In the immediate aftermath of the 6-1 defeat to Stoke City, it would've been almost impossible to find even the most avid of Liverpool supporters suggesting they could again challenge for the Champions League places, let alone becoming a title contender.
However, with the new season approaching, there is the annual spark of optimism amongst supporters of Liverpool, but for some reason this season feels different - there is a feeling of real optimism rather than the usual hopefulness.
1. Early Signings
James Milner, Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Joe Gomez and Roberto Firmino were all completed before July 1 as Liverpool searched to send a statement of intent to rivals. Early signings can be seen as a real positive to any club; it shows authoritative negotiators at the top of the club as well as an organised transfer committee with definitive targets.
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It's also a huge positive for the team as it increases the amount of time the group has together from both professional and social relationships. This has been evident so far in pre-season with the likes of Gomez, Milner, Clyne and Ings all looking comfortable in the team, with Milner and Jordan Henderson showing early signs of forming what could become a formidable midfield partnership.
The relationship and understanding of the squad will hopefully further strengthen throughout the season.
2. The Return of Real Flair
The Anfield club struggled going forward and in particularly finding the back of the net, mainly due to a lacklustre strike force and the loss of important attacking figures to injury, like Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge, meaning they often had to rely on Phillips Coutinho.
This summer has seen the arrival of promising Brazilian Roberto Firmino, who Liverpool fans will hope forms a ruthless relationship with fellow countryman Coutinho. Firmino was one of the Bundesliga’s top chance creators last season playing for Hoffenheim, and he will be looking to repeat this in the Premier League.
As well as this, Liverpool welcome back Adam Lallana from an unfortunate first season of injury after injury. Lallana can undoubtedly add the much needed creativity to Liverpool’s attack, especially following a positive pre-season for the winger, where he has truly showed his ability.
This season, Liverpool will be hoping to return to the attacking creativity shown in the near title winning season of 2013-14, which offers real positivity for supporters.
3. Fresh Back-room Staff
Following the sacking of Rodgers' assistants Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh as the result of end of season ‘crisis talks’, an opportunity arose to change the back-room setup, which has be taken to its fullest.
Although there being no European experience with in the new line-up, Rodgers' credibility was surely increased with the hiring of Sean O’Driscoll and Gary McAllister, as well as the promoting of Pepijn Lijnders.
This new look back-room staff brings a much needed fresh new look to the tired and frankly unsuccessful previous back-room setup. McAllister bringing Premier League experience and can be seen as a role model for many of the older players, using him as an example of how an older player can resurrect their career.
O’Driscoll will further enhance the development with his work with the England U19s potentially being vital. Lijnders will also be looking to influence the younger players in the squad following his successful work with the Liverpool U16s.
It was strongly felt that a change had to made to the coaching staff at Anfield; there was a feeling that Pascoe and Marsh didn’t carry the experience of either coaching or playing at a high level, a feat which can be achieved with the new staff.
4. Fire Power
Liverpool’s strikers never really hit the heights of the 2013-14 season and so it was always going to be a necessity to invest in the forwards in this current transfer window, especially now that Sturridge can be labelled as ‘injury prone’.
The early forward signings of Ings and Origi have promising, potentially bright futures ahead, however the real encouragement comes with the signing of Christian Benteke from Aston Villa.
12 goals in Benteke’s previous 12 games suggests that the Belgian striker is a man in form in front of goal, the kind of player Liverpool desperately need.
Benteke will not excite all fans and may even concern them, but an international striker with Premier League experience certainly sends out all the right signals to Liverpool’s rivals.
5. Finally, a good right-back!
For as long as I can remember, Liverpool have struggled to find a competent right-back, possibly with the exception of Alvaro Arbeloa.
However, the signing of Nathaniel Clyne could change that. An experienced, competent, home-grown talent with bags of further potential, Liverpool may finally see the end to the right-back nightmare in recent times.
Not only does Clyne offer the necessary of a full-back in a Rodgers' team, the ability to attack, but also he can defend. In my opinion Clyne’s performances were up with the Chelsea duo of Ivanovic and Azpilicueta and surely one of the major factors in Southampton’s solid defence last season.
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