Liverpool Season Preview

liverpoolThe Football Lab spoke to Liverpool fan @ReviewFootball ahead of the new season. Here, he discusses Liverpool’s defensive problems, the importance of having players who love the club… oh, and the small matter of Luis Suarez’s exit.

The big summer news for Liverpool is that Luis Suarez has completed a £75 million move to Barcelona. Could Liverpool struggle in his absence?

Liverpool will certainly struggle without Luis Suarez. He’s one of the few players in world football who can change games single-handedly. What’s more, the stats prove he was the heartbeat of Liverpool. He scored the most goals, created the most chances and completed the most take-ons. Despite Liverpool making serious money on him, there’s no one Brendan Rodgers can replace him with (realistically – players in Liverpool’s wage bracket).

Last season was the 25th anniversary of the tragic Hillsborough disaster. Ultimately, did this extra emotional factor become a psychological hindrance, in terms of your title challenge?

Not really, I don’t think this was on the players minds too much. Maybe the only game was the home fixture against Man City, despite that I think Liverpool were very clear mentally.

Liverpool conceded 50 goals last season; even Crystal Palace let in less. What can be done to change the defensive record?

Liverpool are an attack-minded team, the philosophy of the team is to score more goals rather than look to hold onto 1-0 leads.
But in terms of what can be done to help the defence, a few things.

1.) More organisation at the back – at Liverpool it seems the defence lacks organisation and structure. Rodgers needs to find a leader, just like Jamie Carragher someone who leads the defensive line and tells players where to stand and who to pick up. Dejan Lovren is reportedly the man who Rodgers has assigned for this role.
2.) Full-backs – Liverpool need intelligent full-backs, especially defensively. Far too often Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson get caught out of position and lack the positional awareness to block and protect spaces at the back. One positive about Jon Flanagan last season was that he knew his strengths. He was what you’d call the ‘neutral full-back.’ The one who doesn’t always bomb forward, the one who always holds his defensive position. Liverpool need better balance at the back.
3.) The midfield – Liverpool need to be a bit more enforcing in the defensive midfield area. Despite Steven Gerrard being excellent on the ball, he sometimes lacks the positional awareness or the technique in the tackle to successfully snuff out attacks before the opposition are allowed to commit men forwards. It appears that Emre Can will help.

Versatile midfielder Emre Can signs for £9 million. Do you see him as a utility man, or Gerrard’s long-term heir?

I don’t see him as a utility man or a Gerrard replacement. I see him as Emre Can.
I think he, like Jordan Henderson is a modern central midfielder someone with great strength and technique. I think a central midfield of Gerrard, Henderson and Can could be quite effective. Henderson and Can would do the running for the Liverpool skipper, while the pair are willing third-man runners from midfield. However, it is vital they chip in with a few goals this season – especially since the departure of Suarez.

A total of £45 million has been spent on Lazer Markovic and Adam Lallana. Would it have been better to spend some of the Suarez money on one top class player?

Ideally yes, Liverpool’s summer spending has been rather worrying this summer. The Reds haven’t brought what I’d call any ‘Elite-level’ or Champions League level players. But there’s just over a month to go in the transfer window, so you never know. But it does feel like Liverpool have regressed. A centre-forward is much needed. You cannot trust Daniel Sturridge to stay fit all season.

32-year-old Rickie Lambert, who was Liverpool born and bred, arrives from Southampton. Were you surprised by this signing?

I’m very pleased with this signing, he’s one of the very few Liverpool summer signings brought for a reasonable price! I was surprised by the signing as it wasn’t really talked about in the papers before and when it happens, it’s a lovely surprise. I think he will be a solid addition. He’s flexible and technically very good. Furthermore, he’s crazy about Liverpool, you need players in your side who love the club and you know are determined for the club to be successful.

Brendan Rodgers has been named as LMA Manager of the Year, but how would you assess his media-handling skills?

I think his media skills are pretty good. Firstly, Liverpool fans love him because of his ambition, he shares the same vision as the supporters, he wants to bring the club back to it’s glory days. Secondly, he’s not afraid to be bold with his statements, you need that at a big club. If you don’t have that ability it stands out like a sore thumb at a big club (See Roy Hodgson at Liverpool and David Moyes at Man United).

Furthermore, compared to his predecessor, Kenny Dalglish – it’s pleasing to see a manager speak to the media with some charm and being friendly.

With most bookmakers, Liverpool are at around 9/1 to win the title. Where will you finish?

Fifth. I think Liverpool’s summer signings haven’t been inspiring so far, and I’m unsure who will make an impact. The Reds will also struggle to manage the Champions League and the Premier League.

TFL Verdict

Don’t underestimate the impact Suarez leaving could have. Without him, this Liverpool side simply won’t be the same. 6th