A great analogy that I saw on Twitter was that Liverpool had to sell Elvis in order to pay for the Beatles. I thought it was an extremely clever and accurate analogy and I wish that I could remember the source to give him proper credit. We sold one of the best goal scorers to ever grace the turf at Anfield because it was time for him to go. Forget the fact that Luis Suarez bit his way to the cheap seats for a few months at the World Cup, this deal was done months ago. Brendan Rodgers needed quality squad depth and the only way he could get it was to sell his biggest asset. He got what he wanted. Ricky Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo, and of course Super Mario Balotelli have all been added to the squad paid for by the millions received for selling Suarez. It would be naïve to think that every one of these players will become Anfield legends, but they all don’t need to be. This new class of talent only needs to have more Paul McCartney’s and fewer Ringo Starr’s.
One season ago Liverpool made a serious run at the title, but that team is long gone. Don’t get me wrong, many of the same players may occupy the locker room. Take a look at the 18-man roster that suited up against Chelsea last April: Mignolet, Johnson, Sahko, Skrtel, Flanagan, Gerrard, Lucas, Allen, Suarez, Coutinho, Sterling, Aspas, Sturridge, Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho and Luis Alberto. If you add Jordan Henderson that group (who was notoriously absent while serving his red card suspension) and that was pretty much what Rodgers had to work with all season long. The starting XI was quite solid, but when Rodgers needed to make a tactical switch in the second half his options were quite limited. Does anyone think that Iago Aspas or Luis Alberto can become game changers? I mean change the game for the betterment of Liverpool. Neither do I. Yet this squad managed to finish second place in the league and nearly won the damn thing.
Now let’s look at the team that traveled to White Hart Lane last weekend: Mignolet, Manquillo, Sahko, Lovren, Moreno, Gerrard, Henderson, Allen, Sterling, Balotelli, Sturridge, Coutinho, Enrique, Jones, Toure, Markovic, Can, and Lambert. The starting XI remains solid, and I don’t think that anyone would argue that this roster gives Rodgers a ton of more options to change tactics in the middle of a match. Let’s not forget that Skrtel, Lallana, Johnson and Flanagan are all recovering from injury. The biggest deficiency for Liverpool was depth. That doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer.
I do worry that such a drastic shift the squad makeup could have a negative effect. Liverpool haters are quick to point out what happened to Tottenham when they took a similar path last year after selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. There is one huge point that these haters keep overlooking. Tottenham started buying up players before they knew anything about their manager!! Spurs finished 5th place only a point out of the Champions League in 2012-13, yet they fired Harry Redknapp and replaced him with Andres Villas-Boas anyway. They let go one of the most iconic English managers with a history of doing more with less at clubs like Portsmouth, West Ham and Southampton and replaced him with a guy that took a Chelsea team with seemingly unlimited resources to 6th place and was fired by March. Never mind the fact his replacement took the same squad and won the UEFA Champions League a few months later. And this is the guy that Spurs put their faith into spending the windfall earned by selling Gareth Bale. How people can compare that debacle with what Liverpool is going through at the moment is beyond me. Brendan Rodgers took a team that no one expected would do much and nearly won the league. He is a man with a plan. And that plan is what dictates the club’s transfer policy. It’s true that he’s bought some duds, but he’s also bought some studs. It’s night and day compared to what Spurs did a season ago.
Last year was a pleasant disappointment for Liverpool fans. I don’t know that we’ve ever experienced a “perfect storm” of events to assist the Reds in securing title #19, and I know I join all of you in the disappointment of falling short. But Liverpool is nowhere near the level that they need to be to compete on multiple fronts. Rodgers doesn’t have a Russian blank check. He doesn’t have oil money to burn. He doesn’t have the top global brand and a stadium that seats close to 80,000 supporters at home matches (although recent history has shown that doesn’t always work). What he has is a keen eye for talent and the knowledge of what his system requires to be successful. Most pundits think last season’s 2nd place finish was more like “lightning in a bottle” and the club will suffer without Suarez. I tell you now that it will be difficult to replicate a similar finish in this campaign, but remind you that it doesn’t need to be. How should we be defining success this season? Three things come to mind: (1) advance to the Champions League knockout stage, (2) make a deep Cup run, and (3) finish in the top four. And then we can celebrate another great season and debate on how Rodgers will take the club up yet another rung on the ladder. And then we do it again in the offseason after that. And before you know it, the Anfield expansion project will be complete and the gate revenues will be where they need to be for a top club.
You have every right to be concerned about the changing landscape of the Liverpool roster. You have a right to expect great things from this club in the upcoming season. But don’t think that anything less than a 2nd place finish means the team ultimately regressed. There are a lot of new pieces to this puzzle. They don’t all need to be Paul McCartney’s for this to work. It would help if we got a few John Lennon’s as well, but as long as we minimize the Ringo Starr’s and it will be fine. We won’t learn the verdict for quite some time, so let’s just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. If we’ve learned nothing else from Rodgers since he became the boss, it’s that he’s earned our trust. Let’s give it to him.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and do not necessarily reflect that of LFC Raleigh or Liverpool Football Club. Follow me on Twitter: @kjkendra11