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For Brendan Rodgers, this is the season

Brendan Rodgers has it all to do for himself this season. New players and a new formation could make or break Liverpool.


As far as Liverpool goes, all eyes will be on Brendan Rodgers right from the start of the new season

As millions of football fans wait for the English Premier League season (2015-16) to start, pressure is building up in the league. The stakes are higher than ever before for many Premier League clubs and their managers. For some, after years of preparation, combined with failures, it’s time to come good and attain glory for the great English football clubs that they representing.

When you think about the great English football clubs, you put Liverpool FC right up there: amongst the very elite. This prodigious club has won more European trophies than any other English team with five European Cups, three UEFA Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. Liverpool have also won eighteen league titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups.

However, they've never won the Premier League since its inception in 1992.

This 123 years old club has seen many changes since last decade or so with the major one being the change in ownership and management. Since the takeover by Fenway Sports Group in 2010, Brendan Rodgers is the third man in charge taking over from the great Kenny Dalglish, who was sacked in spite of winning Liverpool's 8th League Cup.


The story so far for Brendan Rodgers

Since taking over, Brendan Rodgers has had a roller coaster ride. In his first season, the team finished seventh. The season that followed (2013-14) was a magical season for the fans, as Liverpool provided a title challenge, eventually finishing 2nd in the league. It was a season that gave Liverpool fans a reason to believe that from there on, the club would strive towards new heights of success.

However, the 2014-15 season did not match expectations. Liverpool ended the season at 6th in the Premier League, suffered a group stage exit from Champions League and a semifinal exit from FA cup.

One of the major factors for this was the absence of the club’s successful striking force from the previous (2013-14) season – Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool could not stop the eventual departure of Suarez to FC Barcelona and Sturridge was sidelined with injuries).


The club has matched the vision of the manager this summer

The club have again invested in Brendan’s vision for improving the squad this summer by buying 8 new players (one of them an academy signing). It is expected that the current signings will help the team fill the gaps in the area of goals-scoring as well as the defense - which showed its fragility last season.

Liverpool’s new signings in summary (updated on 5th of August 2015):

New signing

Role

Replacing or Playing the role of

James Milner

Midfielder

Steven Gerrard

Danny Ings

Striker

Fabio Borini

Adam Bogdan

Goalkeeper

Brad Jones

Joe Gomez

Defender

Sebastian Coates

Roberto Firmino

Forward

Raheem Sterling

Nathaniel Clyne

Defender

Glen Johnson

Christian Benteke

Forward

Mario Balotelli

Bobby AdeKanye

Barcelona (academy signing)

NA


Brendan is in his 4th season with the Liverpool, without a trophy to his name. He has to start the new season well, and keep the team at the top half of the table or could face the potential sack. 


Key for the new season: unveiling of his new strikers

How soon can the new Liverpool strikers find the back of the net?

For any major Premier League club, a good start for the strikers is always very important. On 2nd Feb 2011, when Luis Suarez was introduced during the game against Stoke, he scored in the 79th minute of the game and never looked back since then. Suarez helped Liverpool to move from 12th in January, to finish 6th at the end of the season 2010-11.

Daniel Sturridge made his Liverpool debut on 6th of January 2013 against Mansfield Town in the FA cup third round and he scored his first goal for the club after just 7 minutes.

Suarez and Sturridge continued their form and helped Liverpool reach second in the league in 2013-14 season.

The following season (2014-15) was a disaster for Liverpool with the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Sturridge’s injuries. None of Liverpool’s strikers that season scored more than 4 goals. Daniel Sturridge (4), Ricky Lambert (2), Mario Balotelli (1) and Fabio Borini (1) scored only 8 Goals together. 

Liverpool scored only 52 goals in 2014-15 (League Position of 6th with goal difference of +4) as compared to 101 goals in 2013-14 (league position of 2nd with goal difference of +51), in which Suarez and Sturridge together scored 52 between them. 

Bottom-line: lack of goals was a major problem last season for the club and they have invested on the new strike force - Danny Ings, Christian Benteke and Origi to add to Daniel Sturridge, who hopefully for the club, would be fit to play from September. Whether these players would be able to find the form and score goals, may again determine how Liverpool perform in the league.


Test of the new leadership

The beginning of an era at Liverpool

When Steven Gerrard was the leader of the pack, his performance as a leader and as an inspiring midfield player was taken for granted that it was easy to let his effect and contribution go unnoticed and that’s because he was such a special player who played diligently year after year.

You wonder how many of the goals scored by Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez in 2013-14 season were actually inspired by Gerrard. In that season, Gerrard himself scored 13 goals and provided assists for 13 goals. A role in 26 goals that is (source: Premier League Player Stats), plus he created more than 60 chances and that’s the key.

Now that Steven Gerrard has moved to US for Major League Soccer, Brendan Rodgers has a challenge in hand and that is to stimulate similar kind of leadership from Jordan Henderson and perhaps James Milner too. When the chips are down, these players need to push the change and for comebacks – something which Steven Gerrard did ever so well. He did not just ignite the team, but the whole club and the city.


The big question: How will he line up the team?

On too many occasions during the 2014-15 season, Liverpool were not sure of their best organization and it did put them under the pump in some crucial games. Brendan has to be sure and confident of his organisation and strategy this year.

He seems to be building this new team around either the 4-3-2-1 formation or the 4-4-2 (diamond) formation during pre-season. It has to suit the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Origi and Lallana, as these guys could play a major role in creating goal scoring opportunities for the team. 

The formation that worked wonders for Liverpool – the diamond

The 4-4-2 Diamond could become Rodgers' go-to formation. This gives the team 2 players up front and more attacking options. This formation also lets Coutinho free to create his magic from the middle. Brendan had deployed this style when Suarez and Sturridge were there and it worked wonders for the team.

Fans who have seen teams' success using this formation are expecting Brendan to apply the same, right from the start of the season.


Most importantly, Liverpool cannot afford to concede too many goals

Liverpool had a disastrous start to the last season (2014-15), losing 7 of their first 16 games. They fought back, going with no defeats in their next 13 games. Eventually though, there was too much to catch up for them (for top 4 spot) after they lost back to back games against Manchester United and Arsenal. If Liverpool are expected to make it to top 4 this season (assuming that’s one of the priorities), they need to start solid.

Brendan’s philosophy was to outscore the opponent during the magical season of 2013-14. It worked for him because Suarez and Sturridge led striking combination will eventually score more than the opponents. They were on a rampage.

Liverpool scored 101 goals but leaked 50 goals that season. It did not become an issue though: the goal difference was +51. They ended with 84 points, almost winning the league.

This didn’t work for the team in the 2014-15 season. The goal difference for Liverpool was just +4 that season. No team can qualify for top 4 with that kind of goal difference. 

Season

Team

GF

GA

GD

Points

PL Position

 

2013-14

Liverpool FC

101

50

+51

84

2nd

Arsenal

68

41

+27

79

4th

 

2014-15

Manchester United

62

37

+25

70

4th

Liverpool FC

52

48

+4

62

6th


Hence, Brendan has to accept the fact that in the absence of the goalscoring qualities of Suarez and Sturridge, and the new strike force settling in the club, he needs to strengthen his back line.

The new Liverpool recruit James Milner has the right talent and energy to bring the vigor and balance which the team needs in the midfield. New right back Nathaniel Clyne has more pace and better defensive abilities. From the left side, Joe Gomez, has looked a very bright prospect for the team. These men need to work really hard along with Sakho/Lovren and Skrtel to avoid the threat at the back. In all, their synergy on the field will prove extremely vital to Liverpool’s performance.


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