WHAT an annoying buzz phrase it is. Having been a civil servant for a large part of my recent history, it has been haunting me, following me everywhere. Constantly being told what we are doing ‘going forward’. In the last year or so, I have noticed it creeping into the football vernacular. It could well be my biggest criticism of Brendan Rodgers. My work life has contaminated my football life. Every time I hear the term uttered it sends a shiver down my spine, I die a little, as the song goes. It makes me cringe to the extent that my face begins to hurt.
So now, with less than two weeks left of the transfer window, it is with a bitter irony and self-loathing that I can’t stop asking myself, what are Liverpool going to do this season going forward?
Sunday saw us rip open our first present expecting to see what we’d been asking for since May. It wasn’t quite what we were after. Less shiny, less flashy, less exciting, but it was a present nonetheless and you have to be grateful for that. Some kids got nothing when they opened theirs.
As Rodgers alluded to in his post-match interview, the 2-1 win over Southampton was eerily similar to the 1-0 success over Stoke on the opening day of last season. A slow performance where we were troubled an awful lot more than we thought we’d be. Then a Daniel Sturridge winner and a potentially season-catapulting last minute save from Simon Mignolet occurred. If we continue along this parallel road, it’ll mean single goal victories at Man City and Tottenham. I’d take that.
One thing that has been discussed endlessly since the final whistle blew at Anfield is the way Rodgers set his team up. The midfield did not work as it should have. Henderson was too wide to be as involved as he needed to be given the lack of legs in Gerrard and Lucas, Coutinho was marked out of the game, no doubt a tactic top of Ronald Koeman’s ‘to-do list’ after he saw the little Brazilian consistently flummox the Dortmund defence the previous weekend, and Lucas, bless him, just cannot play in the same team as Gerrard anymore.
Questions about the midfield are though for a different article, because I am a man who likes it at the business end, so to speak.
Away from the match, all of the talk has been about Liverpool’s remaining business in the transfer market. The work done behind the scenes to bring eight players to the club already has been fantastic, but as Rodgers has confirmed, there are one or two things more to be done. The top of everyone’s list seemingly, another striker.
While the personnel of Sunday’s midfield could be questioned, we may have seen the formation that Rodgers ultimately favours. A midfield three, with two wider players either side of a lone striker. That changed later on after Rickie Lambert came on, and that gave Rodgers the chance to show off his alternative ‘plan B’.
There is no denying that Rodgers loves his options, to keep people guessing, and that’s a brilliant trait to have. However, it’s a pain in the arse if you are trying to write an article predicting what kind of squad he is looking to put together.
As I said in my Premier League preview last week (shameless I know!) Daniel Sturridge is turning into a truly great player. His goalscoring record since coming to Anfield has been well documented. I recall many who were very unsure about bringing him in from Chelsea, I had my doubts about him as anything more than a decent alternative to Luis Suarez, but not only has he exceeded those expectations. He’s obliterated them.
However, the Liverpool manager has made his intention clear to bring in a new striker to help him out. The great question is out there. What kind of new striker is Brendan Rodgers looking for?
You’ve seen all the names linked. From Wilfried Bony and Samuel Eto’o, to Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao. Rodgers has succeeded in keeping people guessing, because virtually every player linked is almost entirely different to the last.
If someone along the lines of Bony or Eto’o comes in, then you would expect that this would mean Rodgers is dedicated to one up top, with the options to go with two when needed. However, should someone of Cavani or Falcao’s ilk make their way to Zaf Iqbal’s physio table of destiny, as with Suarez before, Rodgers would have two strikers in his squad too good to leave out, so would surely have to lead with a front two once again in most games. Of course with the higher number of games Liverpool will be faced with this season, it would also give him the option of resting one or covering injuries by playing one as a lone striker, but this would still be a secondary tactic. Ultimately, it’ll be a front two when fit.
So this is where the question becomes clear. Stay true to your favoured tactics, or put your trust once more into an insanely talented front two? Practically everyone I have asked has said the same thing. “Buy a superstar striker and worry about where to put them later. We need to replace Suarez’s goals.”
Brendan Rodgers didn’t play with two strikers until he stumbled across Sturridge’s brilliance. That’s not to say that he ‘put up with’ the SAS. It could well be that the great adaptor has done so again. He’s found a system that was very successful for him and perhaps he thinks blitzing the opposition with attacking brilliance is the way to go.
On the other hand, Rodgers has just spent £45m on attacking midfielders, an area we were already fairly well stocked in. That could suggest that he is trying to get back to his 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 preferences pre-Sturridge.
There are so many permutations to consider. Buy someone like Eto’o? What if Sturridge gets injured for a long period? Can Eto’o be trusted to lead the line with Lambert deputising for 10-15 games? Buy someone like Falcao and rotate your attacking midfielders to keep everyone happy? Or buy Marlon Harewood to play the ultimate mind game?* (Like the guy who cuts himself before a fight just to intimidate his opponent)
There is of course also the argument that this is Sturridge’s time. He deserves to be Liverpool’s number one striker, and buying another top name who needs to play every week will simply be a kick in the face for him. There again, did playing alongside a world class talent like Suarez raise Sturridge’s game? Did we see the best of him last season because he had a tremendously talented strike partner to work with? Does his fitness record make it too much of a risk not to buy another top level option?
These are the questions that Rodgers must answer between now and September 1st. The kid in me wants a big name. I want to unwrap the present and see the most expensive and flashy toy on the market. That’ll show all those other kids.
However, remember that sometimes you don’t get the dream present. That gift-wrapped Stretch Armstrong, that Tracy Island and that PlayStation 4 seem great in your head. That Portuguese kid down the street has the best stuff, but sometimes getting what you always wanted doesn’t ultimately make you as happy as you thought it would.
Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all offer something different and something useful. Will a backup striker to round things off give the club enough to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League? Or will Rodgers make the rest of Europe stand up and take notice with that marquee signing many have been baying for since Suarez’s move to Barcelona was confirmed?
Whatever Rodgers decides, his work this summer to date has already given him a plethora of options… going forward. Who’s next?
*The Anfield Wrap and David Segar in no way condone or promote the idea of signing of Marlon Harewood and would like to apologise for any emotional trauma caused.
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Do we need another young/expensive striker given that Origi will be coming next season? I’m not convinced by the need for a ‘marquee signing’, it could well block the progress of Sturridge and Sterling. I’d have been happy with Remy, Eto’o too. I would like us to sign Alex Song given he’s available on loan: ideal replacement for our skipper and knows how knock a long pass to elusive left-footed strikers! Good value assuming he hasn’t gone backwards at the Camp Nou.
I think the problem is, and it’s not just our fans but the pundits too, is that they’re expecting us to replace the irreplaceable. Not really sure if Suarez fitted into Rodgers’ original plans but you can’t leave a player like that out, and it can knock things slightly off kilter. His genius made things from nothing but His contribution probably needs to be distributed over 3-4 players. Making us stronger in several more attacking areas. Sturridge I believe has earned the main man spot and he needs a jovetic/Dzeko type understudy. I think we’ll see a much more pragmatic reds this year. Not that they’ll score any less but it’ll just be less frenetic. We have firepower in spades. And it’ll be amoeba like. Moving fluidly from system to system all across the park. It’s a good time to be a red that’s for sure. I look at the roster and I just see exciting possibilities all over the place.
If we are to go for a “top class” striker to directly replace Suarez, who do we go for? Whose available?
Theres only one I can think of and thats the Colombian. To me, Falcao has flop written all over him. Morientes Mark II, only 4 times as expensive when wages are taken into consideration.
Think we’re in a difficult position. You almost feel that we should give Sturridge his head, that he’s deserved it, that HE should be our new Suarez, the main man who we depend on. But then there’s doubts about his ceiling and his injury record. How would he respond to being the one other defenses target? Did he really just score all those goals last year due to the space Suarez’s presence gave him? I love the lad and think he is quality, but don’t think there’s any way of answering these legitimate questions until May 2015.
We definitely need to being in another striker. But given what Sturridge has done for us and the lack of a realistic target we should be looking at a back up only.
Eto’o mightn’t be too bad as he’d understand his role would be similar to the one he played for Chelsea last season. And he done pretty well in a side that scored 30 less than we did.
Rodgers has seen Sturridge train practically every available day since January 2013. If he had concerns about his quality being more a by-product of Suarez’s presence than something native to Daniel himself, I think we would have seen actual moves – and not just rumors – for those top-shelf strikers. Given this, I think it’s inevitable that we start thinking about an understudy for our number 15.
Personally, I’m starting to come around on Bony. I like how, even though he didn’t score a goal the other day, he set one up and his quick thinking led to another. We’re going to need a player who isn’t just reliable at scoring (and he seems to be), but can enhance the play of those around him (and Coutinho, Markovic, and Sterling are still very much at that stage of their development).