Football

Liverpool are serious top-four contenders

Liverpool are top-four contenders (©GettyImages)
Liverpool are top-four contenders (©GettyImages).

Liverpool's first campaign under Brendan Rodgers was a story of two transfer windows - some poor decisions in the summer were rescued by some fantastic January purchases.

After 12 months at the club, does the 40-year-old have more of an idea of where the squad is at?

A combined £32m was spent on Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi and Joe Allen last summer, and despite representing better value for money than Andy Carroll, Reds fans will be no doubt feeling less than impressed by their summer transfers.

Allen was probably the most impressive of the bunch, but without and goals or assists from his 27 appearances in the league last season, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what his use to the squad was. But at 23, he will almost certainly progress under this regime, a certain upgrade from the Swansea one he was part of.

Undoubtedly, Borini was the definition of a 'flop' in his debut Premier League campaign; the £12m acquisition from AS Roma managed the strike just twice from 20 appearances for the Merseyside outfit, a total which was matched by both Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique.

Liverpool's poor start must have been music to Swansea fans' ears, seeing their young manager and one of their prize assets head up north, only to drop well off the pace, and look more suited to the Championship, than the Champions League.

Rodgers had no qualms in asking for more money in January; in fact another £21m was shelled out, this time on two players: Coutinho from Inter Milan and Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

Sturridge delivered what Borini could not - a partner to complement Luis Suarez - and Coutinho wreaked havoc from behind the two strikers, chipping in with five assists and also netted three times from just 12 games. The £8m playmaker was dubbed the signing of the window by many a pundit.

Anfield might well be a lonely place for any Sky Sports presenter on deadline day this August; the former Swans boss is keen to do his business early, with no less than four major signings already, and we aren't yet in July.

The unpredictable Pepe Reina has some tough competition, as 25-year-old Simon Mignolet has been brought in for a fee of around £9m. Opta tell us that the Belgian's shots to saves ratio was 73% last season, compared to Reina's 68%.

Luis Alberto has been brought in from Sevilla, while Iago Aspas has travelled to Anfield from Celta Vigo, where he scored 37 in 74 games since 2011.

It is clear that the Reds require Luis Suarez to stay at the club, a man who scored 32% of their goals in the league last season, and you'd expect there was more to come from him. However, he has been strongly linked with a move away, with European champions Bayern Munich waiting in the wings.

The 2012/13 campaign brought too many draws, and the hierarchy seem to be combating this by going down the attacking route; should Suarez stay, the 4-3-3 looks very appealing with Borini, Sturridge, Sterling, Downing, Suso, Assaidi, and now Aspas and Alberto, able to play in the roles either side of the Uruguayan.

But they haven't stopped there. Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Shakhtar Donetsk is also hotly linked with a move to England - another youngster who, similar to Coutinho, can play in a forward midfield role.

It isn't just the forward line that has been invested in, either; as well as Mignolet, experienced centre-half Kolo Toure has joined, a man who is no stranger to the pressures at the top, as he clocked up over 400 appearances for Arsenal and Manchester City.

I believe Rodgers is putting together an extremely impressive squad at Anfield, while early signings mean a full pre-season to gel, which gives them the opportunity to hit the ground running when we kick-off in August.

With the exception of Everton, all five of the teams that finished above them in 2012/13 have European commitments that come thick and fast before 2013 ends.

Also, with four of the top six changing their managers, the onus is certainly on Liverpool and his squad to demonstrate their stability, after a torrid time on Merseyside of late.

 

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Topics:
Premier League
Liverpool
Football

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