Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

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After the sale of Luis Suarez, Liverpool are spending considerable amounts of money to bolster their squad. So far, they have strengthened their defence with the signing of Dejan Lovren, their midfield with the signing of Emre Can, and their attack with the likes of Lazar Marković, Adam Lallana, and Rickie Lambert. Some have hailed these signings as vital; let's face it, Liverpool's lack of depth was one of their weaknesses last season. On the other hand, supporters might fear that Liverpool will be the Spurs of 2014/2015, the team that sells their star player, and splashes all the cash on players who might not be up for the job.

There are plenty of similarities with the Tottenham of a year ago. Both teams sold their star attacker, and bought players from teams that compete on a lower level than they do. Lallana and Lambert have no European cup experience, neither did they challenge for titles at Southampton. Emre Can won the treble with Bayern Munich two seasons ago, but made only three starts that season. Lazar Marković is the only player who has considerable Cup experience, having a very successful run in the Europa League with Benfica last season.

It is hard to know what the aim of the club is for the coming season. Finishing in one of the Champions League places is a must. Going through from the group in the Champions League should be the aim, but anything after that should be considered a bonus. Due to the competitive nature of these tournaments, the FA Cup and League Cup will have to take a step back, and these competitions will likely see heavily rotated teams, with outings for those on the fringes of the squad. 

One thing is for sure: Liverpool supporters should not expect to win the league straight away. Remember how hard it was for Manchester City to in the title after signing players from mid-to upper table teams? They signed Milner and Barry from Aston Villa, Agüero from Atletico Madrid, Lescott from Everton, and David Silva from Valencia to name a few. There is a learning curve involved, and time must be given to the team to gel. 

What is heavily in favour of Liverpool is that most of the signings come from teams that played in similar systems as Liverpool. Lambert and Lallana will be familiar with the pressing style that Brendan Rodgers likes to play. Lambert will add a new dimension to the team's play, as he is very adept at positional play, ball circulation in the attacking half, and creating overloads in the final third. Lallana has a good understanding with Lambert and the England internationals, and can play in a variety of positions. Marković is a very quick, yet intelligent dribbler, who displayed great understanding of counter-attacking football at Benfica. Emre Can was part of Sami Hyppiä's tiki-taka imitating Leverkusen team, playing in a team aiming to dominate possession in a 4-3-3 system.

The average age of the players signed is also a cause for optimism. Lambert is the oldest with 32 years of age, but the rest of the signings are either in their best years, or they are about to reach their peak as footballers. Lallana is 26, Lovren is 25, while Marković and Can have plenty of time to improve, as they are only 20.  

Brendan Rodgers demanded more control over transfers during his recent contact negotiations, and it seems like all the transfers have his touch on them. All the new players allow Liverpool to play in new styles, and adapt their play to the opponents more. This interview at The Tomkins Times mentions how Brendan Rodgers and head of opposition analysis Chris Davies approach every game by battling the game plan of the opponent, and setting up their team in a way that will allow them to exploit the weaknesses of the opponents the most. These new signings will allow them to do just that. Lambert is great at circulating the ball in the final third, and breaking down compact and narrow defenses. Liverpool were not good at this last season; just think of the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Possible line-ups 

Let's take a look at a few formations, and their interpretation on how Liverpool might set up next season. First off, let's take a look at a counter-attacking setup. They played with this plan against Everton in their 4-0 win at Anfield. The setup features quick dribblers, who are very aware and mature tactically, so they are committed to tracking back, and working for the team. This is very similar to how Liverpool lined up in their 1-0 win against Olympiakos.

Another formation that Rodgers used in the past is the 4-2-3-1. The way they played it favours slower build-up in order to let the full-backs push high, and let the wingers come towards the middle. This means that Liverpool will have to keep the ball in deep areas for longer, which will give time for the opponent to get back into a compact defensive block. In these games, Liverpool will have to break down deep, well-drilled defences.

Liverpool played in a 3-5-2 for a while last season. This was geared towards getting the ball to the duo of Suárez and Sturridge as quickly as possible, while maintaining a solid defensive block. When the ball is lost, the two strikers have to delay in order to prevent a long ball played into the space behind the wing-backs, who are getting back into their defensive positions. Lambert had played in this role at Southampton, so this system would allow Sturridge and Lambert to play up top together. This doesn't mean that Sterling would be out of the team, as he played in a right wing-back position when Liverpool were behind in games. Sterling and Sturridge would be a quicker attacking duo, maybe more direct and better against teams that leave more space behind.

Liverpool are taking the next step in their project. They are adding not only to the depth of the squad, but to the versatility as well. As with any new signings there will be shaky periods, and the supporters will have to be patient in the short-term, but Liverpool are still heading in the right direction. 

 

 

       

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