Premier League preview - Liverpool
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Following three consecutive seasons without a top-four finish in the Premier League, Liverpool have turned to their fourth manager in two years - Brendan Rodgers - in the hope that the former Swansea boss will eventually guide them back into the Champions League.
Reds legend Kenny Dalglish was shown the door after he could only help the Anfield outfit to a disappointing eighth place in the top-flight last term, though the decision to dismiss the Scot was not universally popular given Liverpool’s success in cup competitions. The Merseysiders won the League Cup - their first trophy since 2006 - and also reached the FA Cup final. Silverware, however, did not satisfy the owners and in came the highly-rated Rodgers as Dalglish’s replacement.
Rodgers has been brought in to transform Liverpool’s fortunes in the league and he aims to do this by implementing at Anfield the pass-and-move philosophy which served him so well at Swansea. There have been glimpses in pre-season of the current squad adapting to Rodgers’ methods and the most recent home wins over Gomel and Bayern Leverkusen saw the Reds recycle the ball quickly and efficiently. A similar approach will be expected throughout the Rodgers era and if executed properly, the Kop will be delighted with this style of play.
But there are worries over Liverpool’s slow approach to adding quality to the current squad. While experienced stars Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy have all departed, those gaps have not been adequately filled so far. The arrival of Italian forward Fabio Borini is a welcome one given the Reds’ poor showing in front of goal last season, but supporters will argue that another striker may yet still be needed before the transfer window closes, particularly if £35m Andy Carroll leaves.
Carroll’s Anfield future remains up in the air, with a loan switch to Newcastle still possible. Such a move would leave Rodgers with just Luis Suarez and Borini as central attacking options, which would not be satisfactory for a team looking to finish in the top-four and also participating in the Europa League.
Furthermore, there are reports suggesting that defender Daniel Agger could be on his way to Manchester City or Barcelona. Agger’s possible departure would rock a Liverpool defence which appeared to be in good shape last season and the five time European Cup winners will be hoping that the Dane will stay put - though the decision may be out of his hands, as skipper Steven Gerrard recently admitted.
While Liverpool’s lack of action in the transfer market is causing some concern with just a few days to go before the season starts, encouraging performances in the last couple of pre-season games have given hope to supporters that the Reds could achieve their targets this term. The main objective for Liverpool is to end up in a Champions League spot come the end of the campaign, though given that the team will need time to adapt to new methods, the Anfield outfit may have to accept that a top-six finish would represent success in Rodgers’ first season on Merseyside.
Manager - Brendan Rodgers: Rodgers’ success at Swansea attracted the attention of Liverpool’s owners and the new manager now has the chance to apply his impressive methods at Anfield. Rodgers has said the right things to get the fans onside early on, but ultimately results will determine how his relationship with the Kop develops.
Key signing - Joe Allen: Liverpool reportedly forked out £15m to sign the Welsh midfielder, who will play a key role in helping the team adapt to Rodgers’ methods. Allen knows the system from his time together with the manager at Swansea and is expected to play alongside Lucas and Gerrard in a midfield three.
Key sale - Dirk Kuyt: Popular Dutchman Kuyt had a habit of popping up with crucial goals for the Reds during a memorable six-year spell and his presence will be sorely missed at Anfield. The crowd appreciated his terrific work-rate but a string of substitute appearances last season indicated that his time was coming to an end.
Keep an eye out for…Raheem Sterling. The 17-year-old winger made three substitute appearances in the top-flight last season, but he will be expected to play a bigger role this term. Liverpool fans have been excited about Sterling for quite some time and his wonderful goal in the recent friendly against Leverkusen suggests he may be ready for the big time.
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