The Brendan Rogers era has begun. What can we expect at Anfield this season?
Last Season: 8th
In: Fabio Borini (£11.7m, AS Roma)
Out: Alberto Aquilani (£7m, Fiorentina), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys, free transfer), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbache, £800,000), Stephen Darby (Bradford City, free transfer)
If they were an Olympian: Seb Coe. Dominant in the 80's and always the centre of attention. Dropped off the radar for a while but now back, having to adjust to a new role and position. Divides opinion.
Unlike every other Premier League side, Liverpool have already started their season with an unconvincing 1-0 win of FC Gomel in the Europa League qualifying stage. Very little should be read into either this result or the performances on the club's pre-season tour. The best thing that has happened for new boss Brendan Rogers so far is that, unlike his predecessor, nobody has mentioned the need for Champions League qualification or indeed any targets.
The transfer window has seen a number of players depart with Alberto Aquilani, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez leaving with only Fabio Borini arriving. Borini should have no problem adapting to Rodgers' methods having worked with him at both Chelsea and Swansea. As has already been written the signing of Borini indicates a desire from Rodgers to build a fluid attacking unit based on interchangeable forwards and quick movement. With the emphasis on fluidity it is no great shock that the club are willing to let Andy Carroll go if they can arrange to recoup some money for £35m man.
Speculation is growing that Daniel Agger will make the short trip across the M62 to Manchester City and if this occurs then it seems probable that Liverpool will move for a centre back as Sebastian Coates is still adapting to English football.Swansea's Ashley Williams has been mooted as a possible replacement.
Rodgers will by and large have to make do with the same squad that Kenny Dalglish led to a disappointing 8th place last time out. However it is also the same squad that won the Carling Cup and reached the F.A. Cup final with those runs including victories over Chelsea and both Manchester clubs. Rodgers' main task will be coaxing better performances out of men such as Stewart Downing and Luis Enrique who lost their way badly last year. The spine of the Liverpool team, despite the trials and tribulations of the last few years, is still formidable. Pepe Reina remains one of the league's top keepers, although he will be hoping to eradicate the errors which crept into his game last season. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are both excellent centre backs and have formed a solid partnership. Lucas Leiva returns to a midfield which will hopefully include a fully fit Steven Gerrard and up front Luis Suarez remains a high class forward.
It is the players that surround this spine that are the worry; both Glen Johnson and Enrique are inconsistent, Charlie Adam and Downing have yet to justify the club's faith in them whilst Andy Carroll's problems are well documented.
Right now Liverpool's most likely forward line consists of Suarez, Borini and probably Downing although this may change if Rodgers moves for Clint Dempsey. It is in midfield where there are more questions than answers. Fit again Lucas looks set to be a fixture in the squad, speaking about the Brazilian Rodgers said "Everyone told me how special Lucas was as a player and a character, and in reality he's even better than that when I've met him".
"He is going to be a brilliant player for me in my career here at Liverpool and I'm looking forward to seeing him fully fit."
The question is who plays alongside Lucas? At Swansea Rodgers' favored midfield consisted of two "passers", Joe Allen (who is being strongly linked with Liverpool) and Leon Britton alongside a more offensively minded player in Gylfi Sigurdsson (who chose Tottenham ahead of Liverpool). If Lucas is to be one of the passers and presumably Gerrard the more attacking player, then it looks as though the battle for the final midfield spot is between Adam and Jordan Henderson.
Overall this season is very much the first part of what Rodgers' hopes is a successful trilogy over the course of his three year contract. The fans will be looking for improved performances especially at home, where Liverpool's results were dire last term. Anything in the top six should be classed as a success but the man who has placed £44,000 on Liverpool to finish in the top 2 is unlikely to be cashing his slip come May.
Key Man: Luis Suarez: Love him or loathe him, and most people are squarely in the latter, Suarez is Liverpool's most important player. Without him, Liverpool's chance of bridging the gap with the top sides are negligible. Which is why the news of him signing a new £120,000 a week contract has been greeted with such fan fare. There were two things that held Suarez back last season; Indiscipline and poor finishing. Suarez missed 9 games through suspension whilst his finishing often let him down after brilliant approach play. Rectify these two issues and he could easily end the season with 25 goals. There can be no doubt of his abilities, and his gift for jinking past defenders continues to amaze.
Underrated: Jordan Henderson: A tough one. 12 months ago Lucas would have been the obvious example but his long-term absence seems to have finally forced the doubters to realise his importance to the team. Brendan Rogers has already gone out of his way to extol his value. Stewart Downing is not as bad as has been made out but this cannot change the fact that he was poor last season. Perhaps Jordan Henderson is most deserving of this as he does not deserve to be placed in the same category of Carroll and Downing. Whilst not spectacular, Henderson is an intelligent player and his versatility is a major attribute. Probably lacking in confidence at times last year, this problem should decrease as he begins to become more accustomed to life at Anfield.
Watch out for: Fabio Borini. Raheem Sterling is an exciting talent but it seems unlikely he will see much action so Borini could be a surprise package at Anfield. 10 goals in 26 appearances for Roma last term does not tell the whole story with the Italian. He is a very unselfish player and will gladly make runs to create space for his teammates. Borini's finishing however is clinical and he averages out to just over a goal ever other game. The major worry is that he has not played much football so far in his career. In total the 21 year old has only made 47 career appearances.