Liverpool’s last season under Rodgers was a breath-taking improbable run at the title. I may never again enjoy another season of football quite like it in my lifetime. But the squad’s lack of genuine world-class talent showed. And without the distraction -and physical demands- of European football, it was easier to focus the club’s resources on the domestic league. The message at the start of last season was clear: it was supposed to be a season of rebuilding. This year, no one -fan, opposition or neutral- will be able to take that message seriously.
But can this year’s Liverpool squad truly be considered a more complete work? Are we not still rebuilding? Thus far, everyone affiliated with the club has cautioned patience: with so many new signings, it takes time for players to mesh into a cohesive unit. To me, that sounds like the very definition of a squad reconstruction.
Consider the following: since being appointed as Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers has offloaded no fewer than 7 regular starters including Dirk Kuyt, Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger and obviously, Luis Suarez. I don’t question for a moment the wisdom in those sales. To replace these players, Rodgers has brought in a slate of players, of which only a handful can be considered true successes. The new signings of this window notwithstanding, only Sturridge, Coutinho, Mignolet, Sakho and Allen can be considered true match-day players of the various purchases made by Rodgers (and the jury is still out on Allen).
I am naturally suspicious of any talk around title challenges -a mentality ossified by years of disappointment. This year will be no different. I will be similarly wary of inflated expectations. It’s obviously hard to predict the future but the rebuilding and expansion of squad strength that we are seeing this season should’ve started last summer. The fault I find with the ‘transfer committee’ is that they should be helping build a squad for the season after next instead of what’s immediately before them. Now we find ourselves having to witness another season of new faces trying to understand the play patterns of the team, hoping that more than just a few will still be on the team sheet 12 months from now. At some point, the work-in-progress label has to come off and the squad that we have should be the squad that we need.