Projecting Brendan Rodgers' Best Liverpool Lineup
A comprehensive 4-0 trouncing of Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund at Anfield on Sunday was the perfect end to a by and large successful preseason for Liverpool, who will now be looking to get their Premier League season off to a good start with a win over Southampton this weekend.
Brendan Rodgers has presided over an eventful summer, which has seen seven players arrive at Anfield—with one, Divock Origi, heading back to Lille on loan for the season, and another, Alberto Moreno, seemingly on his way from Sevilla after the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday, per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail.
His new players will have added to his selection headache with a series of good performances during Liverpool's preseason campaign, while the Reds are now blessed with a much deeper and stronger squad ahead of the new season.
Here we project Brendan Rodgers' best Liverpool lineup—no easy task given the options now at his disposal. We assume that Moreno's signing is a formality and opt for a flexible 4-1-2-1-2 formation that was adopted against Dortmund.
Let us know your picks and suggestions in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
With Pepe Reina having joined Bayern Munich, the No. 1 spot at Anfield is now firmly Simon Mignolet's to lose, unless there are huge movements on this front before the transfer window closes.
Right-Back: Javi Manquillo
As far as Glen Johnson is concerned, Javi Manquillo's arrival may be a welcome one as the No. 2 increasingly attracts criticism for his erratic performances at right-back.
But Manquillo's own display on his debut against Dortmund was encouraging. It hinted at the kind of performance the Reds have lacked from a right-back in a while: Going forward with good effect but also positionally sound and defensively hardworking.
He might currently be at Anfield on a two-year loan, but if he continues in this vein, Manquillo may well make that right-back position his own for years to come.
Left-Back: Alberto Moreno
Assuming that Alberto Moreno's signing is all but secured and will be confirmed after Sevilla's UEFA Super Cup match against Real Madrid this Tuesday, he will go straight into Rodgers' starting lineup.
Glen Johnson has improved on his recent form with his performance at left-back on Sunday, while Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan all make for decent options on the left, but Moreno's qualities will ensure that Rodgers counts on him in Liverpool's biggest fixtures this season.
Centre-Back: Dejan Lovren
Dejan Lovren may have impressed all onlookers on his Liverpool debut in a left-sided centre-back role, but it will be a massive waste of Mamadou Sakho's prowess in that position if Lovren remains there over the long term.
Far more likely is that Lovren starts the campaign in a position he's made his name in over the years, and Rodgers starts a conversion to the right side to take advantage of his right-footedness.
If Lovren settles into a right-sided role and performs at the same level, Martin Skrtel will be left kicking his heels on the bench more often than not.
Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho
Why go through all the pain to convert Lovren to accommodate Mamadou Sakho? It's simple, really: Sakho on top form is an imperious central defender.
We saw glimpses of his undoubted potential during a stop-start campaign for Liverpool last season, but an encouraging run in the World Cup with France this summer showed us his defensive ability, aerial dominance and impressive leadership at the back.
A Lovren-Sakho central defensive partnership will be one of the best in the Premier League—if Lovren's conversion goes according to plan.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
He might be in the twilight years of his career and need lots of protection from his colleagues in the midfield, but Steven Gerrard, at this moment in time, should still find himself in Liverpool's best XI.
It's not his prowess from free-kicks, corners and penalties and the guaranteed goals that come from them—though that proved important to the Reds' cause last season—it's that he has the vision to unlock opponents with his passing.
And that he's a senior, inspirational figure on the pitch to guide a young side.
But 2014/15 may turn out to be his last season as a first-team regular at Anfield.
Central Midfielder: Emre Can
One of the main reasons that Gerrard may slowly be phased out of the first team this season is the presence of Emre Can, who has made a big impression in his performances over preseason.
Simply put, Can is the complete package that Liverpool have needed for years—and the fact that he can operate equally comfortably as a deeper-lying defensive midfielder, a more orthodox central midfielder or a more attacking box-to-box runner means that he will enjoy many opportunities to perform this season.
We have big expectations for Can, and at just 20 years of age, he is already a mainstay in this Liverpool side.
Central Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Alongside Can in a more central position is Jordan Henderson, who, if preseason is anything to go by, has seemingly responded to his manager's challenge, via the Independent, to get more goals.
On top of that, Henderson has finally started to become more authoritative on the pitch, appearing to take more responsibility on his shoulders and growing in confidence and stature in every game.
Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson has even put Henderson's name forward as a contender for the captain's armband when Gerrard steps aside, per the Liverpool Echo. It'll be a defining campaign for him.
Attacking Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho
If there were one standout player during Liverpool's preseason, it would be Philippe Coutinho, who has gotten his manager raving—Rodgers called his ability "just magical" in the aftermath of the Dortmund win, per the Daily Mail—and Reds fans drooling at the prospect of his wizardry from an advanced No. 10 position.
He may have gone through a successful conversion from a No. 10 to a deeper No. 8 position, but it appears that Rodgers sees his best position to be behind the striker, where he can wreak the most havoc with his creativity and vision.
That he's added physicality and pressing to his game means that he can now excel in more positions than one, which will be useful this season.
Attacking Midfielder/Striker: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling starts in a hybrid attacking midfielder/striker position in this team—and that's only because he is so complete as an attacker that he would thrive in either position.
His positional intelligence and movement have come along so far that Rodgers has started playing him in a much more tactically demanding central role, removed from his more specialist wide forward position, and Sterling has excelled there as well.
Covering his flank to great effect on Sunday, Sterling also puts in an outstanding defensive shift, and in this line-up he just drifts between the midfield and forward lines to do his thing.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
Up top is a no-brainer: Daniel Sturridge's pace, dribbling and finishing means that even if Liverpool sign another striker, it will be difficult to take his place in the team.
He signed off from preseason with a well-taken goal on Sunday to open the scoring—while Coutinho's assist will have gotten most of the credit, Sturridge's own control and finish were top class as well.