The first three fixtures of this season’s Premier League exist almost in a form of purgatory.
Interrupted by the international break they fail to build any momentum, whilst at the same time are subjected to the pressure cooker atmosphere that comes with the transfer window and fans’ heightened – and often – unrealistic preseason expectations.
That isn’t to say they didn’t count for anything – far from it – but they can lead to knee-jerk reactions, particularly from managers, who eschew any sort of reasoned, long term strategy and enter a panic buying mode that costs their respective employers’ millions of pounds.
Of course the opposite can also occur – a manager steadfastly sticks to his vision and ignores the pandemonium as the transfer window clock winds down.
And whilst this may be a more noble pursuit than the aforementioned panic mode, it can have an equally detrimental impact on a team’s fortunes.
In early August, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp set out his vision, at least in terms of transfer policy, when he stated his desire to jettison some of his forwards.
The German, whose side can be taken as fifth favourites for the title with the latest Ladbrokes promo code, made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the amount of strikers in his squad, suggesting at least one or two were due to depart Anfield.
Which is what happened, with Jordan Ibe leaving for Bournemouth and Christian Benteke transferring to Crystal Palace for a combined total of £42 million, the latter in particular considered an excellent piece of business for the Anfield club.
The former left on the same day Liverpool scored four against Arsenal at The Emirates, in itself no mean feat.
That said, there is an argument to be made that the game was more a freak occurrence – aided and abetted by some comical Arsenal defending – rather than a result from which Klopp could draw the conclusion that his squad had enough firepower to achieve this season’s aims of breaking back into the top cohort of teams.
In fact, in the game at newly-promoted Burnley the evidence was to the contrary.
Yes, the visitors were undone primarily by the same standard of defending they would witness from the hosts at The Emirates, but the statistics tell the tale of a profligate performance in front of goal.
Of the 26 shots Liverpool derived from their 80% possession only five were on target. Burnley, on the other hand, had three shots in total and scored two goals.
The third game at White Hart Lane, whilst earning Liverpool a far more respectable result than that at Turf Moor, illustrated again how Liverpool’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal – only three of 13 shots found their target.
Whilst Tottenham’s Michael Vorm was in excellent form and Sadio Mane was denied by the assistant referee’s flag, if you intend to win games against rivals then the margins come down to being able to making your chances count.
Since the opening games the transfer window has closed, and with it two more forwards departed Liverpool – Luis Alberto, whom spent last season at Deportivo La Coruna, left for Lazio; and more notably, Mario Balotelli’s torrid two-year spell came to an end with a free-transfer to OGC Nice.
Those departures, along with those of Ibe and Benteke’s, leave with five players who would be considered ‘forwards’ in the broadest sense – Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Danny Ings and new signing Sadio Mane.
And even if we are generous and include Phillipe Coutinho that still doesn’t reflect a forward line that is brimming with goals.
Firmino, Ings and Origi managed just 17 goals between them last season, whereas Coutinho and Sturridge scored just eight each, less than both Andy Carroll and Christian Benteke, both players deemed flops at Anfield.
The question mark that hangs over Daniel Sturridge’s future casts a heavy shadow Liverpool’s forward line. Whilst much tabloid hyperbole was made over the England striker’s ‘look’ towards his manager at White Hart Lane, the reality is the 27-year-old has been far from coy in expressing his unhappiness at life in Liverpool.
Whether or not his future lies elsewhere, Sturridge represents the only forward Liverpool possess with a proven track record of goalscoring.
Liverpool’s 2016/17 season will not be defined purely by how many goals they score and in fact they outscored both Manchester United and Southampton last term. But both clubs also conceded far less.
If Liverpool’s defence continues to exhibit the same lapses they have suffered in the recent past a counter balance in attack is needed.
Any deficit in the goalscoring department may see Liverpool’s attempts to break back into the top tier of the Premier League thwarted for another season.