge blow to Liverpool’s preparations for the Premier League.
Resolve Midfield Issues
Moving on to the midfield, where, regardless of whether Rodgers does bring in Joe Allen and Gaston Ramirez, there are still issues that must be resolved.
The first is obviously that of finding a regular partner for Lucas.
Steven Gerrard proved in the European Championships earlier this summer that he is capable of putting in a world-class shift in the center of midfield, but he has without doubt made a much bigger impact in a more advanced role over the years in a Red shirt.
With the departure of Alberto Aquilani, who on paper seemed a good fit in Rodgers’ possession-based system, someone needs to come in and fill that role.
Which then raises the issue of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing.
All three have their attributes—and Henderson seems to have the most potential out of the trio—but at the moment, Rodgers needs to sort out their exact roles in the Liverpool midfield, especially if he will only go with a midfield three.
And that’s not including the futures and roles of Joe Cole and Stewart Downing.
Find a Way to Incorporate Andy Carroll into His Side
Rodgers faces some headaches up front, too.
The most notable of which is a £35 million powerhouse headache wearing the No. 9 shirt.
Now that it’s clear that Andy Carroll is vehemently refusing a move away from Anfield (ESPNSoccernet), Rodgers will need to either find a club who will prove enticing enough (Newcastle), or accept that Carroll will be in his squad for at least the coming six months.
Which means that Rodgers will need to find a way to incorporate Andy Carroll into his side.
This after signing Fabio Borini, who seems certain to be Rodgers’ first-choice striker this term.
Find the right mix, though, and he might just be surprised what Carroll can bring to the team.
Sort out Player Loans
And after Rodgers sorts out his personnel situation, he will need to go one further and decide which ones to farm out on loan.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso and Jonjo Shelvey all performed well in Liverpool’s preseason games and will likely get further chances to impress in their final friendly against Leverkusen this weekend, but only Rodgers will know how close to regular first-team action they might be.
The recent introduction of the U21 Premier League is a great reason to keep them on for regular action for the Liverpool reserves if they sit out their senior-team games, but conversely, a loan spell might do their Liverpool careers a world of good.
Of course, Rodgers will also pay close attention to the loan market to bring in players who might be made available.
Make Sure Luis Suarez Really Does Move on from the Evra Incident
The breaking news this Tuesday was that Luis Suarez signed a new contract with Liverpool (BBC Sport).
The on-field implications of this are all positive: There is no need to go on about the kind of explosive and unpredictable creative play that he brings to the Liverpool attack.
But equally, Suarez brings explosive and unpredictable liabilities off the field, which the Liverpool hierarchy will want to limit drastically.
Only a few weeks ago, Suarez seemed to reignite his race row with Patrice Evra last season—a move that Rodgers was quick to address in the media.
Rodgers suggested publicly that it was in the best interests for all parties concerned that Suarez “move on” from the controversy (The Guardian).
He will want to make sure he does move on and make all the headlines on the pitch, for all the right reasons.
So far, Brendan Rodgers has made a very good impression on Liverpool fans by saying all the right things.
But he will know as clearly as anyone that the ultimate judgment will be his results on the pitch.
To ensure that he gets off to a good start, he still has a lot of work to do this summer—all of which should ideally be done before the Premier League kicks off once again.
What do you think Rodgers still needs to do this summer? How have his preparations for the season been? Let us know in the comments below.
Also check out: 7 Things New U21 Premier League Means for English Football