Image from telegraph.co.uk
This year is Liverpool’s year – or so the saying goes every season, to the point where it is almost as an inside joke amongst Liverpool fans.
But, without furthering the cliché, the time is finally right for the Merseyside giants to upset the apple basket.
The Manchester clubs are both in transition – new managers always bring uncertainty – while Arsenal and Tottenham have yet to significantly add to their squads ahead of a campaign where a top four spot and Champion’s League qualification will be up for grabs.
Liverpool’s transition though, came last year when the club appointed former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers off the back of an impressive season for the Welsh side and their young, intelligent manager.
Rodgers had a gargantuan task, yet he never looked to place blame on the club or the players he had at his disposal.
Instead, he showed his ruthlessness. Andy Carroll, Liverpool’s £35 million mistake, was cast aside, deemed unable to fit into Rodgers’ desired style of play.
Bellamy, Kuyt and Maxi were removed from the wage bill so Rodgers could add familiar faces in Borini and Allen – leaving Liverpool with a young side; every player with time on their side and a chance of proving they could be a useful cog in the Liverpool machine.
The season transpired in roller coaster fashion; Liverpool’s first win, a 5-2 victory over Norwich, came six games into the season. A slower start than Rodgers would have hoped.
Despite the slow start, there were positives. Rodgers’ bravery in giving Suso, Andre Wisdom and Raheem Sterling their first starts in a Liverpool shirt was rewarded as all three players played a crucial role in the first half of Liverpool’s season.
And Liverpool’s football was, at times, breathtaking. Luis Suarez in particular reveled in Rodgers’ new system, becoming a catalyst in a free-flowing side.
When January approached, the Reds switched up another gear. Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge added quality and a directness to Liverpool’s play that proved Rodgers was also ruthless in terms of style – the obsession with a distinct style that is so often used as a stick to beat him with was proven to be a fallacy, with Rodgers making changes for the better of the team, rather than for the better of possession football.
With the Reds ending the season on a high, Rodgers has again been given the opportunity to show his ruthlessness in the off-season.
And he has.
He’s shown a fearlessness that has left Martin Skrtel possibly unneeded by the club, while Pepe Reina is now looking over his shoulder in fear of the impressive Simon Mignolet.
Shelvey, one of the youngsters who Rodgers gave opportunities to last season, was shipped off to Swansea to make way for Luis Alberto, who Rodgers obviously rates as an even better prospect.
Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas should also prove to be shrew signings, and with the Reds still locked in a transfer saga over prolific Shaktar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Rodgers is showing the bravery and ambition that it’ll take for Liverpool to once again finish in a Champion’s League spot.
Of course, the Luis Suarez saga will also play a role in how Liverpool will see out the rest of the window and on how strong their squad will look come the new season.
But in Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have a manager with the courage to make the right decisions – a factor which cannot be emphasized enough as the Reds make a push to reclaim what they will feel is rightfully theirs.