HAVE LIVERPOOL GOT ENOUGH TALENT TO FINISH IN THE TOP 4?
Have Liverpool got enough talent to finish in the top 4?
On a weekend that saw Manchester United and Chelsea fall to 2-1 defeats, Liverpool’s title aspirations took the biggest hit of all. In their opening three matches, Brendan Rodgers’ side picked up good results without really playing to their full capabilities but they were brought down to earth by Slaven Bilic’s West Ham on Saturday afternoon.
After thirty minutes, Liverpool found themselves two-nil down in front of their home crowd. The Reds have always had the capacity to implode throughout Rodgers’ helm, but this must rank amongst his darkest days at the club. A 3-0 defeat against West Ham is the kind of result that cost Liverpool their place in the top four last season.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of Saturday’s game was the manner of their defeat. After going behind, there was a distinct lack of motivation. Over the years, supporters have been used to seeing Liverpool produce a colossal response to going behind, they lacked the bite, energy and enthusiasm to break down West Ham’s stern defence.
Nobody can accuse Liverpool of poor investment this summer. Last term, they failed to replace Barcelona-bound Luis Suarez and paid the ultimate price as they slipped out of the European places. This summer, Rodgers has built a team. The individuals – Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard – have left the club and Liverpool will benefit in the long-term.
Liverpool’s business was solid this summer, nothing more and nothing less. Nathaniel Clyne was the best right-back in the Premier League last season and has settled immediately at Anfield, while Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings were all brought in to fill gaping voids and add depth to the depleted squad.
Christian Benteke will probably be Liverpool’s best acquisition this summer. The Belgian, who joined the club for £32 million from Aston Villa, has looked sharp at times but is still finding his feet in their attack. Out of Rodgers’ incomings, he is perhaps the player that has the most upside and could prove to be a genuine success at Anfield throughout his career.
Rodgers must realise that, for Liverpool to regain their place in the top four, he cannot try to build around Benteke as he did with Suarez. While the young Belgian is a promising, reliable talent, he doesn’t boast the same level of world class talent as Suarez. The Uruguayan’s ability to create an opportunity out of nothing sets him apart.
Given time, the summer signings will succeed at Anfield. Roberto Firmino is an ideal replacement for Raheem Sterling as, although he lacks the Englishman’s pace and directness, he can unlock the division’s best defences with his incredible vision. The Brazilian performed admirably last season and will shine alongside Philippe Coutinho in Liverpool’s midfield.
Meanwhile, Joe Gomez has been the standout performer in the early part of the campaign. The former Charlton Athletic man outperformed Alberto Moreno throughout pre-season and has been rewarded with the starting role in Rodgers’ side in the first four league matches. At 18 years old, he will only improve further in the coming years.
The Reds are on the right tracks but may struggle to finish in the top four this season. Despite their poor start, Chelsea will definitely sit in the Champions League spots at the end of the campaign, as will runaway leaders Manchester City. Meanwhile, Arsenal are yet to finish outside of the top four during Wenger’s tenure.
That leaves Liverpool’s bitter rivals Manchester United. While Louis van Gaal’s side will have to juggle their European commitments with their Premier League form, it could be argued that they are better equipped for a top four battle this season. Their title aspirations may be a little far-fetched but they should be good enough to finish in the top four.
Liverpool, therefore, may finish fifth and miss out on Champions League football for the second season in succession. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see if the Anfield board continue with Brendan Rodgers. The Reds boss has invested astutely and planned for the future, but ironically that could be his downfall if they don’t succeed this season.