Liverpool Must Challenge

Liverpool started their 122nd season in existence a few weeks ago, and their 51st consecutive season in the top flight of English football, the 22nd in the Premier League. In those 22 seasons, Liverpool are yet to win the Premier League trophy and Manchester United overcame them to become the English team with most domestic league titles but things could be destined to change this year.

Brendan Rodgers led Liverpool to a seventh place finish last term but this time around with his second year in charge, he had a better idea of which players will fit into the style of game he wants his club to play and who will not. With Jamie Caragher retiring, Liverpool cashed out on Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jay Spearing and side players like Peter Gulasci, Daniel Pacheco and Danny Wilson while a few notable names were loaned out such as Pepe Reina, Fabio Borini, Suso and Oussama Assaidi. One player who did not leave was Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s owner John Henry did all his effort to reject all bids coming from Arsenal and indeed he showed no mercy with the player and Arsenal failed to lure the Uruguayan away. His presence will be a strong asset for Liverpool this term.

Jamie Carragher has announced his retirement

Liverpool went and did their business early in transfer window signing 20-year-old Luis Alberto from Sevilla, Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo,  Simon Mignolet from Sunderland and Kolo Toure from Manchester City. All players were available from July and had the chance to experience pre-season under Rodgers. Mignolet had a superb season last term, he claimed 47 crosses while failed with only three. On the other hand, Pepe Reina claimed 31 and failed with 10. The new keeper cleared the ball through punches 39 times while Reina did so only 17 times.Moreover, Mignolet was averaging 3.92 saves per game compared to Reina’s 2.35. Simon’s concentration on the pitch definitely adds a lot to Liverpool’s defensive side.

Simon Mignolet: Liverpool’s new goalkeeper

Pre-season was set for Liverpool to travel for marketing reasons to play in the far east  as well as a match in Norway against Valerenga, skipping a trip to the USA where there owners are based. The result was seven wins, one draw and a single loss against Celtic. All in all, it gave the new players the chance to fit in with their new team-mates and mainly Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas should signs of good display and integration into the team while Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge impressed with their performances.

Ready for the new season, Liverpool hosted Stoke City in their opening match in the absence of Luis Suarez. Liverpool dominated the opening game taking up to 25 shots, one of which hit the woodwork and another hit the back of the net signed by Daniel Sturridge. On the other end, Stoke had their fair chances but a missed penalty in the 89th minute or rather a saved one thanks to new goalkeeper Mignolet foreshadowed Liverpool’s season. Luck is on their side this time provided they back it up by performance. Club captain, Steven Gerrard, was the man behind it all in the middle even if Liverpool did not hugely dominate but he passed the ball 87 times including three key passes while he delivered 11 crosses and 12 long balls, eight of which were successful. He touched the ball 112 times and he did contribute defensively as well clearing 6 balls. His partnership with long serving midfielder Lucas Leiva has shown that the two have a fairly good understanding between each other.

Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard have established a great understanding between each other

Their second Premier League game and the first away from home was against Aston Villa. The Reds experienced a lot of difficulty as the Villains who came from an away victory against Arsenal on the opening game were boosted with confidence. Daniel Sturridge scored again for Liverpool in the first half to ease pressure a bit but they only managed to take five shots all game with the only one target being the goal. Villa disrupted Liverpool’s midfield and took up to 12 shots but Mignolet seemed to be the man for the job not letting a single one beat him. It was a tough battle for the Reds but they won it because of their determination and non-complacency.

Daniel Sturridge has scored in every game for Liverpool this season so far

They opened their FA Cup campaign against minnow side Notts County, Rahim Sterling and Daniel Sturrdige each grabbed a goal in the first half as Liverpool were dominating though during the second half the away side stepped up their game and scored twice through Yoann Arquin and Adam Philip. Liverpool were forced to score twice through Sturridge and Jordan Henderson during extra time to hand Liverpool the qualification.

Returning to Premier League action, Manchester United came visiting, a game of much bigger importance and scale than the preceding two and the Kop left the stadium satisfied with a 1-0 victory and the author of the goal was none other than Daniel Sturridge, in the first half as well for a third consecutive time. Taking down Manchester United was an important step for them, it left them alone at the top of the league even if it means nothing at this time of the season but the fact that they seem to be riding a different wave of luck this year around could give them a lot to aim for as long as they stay humble and work as a unit.

During the final days of the transfer window Liverpool dipped in to strengthen their squad even more spending £22 million on two defenders: Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho arrived from Sporting and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. The club also loaned in Victor Moses from Chelsea while Fabio Borini headed out on loan to Sunderland. Daniel Pacheco was also released permanently to Alcorcon. Liverpool’s biggest signing of the season is none of the new arrivals, but Luis Suarez, keeping him at the club will be a huge asset, he can win games on his own, he can do what Fernando Torres failed to do a few seasons back that is to guide Liverpool to the Premier League.

Victor Moses scored on his Liverpool debut

In the fourth game Liverpool dropped their first two points, it was away against Swansea, Rodgers’ former team. Swansea dominated the game, in terms of possession and shots. They were in control for major parts of the game and it  was no one other than former Liverpool player, Jonjo Shelvey to open the scoring against his former team just in the second minute. Liverpool quickly reacted through Daniel Sturridge who scored just two minutes later while debutant Victor Moses added the second in the 36th minute to become the only player besides Sturridge to score for Liverpool this season in the Premier League. Yet as the trend was in the previous games, the Reds halted in the second half and became complacent, giving Michu the chance to score an equalizer after being set up by a header from Shelvey.

Liverpool managed to grab a point and they should take lessons from this game rather than lose heart. They are still on top of the table and the only team along with Everton not to lose a match this season. Though, if Liverpool are to provide a strong challenge for the title this season, they need to step up their game. They have all the right ingredients to do so and their performance in the first half of every game reflects that. They need to stop being complacent and settle for a one goal lead and push on during the second half of their games to score more and ensure the victory rather than sticking to nervy endings.

Rodgers’ team has dominated and played well in all their first halves during the first five games, they need to replicate their focus, determination and concentration in the second halves because this time luck is on their side. Luis Suarez’s return to the side is going to give them an even extra big push, with no European football to worry about during midweek, they can have the advantage of having full weeks to prepare for their Premier League games unlike all their five rivals. Another season with Rodgers at the helm means more understanding between players and management and more trust, this season Liverpool have it all and they are up for the challenge not to fight for a Champions League place but the title itself.


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