Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Liverpool’s most crucial summer yet

June 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Premier League

Having finished second in the Premier League in 2013-14, Liverpool fans would have been looking forward to a battle with the title contenders last time out. As it was, a drop to sixth place last season represents an alarming slump and although manager Brendan Rodgers has the club’s backing for now, this is undoubtedly a vital summer for the Reds boss.

Liverpool’s transfer dealings are under immense scrutiny but are the team already heading for a disastrous repeat of the previous campaign?

Where did it all go wrong?

The sudden departure of Luis Suarez undoubtedly dented Liverpool’s title hopes while Daniel Sturridge’s injuries effectively ended their chances of a title challenge. But the key to success in this division lies in squad depth and this is where Rodgers’ dealings have to be called into question.

At Southampton, Rickie Lambert was the main man and his exploits up front earned a deserved England call up. Lambert finished with 106 goals in 207 league games for the Saints while scoring on his full international debut.

At Liverpool however, the 33 year is no better than a fourth striker and although many of his Premier League appearances have been from the subs bench, a record of two goals from 25 appearances sums up his season.

The biggest punt

With Lambert on board, Rodgers prepared for the club’s biggest gamble and the arrival of Mario Balotelli. In fairness, the Italian striker was enjoying a relatively productive spell with AC Milan but his heavily publicised ‘baggage’ meant that any move back to England had to be considered as something of a punt.

Ultimately, the gamble backfired: Balotelli looked lost on Merseyside and the failure of his team mates to join him in celebrating his solitary league goal – a winner against Spurs – said it all.

As strikers, Lambert and Balotelli get most of the negative press but fellow signings Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic did little to convince us that Rodgers was some sort of market genius.

Rolling the dice – again…

The transfer window isn’t even open yet but the Liverpool manager has already been busy – with three free signings. Perhaps stung by the criticism surrounding the £20m fee paid for Lovren, Rodgers has at least got these men on the cheap but are Adam Bogdan, James Milner and Danny Ings really going to transform the club into title contenders?

From the outside, it seems as if the manager wants to keep taking huge gambles because by the law of averages, one will eventually pay off and ‘prove’ that he is a shrewd dealer after all.

What next?

Liverpool fans must be getting restless as the real transfer window approaches. Will Petr Cech arrive and answer the goalkeeping issue with Bogdan as his back up? Elsewhere, with Daniel Sturridge out until October there is a clear need for a big name striker and while Ings has promise, Rodgers needs to spend big on a Carlos Tevez or a Karim Benzema – assuming that any of these players will be happy with Europa League football.

Then there’s the deadwood that needs to be cleared, starting with Balotelli who is currently linked with a loan switch back to Serie A. Lambert is another man under the microscope while Lovren and Joe Allen also seem surplus to requirements – and we haven’t even talked about Raheem Sterling!

Liverpool can only cite the Suarez departure as an excuse for so long and that time is running out. The club can get back into the top four, but this summer will decide their fate so Brendan, it’s over to you…

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