Having watched Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool fall to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of reigning champions Manchester City, Reds fans can certainly take some comfort from a game that they bossed for long periods.
For the first 30 minutes or so they played their usual passing game at a high tempo, with Steven Gerrard finding his range and Daniel Sturridge looking bright.
However at the very top level you must take advantage of the possession you accrue, perhaps a Liverpool team containing a certain Luis Suarez would have, but this side displayed a distinct lack of quality in the final third (a rarity in contrast to last season).
In a continuation of the 2013/14 campaign, Liverpool also lacked quality at the back, which cost them dearly just before half-time as Stevan Jovetic pounced on hesitant defending from new signing Alberto Moreno to fire past Simon Mignolet.
Any attempted comeback looked doubtful as a beautiful piece of individuality from Jovetic allowed Samir Nasri to expose gaps in the Liverpool backline and set up the Montenegrin for a deserved second.
This lead to Rodgers introducing £25 million man Lazar Markovic, however it was Sergio Aguero’s entrance into the fray that sent Liverpool crashing to the canvas, as the forward beat Mignolet from the angle.
Rodgers also threw on Emre Can and Rickie Lambert, changes that arguably should have happened with the scoreline still at 2-0. The former Leverkusen man injected some energy and drive into the midfield whilst Lambert got his sizeable forehead on a stunning yet seemingly effortless Sturridge delivery, which was almost matched by Joe Hart’s superb initial save, only for Pablo Zabaleta to unfortunately bundle it over the line.
Liverpool’s new number nine was then presented with a glorious chance to reduce the deficit to one, a chance that the previous bearers of that hallowed shirt would have buried. However Lambert produced a feeble finish that perhaps highlights his own reservations about being a Liverpool player. With that the game was gone and City celebrated their first home win of the season, leaving Rodgers with much to ponder.
When you compare this game to the corresponding fixture from last season, it is fair to say Liverpool fell some way short of matching it. They may even have come away with something from that game, if it wasn’t for Raheem Sterling’s incorrectly disallowed goal. I can’t help but think that this result justifies my pre-season thoughts that Liverpool, rather than strengthening, have stood still in terms of their squad.
Lack of progress?
The arrival of Mario Balotelli is of course a genius bit of business and he could well recreate Suarez’s form from the previous campaign as he has no less talent than the feisty Uruguayan. This signing could certainly see them achieve Champions League football again, but in terms of progression from one season to the next, I just don’t see it.
Lovren looked a tad exposed at times on Monday night and is no better than the centre-halves sitting on Liverpool’s bench. Whilst he initially showed good energy, Moreno will naturally take time to adjust to Premier League football. Can looks like a dynamic player, but is he any better than Henderson or even the re-emerging Joe Allen? Additionally, the combined fee of £50 million for Adam Lallana and Markovic looks horrifically misjudged.
Everton doing better business?
Then there is Lambert. With Liverpool's neighbours from across Stanley Park yesterday confirming the signing of Samuel Eto’o on a two-year deal, I have no doubts as to which ageing forward I’d rather be bringing off the bench with 20 minutes to go.
I’d also rather have exciting Ghanaian International Christian Atsu in my squad as opposed to Markovic.
In conclusion, the Balotelli deal may have just have revived Liverpool’s season. Add in another world-class player and we could be talking about potential title contenders.
Having said that I can’t see there being much money left for Rodgers to play with and ultimately I feel he has wasted the vast majority of it, very much in the same way Rafael Benitez did with players such as Ryan Babel, Mark Gonzalez, Albert Riera and Alberto Aquilani.