The 200% Premier League Pre-Season: Liverpool
Between now and the start of the new season, we’ll be writing up all twenty of the Premier League clubs before it all kicks off again. If you’re here looking for the very latest transfer gossip, though, you’ll likely be disappointed by stopping off here. Quite asides from anything else, it’s the third week in July (a necessity borne of the fact that these have got to be written around work commitments, amongst much else), so most of the transfer rumours circulating at the moment are the result of the fevered imaginations of the sort of fifteen year-olds who spend their lives on Twitter pretending to be agents. Others doubtlessly be along in the coming weeks to fill you in on that sort of thing.
It is, considering the events of the last couple of years or so, hardly surprising that what may or yet may not be the coda to the tumultuous spell that Luis Suarez has had with Liverpool Football Club should be playing out like a protracted soap opera. Suarez has never been with the greatest of public relations, and when he stated at the very start of the summer that the British press was the was the single biggest reason for his desire to leave Anfield, he was setting himself up for accusations of using duplicitous language. The Real Madrid tapping up machine that might have been hoping for, however, has not lumbered to life with regard to him this summer, however – Madrid are focusing their attention elsewhere – and so it is that if Suarez is to leave the club before the end of August, it seems most likely that London will be his destination.
Losing Suarez probably wouldn’t be the very worst thing that could happen to Liverpool Football Club this summer, though. For all of his undoubted talent, it has come to feel as if the club has become over-dependent upon him on the pitch, while away from it the baggage that he carries with him has long come to resemble an albatross around the club’s neck. Arsenal’s £40,000,001 offer for the player may have been the world’s first sarcastic transfer offer, but with time now starting to run out before the start of the season, the issue of what is going to happen to this player is starting to become pressing. There will be many who have already formed the opinion that if he doesn’t want to be at Anfield, the club should merely jettison him for as much money as they can prise from them for him. Manager Brendan Rodgers, however, needs to know his squad for the start of the new season, and it seems unlikely that Liverpool will spend heavily in the transfer market until Suarez has left the club. Any game of brinksmanship, though, carries an element of risk and there will likely be further twists and turns before this story is resolved… if it is in this transfer window.
If there is one fix that Brendan Rodgers needs to make ahead of the start of next season, this must surely to be to introduce a little more consistency to his team. Like the proverbial little girl with her little curls, when Liverpool were good last season they were very, very good, but when they bad, they were horrid. After a poor start, the team went on an eight match unbeaten run which was followed by a period of inconsistency, before the team sprang to life at the end of the season with a run of just one defeat in their last twelve Premier League matches of the season. Frequently, when they won they won in style, scoring six at Newcastle, five on two occasions against Norwich City and against Swansea City, and four against Fulham and Wigan Athletic. In their eight matches against the teams that ended the season in the top four places in the table – and this is, of course, the company which Liverpool Football Club still believes itself capable of sharing – they failed to win a single match, and finished the season twelve points behind fourth-placed Arsenal. It’s a sizable gap to have to make up for the coming season, and there are no guarantees that the seventy-three points that Arsenal mustered in order to snaffle that final Champions League place will be enough this time around, especially with the financial gap between the wealthiest and the rest continuing to grow.
The reinforcements that Rodgers has brought in so far have a mixed bag. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s arrival from Sunderland is widely believed to be a precursor to Jose Reina leaving the club after eight years, whilst Kolo Toure’s arrival is an impressive free signing from Manchester City which should strengthen a defence which may have a hole in it in terms of experience following the retirement of Jamie Carragher at the end of last season. Much, though, returns to the question of Suarez. He will miss the first six games of the season no matter what, but the question of whether he will still be at the club by the point of his scheduled return or what sort of effort he is prepared to put into his football after a summer spent trying to engineer a move away from the club in the first place.
And it is this uncertainty that casts a degree of doubt over whether Liverpool can improve substantially upon their performance on last season, even though their form was amongst the best in the division in the closing stages of last season. If we take the top seven in last year’s Premier League to be a league in itself – and the twelve point gap between Liverpool and right place West Bromwich Albion certainly seems to bear this out – then there has been enough tumult elsewhere to mean that improvement is a possibility, though. Will Roberto Martinez settle into the groove in which David Moyes found himself at Everton? Will Tottenham Hotspur hold onto Gareth Bale and how might the loss or otherwise of this player affect that club? What might happen as a result of the managerial changes at Old Trafford, The City of Manchester Stadium or Stamford Bridge? Perhaps more than at any other point than in recent years, what happens at other clubs will likely have a direct effect upon others and it is this was perhaps this that informed Arsenal’s cheeky bid for Luis Suarez. The possibility of upsetting the applecart at a rival club coupled with the strict technical explanation of making the player aware of their interest in him was, presumably, too much for Arsenal to resist. We will find out in a couple of weeks the extent to which this sideshow has disrupted Brendan Rodgers’ preparations for the new season at Anfield.
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