Liverpool have strengthened early in this transfer window having identified what the club believe to be areas of concern after a disappointing season.
One of the marquee signings has been Christian Benteke. One of Benteke’s finest attributes is that he is unbelievably strong in the air, no striker won more aerial duels than Benteke (187) in the Premier League in 2014/15, something Liverpool have been comparatively poor at, with Rickie Lambert who Liverpool had previously acquired to give them an aerial presence winning only 38 last season.
Furthermore there is no doubt Benteke can add goals having scored 42 in 89 apps in an Aston Villa team that often struggle to create.
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Another big new signing, Roberto Firmino brought in for £29 million, brings a certain flair not dissimilar to fellow Brazilian Coutinho.
Firmino obtained an average rating of 7.79 on whoscored.com, the third highest rated player in the Bundesliga last season behind only Arjen Robben and Kevin de Bruyne. He also managed seven goals and ten assists with 4.2 dribbles per game on average in a Hoffenheim team that finished eighth.
To put this in context Raheem Sterling managed seven goals, seven assists and 2.9 dribbles per game playing in a very similar position.
In addition to this, Firmino has an eye for a pass having supplied the second highest number of key passes from open play (69) in the Bundesliga last season.
Nathaniel Clyne adds a defensive nature to the right back slot at Liverpool something which they have not had in recent times with Glen Johnson and Javier Manquillo proving inconsistent at best. With 3.3 tackles per game he was second in this regard to only Lucas at Liverpool last season.
James Milner was acquired on a free after he decided not to renew his contract with Manchester City. It’s no surprise that Milner brings a fantastic work rate into Liverpool’s midfield, something they already have to a certain degree in Jordan Henderson.
Milner covered 13.56km during Manchester City's win against Stoke, a Premier League record for the 2014-2015 season. In addition to this he brings experience to a fairly young Liverpool team.
Now 29, Milner has experience of winning the Premier league and playing a part in Manchester City’s recent ventures into the Champions league. This experience and knowledge of seeing out results could prove invaluable to a Liverpool side who have sometimes struggled to hold a lead.
Another Liverpool summer signing, Danny Ings, brought in from Burnley following their heroic but unsuccessful stint in the top flight showed he has what it takes to succeed.
Ings picked up 11 goals (more than Daniel Sturridge, Marip Balotelli and Lambert combined) in a Burnley team that only scored 28 and also contributed four assists.
Joe Gomez was brought in from Charlton for £3.5 million this summer having impressed at England’s Youth level and also in the Charlton first team. Rodgers has deployed him in the Liverpool defence on a number of occasions in pre-season and Gomez has impressed critics and fans alike.
What we can conclude, therefore from Liverpool’s transfer business is that they have looked to improve goal return, consistency, energy and maintain the defensive improvement of the following campaign.
In terms of formation, the 3-5-2 was popular under Rodgers last season and can be very effective in adding width in attack and strength in defence. This contributed to Liverpool’s unbeaten run in 2014/15 of 16 games.
However, if a defensive midfielder does not slot into the defence if the two wing-backs attack, it can leave substantial defensive holes especially if the opposition has pace on the wings or a striker willing to run into the channels behind the back three.
This was proven against Arsenal in April where Liverpool lost 4-1 and were completely outplayed by an Arsenal team with pace, width and skill.
The role of the defensive midfielder cannot be overlooked in terms of premiership success, players such as Gilberto Silva and more recently Nemanja Matic have been crucial in securing the defence.
Subsequently Lucas Leiva’s contribution to Liverpool side cannot be underestimated. The Brazilian recorded the highest number of tackles per game in the Premier League last season (3.9) ahead of Matic (3.6), Schneiderlin (3.7) and Coquelin (3.2).
Amazingly enough Liverpool boasted a 50% win rate with Lucas last season and only a 28.6% rate without him, surely this puts him in strong contention for a starting spot in front of the defence alongside Emre Can.
Another key factor to Liverpool’s success in the Premiership will be whether Jordan Henderson can step up to the role of captain having taken on the challenge from club hero Steven Gerrard. Henderson recorded 9 assists last season, in comparison Gerrard only managed one, having said that Gerrard still outscored Henderson with nine goals, Henderson having only scored six.
Henderson did though create 15 more chances than Gerrard (67 and 52 respectively). It is clear that no player will ever be able to fill the shoes of Gerrard at Anfield, however, Henderson’s marked improvement over the last few seasons in all areas of his game and his natural leadership ability stand him in good stead to push on at Liverpool and step into the hole the departure of Steven Gerrard has left.
While the 352 could make a return to the Liverpool tactics board I would suggest instead a 4321 with Firmino and Coutinho behind Sturridge, Henderson with Milner/ Lucas in midfield and Can holding, with a back four of Clyne, Momo Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Alberto Moreno.
Better for pacey, technical strikers who run channels, Ings could also work in this formation or indeed Firmino as false nine with Coutinho and another behind.
Another option is the 4231, better for width if 2 behind the striker play as natural wingers, this could work better for Benteke or Origi as it would allow more crossing opportunities and more support to them going forwards.
To Summarise Liverpool have a number of reasons to be positive, new prospects such as Ibe, Gomez and Sinclair coming through, Tiago Ilori and Divock Origi returning from loan spells in France, a rejuvenated attack with more options and hopefully more goals, and an improved defence, if all of the above come together and Rodgers can instill the team spirit Liverpool seemed to be devoid of last season they have a real shot at champions league qualification.
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