The spending spree
The sale of Suarez was inevitable the moment he sank his teeth into Chiellini during the World Cup. It was an incident too far for the club and £75 million for a 27-year-old was a good deal. It increased the size of the transfer kitty which was spent improving the depth of the squad to cope with the demands of the Champions League.
The following players joined: Adam Lallana; Divock Origi; Alberto Moreno; Emre Can; Rickie Lambert; Dejan Lovren; Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli.
Money well spent?
Most of the signings have shown their worth with three notable exceptions. Lovren was expensive and has so far failed to justify his price tag and is now lucky to make the bench. He is a seasoned international recruited to provide leadership at the back but has struggled. With the emergence of Sakho, and recently Can, it is difficult to see him making much of an impact for the rest of the season.
Rogers decided he needed a plan B when chasing games and recruited Rickie Lambert. The tactic of crossing to a big target man requires two up front and could have worked had Sturridge not picked up so many muscle injuries. Unfortunately for Lambert, he does not have enough in his game to contribute to plan A. He also provides very little in the way of movement.
Balotelli represented the biggest gamble because of the drama he introduces on and off the pitch. There is no doubt that he has talent but is he able to learn how to function in a team? There is hope that bench time will force him to rethink his approach but he has cost the team with insipid performances. He has shown himself incapable of leading the line on his own. However, in the last two games against Spurs and Palace he has shown some positive improvement.
In 2013/2014 Rogers was the LMA’s Manager of the Year and this season was always going to be a stern test after losing Suarez. The absence of Sturridge for so long has not helped but this is a player with a history of injuries. A forward that was ready to lead the line should have been a priority on the shopping list.
The 4-4-2 diamond formation worked well last year, but it required a lot of movement. For much of this season this has been lacking and it took too long for Rogers to find a formation that worked, 3-4-2-1. This cost a lot of points and while the recent unbeaten run of 8 league games is impressive, they are in 7th place.
He has given players the opportunity to show what they can do but often took too long to drop those who under-performed. The performances in the Champions League highlighted this and were a low point for the club given the easy group. After many years outside Europe’s elite competition, this did nothing for Roger’s reputation.
The reluctance to change the system and personnel has exposed a stubbornness that Rogers must learn from. Expectations for this season were to qualify for the Champions League. If a title challenge is realistic next year, Fenway might not be so patient and understanding.
Last season raised expectations but this season is about realism and as such Liverpool are on track. The club is challenging for a Champions League place, is in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and remains in the Europa League. They currently cannot compete with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the transfer market. Do they need to? In La Liga, Athletico Madrid proved that they do not need to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Additionally, the long awaited improvements to Anfield are finally underway. One hopes that the club also helps regenerate the local area since they do share some responsibility for its demise.
Considering the loss of one of the best player’s in the world, the club is doing well in meeting realistic expectations.