Despite a fantastic league campaign last year, there are three areas in particular that Liverpool need to strengthen in order to clinch their first league title in almost 25 years.
The 2013/14 season was a fantastic campaign for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side. A 7th place finish the season before, resulted in no European football at Anfield for the 2013/14 season. Liverpool were going into the 2013/14 with blind optimism that they could qualify for Europe and bring the good days back to Merseyside once again.
Many people considered Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs to be the teams competing for the top four in the league which would ensure they qualified for Europe’s most prestigious club competition. For some Liverpool fans, an improvement on their 7th place finish would be considered a significant improvement from the past few campaigns. However, the season was absolutely sensational, with the Merseyside club being in the running for their nineteenth league title, and first since 1990.
However, a run of eleven wins in a row for Liverpool came to an end after a 2–0 loss to Chelsea on 27th of April after Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip. This result handed the advantage to Manchester City in the title race, and they never looked back.
Whilst many would be disappointed in failing to win the league having been so close, a significant rise in the league position and qualification for the Champions League is a very positive development for Liverpool and a clear sign that under Brendan Rodgers, the club is moving in the right direction.
Due to qualifying for Europe, and now competing in four competitions next season, Liverpool will need to enhance their squad both in quality, and in depth.
Last season Liverpool were heavily criticised for their defensive play, whilst the club finished second in the league, they conceded 50 league goals, which means statistically the Liverpool defence was the 8th best in the league.
Liverpool were potent and clinical in attack, scoring 101 goals over the 38 match season, only bettered by champions Manchester City who scored one goal extra.
Signings So Far
So far this summer Brendan Rodgers has boosted and enhanced his side with the signing of Rickie Lambert from Southampton. The England international is a tried and tested forward in the Premier League and is a more than capable back- up striker for Liverpool’s main duo of Suarez and Sturridge.
Rodgers has also boosted the squad’s depth by signing Emre Can, a talented German midfielder with plenty of potential, especially as an attacking midfielder. Rodgers called him an “inspirational young talent”, and also compared him to fellow German midfielders Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
These are two good signings for Liverpool. Lambert, whilst not a big name, is a decent Premier League forward, which will help supplement Liverpool’s attacking threat if Suarez and Sturridge are either injured or require a rest. It remains to be seen whether or not Fabio Borini will head out on loan next season, after a successful loan period at Sunderland, he too would offer Liverpool a decent rotation option.
Emre Can on the other hand joins a Liverpool side that boasts a midfield containing Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson. Emre Can will most likely be a rotation/back up option, and potentially a long-term replacement for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who is now 34 years of age.
The three areas that Brendan Rodgers needs to enhance and add some quality to is central defence, left back and out wide. As mentioned, Liverpool’s defence last year was very poor, and in order to compete for trophies they will need to improve it.
1. Central Defence
Liverpool currently have Martin Škrtel, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Sebastian Coates and Kolo Toure who are all centre halves. Whilst the Merseyside club have plenty of depth in this position, quality and overall substance of real defending is lacking.
Kolo Toure provides years of experience, having played previously for Arsenal and Manchester City but the 33-year-old Ivorian is getting on in years, and his lack of pace can at times cause Liverpool to shed silly goals.
Sebastian Coates on the other hand is still relatively young, being only 23 years of age. However in his three-year career at Liverpool, he has only managed 12 appearances and looks highly out of favour. Coates also spent part of last season on loan at Nacional in Uruguay, the defender will most likely get more game time next season and develop further by making another loan move.
The other three centre halves (Martin Škrtel, Daniel Agger, both 29, and Mamadou Sakho) are all decent players. Mamadou Sakho in particular is certainly going to be a top world class centre back in years to come. While the Frenchman did have some poor games and made some mistakes last season, it was his first season in the Premier League following a big money move from PSG.
In order to resolve their defensive frailties, Liverpool could enhance and improve this area by signing a new centre half, which will compete with the existing three for a starting berth and provide much needed competition in that department.
Neven Subotic fits the bill in many ways, and may be available from Borussia Dortmund this summer, but he is gaining interest from Europe’s top clubs, similar to his Dortmund partner Mats Hummels.
Both are world class centre backs, and signing one of them would vastly improve the Liverpool defence. However, neither would come cheap, and if Rodgers managed to prise one away from the Germans it would take up a large portion of his transfer budget.
Liverpool might instead opt for the cheaper alternative, which would be to sign Cardiff City defender Steven Caulker. The 22-year-old former Spurs defender would be a realistic option for Liverpool, following his relegation with Cardiff. He would most likely cost around £10m and would be a long term option.
Last season Liverpool had two left backs; Jose Enrique and loan signing Aly Cissokho. Cissokho has returned to Valencia after Liverpool’s decision to turn down the option of signing him permanently following an underwhelming season in which he competed for a starting place with John Flanagan, a right back by trade.
Argentine left back Marcos Rojo could join the Merseyside club to add quality, and competition for Jose Enrique. However, experienced veteran left back Ashley Cole is available on a free transfer following his release from Chelsea and would represent a very good, experienced and fresh signing for Rodgers.
Even at 33 years of age Ashley Cole is still a quality left back with bags of experience having received 107 caps with England, as well as featuring heavily over the last 16 years for both Arsenal and Chelsea.
Last season Liverpool had Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea, who has now returned to his parent club. In the January transfer window Rodgers attempted to sign Mohammad Salah, but the Egyptian opted to make the move to Stamford Bridge instead.
Yevhen Konoplyanka came close to moving to Anfield during the January transfer window, but failed to secure a £16m transfer. Rodgers might go back in for the Ukrainian international in order to add depth and quality to his squad.
Liverpool may look to Barcelona for wide reinforcements next season. After a trophy barren season, the Catalan giants are rumoured to be making drastic changes to their playing personnel. Of those rumoured to be heading away from the Nou Camp this summer are Spanish international Pedro, 22-year-old Cristian Tello and Chilean international Alexis Sanchez.
26-year-old Pedro scored an impressive 19 goals and contributed eight assists in all competitions in 2013/14, and his ability to score and create from the flanks would be a fantastic asset to any club, including Liverpool.
Tello on the other hand is a promising young player who came through the youth ranks at Barcelona. He has never quite had the chance to prove himself in the club’s first-team on a regular basis. Now 22, the Spaniard will feel he needs to be playing regularly at the top level to progress further in his career, if he has ambitions of adding to his one international cap with Spain.
One Barcelona star that Liverpool should try to sign is the exceptionally talented Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has just enjoyed his best season in a Barca shirt, scoring 21 goals and aiding his teams cause with 15 assists in all competitions. He has proved himself as a key player in an attack that is laden with fire-power and star names.
If Liverpool do sign three of the aforementioned players, they could certainly challenge for the title again, and would definitely solidify their top four status. By adding quality players, as mentioned above, Liverpool could become as successful under Rodgers as they were in their heyday.
Steven Parkhill, Pundit Arena.