There is a nagging feeling that Liverpool squandered their best chance to win the Premier League title for the next couple of seasons in May. Brendan Rodgers’s side were teetering on the brink of glory before Steven Gerrard’s famous slip against Chelsea and a second-half collapse at Crystal Palace allowed Manchester City to pip the Reds to the title on the final day of the campaign. Luis Suarez quit Anfield in July after scoring 31 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, leaving Rodgers with the unenviable task of replacing Europe’s third-best player last season. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool are missing their talisman – and it isn’t just Suarez’s goals. The Uruguay international helped Liverpool create a fear factor at Anfield. Rodgers has strengthened his squad with eight summer signings, but there was no marquee acquisition. The Reds needed a big name, like Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus, to fill Suarez’s void. £16m signing Mario Balotelli, for now at least, hasn’t made the cut. Liverpool fans will have to be patient as Rodgers’s new-look side finds its feet.
Liverpool were irresistible at Anfield in the the latter stages of the 2013-14 season, sweeping aside all of their Premier League opponents. Dismissing the division’s lesser sides was impressive enough considering their patchy home form in previous seasons, but Liverpool were outstanding as Rodgers’s side demolished Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at their revived fortress, Anfield. The Reds finished the season with 49 points from a possible 57, losing twice. This term, Liverpool have already been beaten by Aston Villa as well as struggling past Southampton and West Bromwich Albion. The Toffees secured a 1-1 draw in the derby, too, meaning the Reds have seven points from a possible 12. Liverpool need to rediscover their intensity, especially at Anfield.
Dejan Lovren joined Liverpool in a £20m deal from Southampton in the summer transfer window. The Croatia international was lauded as the club’s key signing of the summer after impressing during his debut Premier League season. However, the 25-year-old has taken longer than expected to settle at Anfield, replicating the unconvincing performances of his fellow Liverpool defenders. Earlier this season, Rob Jones told The Sport Review that Lovren could blossom into a leader for Rodgers. Of course, it is too early to dismiss Lovren as the answer to Liverpool’s defensive woes after eight Premier League games, but the Reds’s leaky defence hasn’t helped Rodgers’s side cope without Suarez’s goals.
Predictably, Liverpool have been accused of doing “a Tottenham” this summer after Rodgers brought eight new faces into the Merseyside club. Andre Villas-Boas heaped extra pressure on his shoulders at Tottenham Hotspur last summer after investing heavily on new players following the £85.3m sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. The Spurs squad took time to gel, but ultimately too long to save Villas-Boas, who was sacked in December. Liverpool wasted no time reinvesting Suarez’s £75m fee in the summer transfer window, but Rodgers’s vision is taking time to come to fruition. Whilst the Liverpool manager didn’t snap up a world-class signing to his squad, Rodgers has added much-needed depth to a squad that has often been stretched since the Northern Irishman took over in May 2012. Liverpool will need to show patience as the likes of Balotelli, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Lovren find their feet.
Rodgers hasn’t been helped by the obvious improvement of Chelsea and City during the off-season. Manuel Pellegrini has made subtle upgrades to his Citizens squad to ensure competent cover at centre-half and central-midfield. In west London, Jose Mourinho has carried out the business of the summer, signing Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas to complement an already impressive squad. Chelsea are the Premier League’s only unbeaten side after avoiding a potential slip up against Arsenal, easing to a 2-0 victory before the international break. Soaring clear at the top of the table, Chelsea have made giant strikes since a third-place finish behind Liverpool last season. The difference? Mourinho has bought proven quality in the shape of Costa and Fabregas, while Rodgers has invested in potential.
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