Call me hasty, but after just three games into the new season, there are already warning signs in place for Brendan Rodgers and he needs to take note. There is also the small element of Liverpool coming up against both Manchester City and Arsenal , however one point, that really should’ve at least five from his first three games, leaves Liverpool currently in 19th and with two major problems on their hands.
The first is the almost hysterical centre forward situation. Between Suarez and Borini, 20 league goals were netted last season, which if you consider the 10,000 other chances Suarez created for himself, and missed, this is not enough for a club looking to eventually qualify for the Champions League, and maybe even win trophy number six amongst Europe’s elite. Staying on Suarez, it would appear that for all the trickery and Messi-like he may deploy at the Kop, the Uruguayan still struggles to score, which throws into question his role as Liverpool’s centre forward. Since his debut, Suarez has one of the worst conversion rates of all Premier League strikers, converting just 1 in 10 chances on average. Numerically, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney, Demba Ba and Robin van Persie all have conversion rates of 20% and above, whilst Suarez vastly lacks with just 8.6%, meaning just 8.6% of chances created by the supposed racist, are turned into goals for the Reds. This simply cannot continue. To me, Suarez is better suited as a winger, or the Iniesta role just behind the striker. To put a man with a conversion rate of 8.6% as the focal point of your attack, is a decision seriously depleted of logic. So to dampen the problem of Suarez not scoring, Rodgers brought in Borini.
To describe Fabio Borini as a bad signing, based on what we have seen in the first few games for Liverpool would be fickle and wrong. What I will question is, whether the young Italian has the required potential to blossom into the prolific striker the Reds need, as they have lacked a week-in-week-out goal scorer since El Nino left. Borini is certainly an exciting talent, who can fit in naturally to Brendan Rodgers tika-taka style of play whilst he also possesses a good physique. However, he looks like he will need at least a season to fully get to grips with the Premier League. His 10 goals in 26 games for Roma last term was impressive, and earned him a spot on the bench of Italy’s Euro 2012 squad, however the Premier League is second to none, so whatever you’ve done in the Serie A counts for little in Premiership language. Furthermore, this transition season is intrinsic to Liverpool’s development in future, given the increasing diversity of top clubs within the Premier League, Liverpool cannot cling on to the 18 league titles they won in the past. You are only as a good as your results show in this day and age, so it is imperative that Rodgers has strikers in place to facilitate his ambitions, which just to re-cap, stand at a decent cup-run and hopefully a Champions League spot. In Suarez and Borini alone, I do not believe the Kop will be fighting for a Champions League spot, and if they do, they will mount a challenge at too late of a time. Queue Andy Carroll…
Secondly Liverpool’s other big problem this season is the lack of cover within the squad. Manchester City didn’t win the Premier League with the same 11 players nor did Chelsea grind out their Champions League triumph with the same 11 either… So you get my drift about strength in numbers. Liverpool do not have the required squad to compete in the way Liverpool truly should: for every trophy going. It’s as simple as that. Liverpool near enough have a concrete starting 11, and then there are those who may play some part, but Brendan Rodgers is entitled to no comfort when selecting a team, as he knows from the deadline day Andy Carroll fiasco. Say for arguments sake, two of Gerrard, Suarez, Borini or Sterling get injured, Liverpool can pretty much count themselves of winning a match against a ‘top club.’
At the back, Liverpool lack a recognised left back to cover Enrique, whilst Martin Kelly, regardless of his Euro 2012 place, is still a defender in the making, nowhere near being a good enough right back to get selected over Micah Richards. As for the midfield, Liverpool’s strength lies in the centre whereby they have six different players who can play here. Out wide, new signing Oussama Assaidi, for what his pace may be worth, emerged from relative mediocrity in Holland, so his level of performance in English football is still unknown. £20 million man Stewart Downing doesn’t offer much hope on the left as a starter, although he does possess super-sub potential. It would appear Joe Cole’s role in a red shirt stretches no further than the last twenty minutes of an already confirmed win. Up front, you can expect Suarez to continue to do everything his style of football represents; play fast-flowing, sharp and skilful football, but not score. As for Borini, from first viewing, he may need a bit of time to adapt before he starts becoming a regular goal scorer at Anfield, however if like Assaidi he can prove me wrong, then I’ll write an article solely about both players and their Anfield successes. This is where Liverpool’s attacking options end. Should Liverpool need to use another striker, they can only select from a handful of youth players, which I’m sure delights any manager wishing to qualify for the Champions League. Of course, there is the small matter of Raheem Sterling.
It’s not all bad. The Reds possess one thing a lot of other clubs do not, an arsenal of promising youth player and a manager not afraid to use them. Raheem Sterling has been one of few pleasures which Liverpool fans can boast about so far. The 17 year old former QPR man appears to be one of English football’s brightest prospects. Excuse the pun, but the young winger gave a sterling performance against both Man City and Arsenal. He was unlucky not to score against the latter club, but nonetheless, he could be the new John Barnes or perhaps even more, should Brendan Rodgers use him properly. Along with Sterling, Liverpool have Joe Allen, an accomplished passer of the ball. Last season Allen completed 90% of his passes in the 36 games he played in for Swansea City last year, which speaks volumes for his current and future potential in the centre of the park at Anfield.
Coupled with the fine British talent is Sebastian Coates. Rodgers opted for Coates ahead of Carragher in the 2-2 draw with City in what appeared to be the correct decision. The Uruguayan is just 21, a baby in centre-back years, and has been capped 9 times by his country, won the Copa America as well as the Best Young Player award in 2011 whilst he also scored one of the finest debut goals in the Premier League by a centre-half in recent years with a scissor kick against QPR. Not a bad resume for a 21 year-old centre-half. Moreover, Rodgers has worked with Borini before twice, so if anyone knows how to turn his potential into ability, it’s the former Swansea boss, and I for one believe Borini can turn into a big player at the Kop. Martin Kelly has something going for him if he got selected to represent England at the Euros, so there could is potential for him to turn into the future Jamie Carragher, however I take a personal bias against this player so we’ll leave it at that. Shelvey is beginning to look more and more like a threatening attacking midfielder, and was unlucky not to score against Arsenal after an impactful display. Assaidi, Jack Robinson, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Pachecho deserve a mention also as their potential remains unknown at this point in time.
Going forward, Liverpool’s forthcoming season will no doubt be a learning curve, however if Brendan Rodgers would’ve learnt how to mould together a Champions League worthy squad remains to be unseen. I do feel that Liverpool are moving in the right direction, however, I do not see them coming higher than any club from Manchester or above Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs for that matter, so a 5th or 6th place finish looks likely. As for challenging for the Premier League one day, since it became the Barclay’s Premier League in 1992, Liverpool are yet to become champions. However, I do think for now Brendan Rodgers is the right man to steer the Liverpool ship back in the direction of football elitism.