With seven new arrivals at Anfield already, Liverpool fans were certainly right to suspect a busy summer of transfer business at the club.
The signing of a striker was always going to be a priority, it was just a matter of who the club could bring in. Christian Benteke proved to be that man as he arrived on Merseyside for a fee of £32.5million, however he has divided opinion in terms of whether or not he can help Liverpool return to being title challengers.
From the very beginning I was against signing Benteke with the belief that the current Liverpool side would be unable to compliment the Belgian’s style of play. Paul Lambert’s methods at Aston Villa depicted Benteke in a negative light in terms of presenting him as a very rigid player who simply feeds from crosses and long balls, though his drastic dip in form towards the end of Lambert’s time in charge perhaps suggests that the omission of creativity in the form of a real number 10 did him no favours whatsoever.
His power and aerial threat are his obvious strengths however the unlikely use of wingers at Liverpool means his ability in other aspects of the game will be put to the test. It remains to be seen how Rodgers plans to set up though it looks likely that the use of attacking midfielders in Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino will be preferred to the use of wide men Lazar Markovic and Jordan Ibe. With this in mind, the striker can’t expect too many crosses being put into the box although the probable return to a defensive four gives him more hope in this area given the qualities of full backs Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno going forward.
The former Aston Villa man has proven he is no slouch and it is up to him to expand his game by stretching the opposition defence and making runs beyond the centre backs. With regards to attributes, Benteke isn’t all that different to Mario Balotelli which is why I fear he could be a misfit at Liverpool.
His lack of experience of playing in front of attacking midfielders means it could take time for him to adapt, which could be a problem given the importance of Rodgers’ side getting a good start in the league. He must allow the talent in midfield to give him the ball at feet with the expectation that he will play as a technician as well as a finisher by assisting those around him and bringing others into play. He must also look at the severe lack of movement shown by Balotelli and see that he must always be on the move in a Liverpool side focused on high intensity pressing of the opposition.
The uncertainty shown by Liverpool fans towards this signing is fueled by the fear that he could turn out to be another Andy Carroll or Balotelli while it doesn’t help that players who arrive at Liverpool for big money are often unable to handle the pressure.
The signing of Danny Ings from Burnley is an interesting one as it is hard to predict how he will be used given the arrival of Benteke. The prospect of Ings and Benteke playing together as a front two is intriguing with the England Under 21 International more than capable of working the channels and dropping deeper to create for his teammates. The pair would also free each other up from having more than one defender marking them, which could be vital in giving Benteke the chance to bully his man while Ings runs his man ragged with his movement.
Ultimately, a front two could leave Coutinho more space to work in which can only spell danger for the opposition. Liverpool having a fit Daniel Sturridge as well as Ings and Benteke at its disposal is a healthy sign as all three know how to find the back of the net, which, above all other traits, is the main job for a striker at the club right now.
Rodgers has again brought in a lot of new faces however this time around there appears to be more logic behind his transfer dealings. Bringing Clyne to the club is a massively important addition to the squad as he poses as a perfect replacement for Glen Johnson. Not only is he a threat going forward, Clyne is pretty solid defensively. He fits the same bracket as James Milner in terms of Rodgers bringing in reliability.
If Milner was just a few years younger he would be an even better addition to the side than he already is following the departure of Steven Gerrard. His hunger and work rate makes him everything a Liverpool fan can hope for in a player. An important trait of his is the winning mentality he will have picked up at Manchester City having won the Premier League. Pre-season has already introduced fans to his ability to both score and create a goal which already makes him an improvement on Joe Allen.
The £21.2 million spent on Firmino again gives Liverpool fans reason to fear we might have again spent too much on an unproven player. His 10 assists for Hoffenheim in 2014/2015 betters Raheem Sterling’s tally of 7 assists and Coutinho’s 5, thereby suggesting he could be used as an attacking midfielder.
Despite many fans not knowing much about Firmino, early praise from Brazil legend Ronaldinho gives us reason to believe both he and Coutinho can be a real threat when played together. The Brazilian also completed 140 dribbles last season, bettering Coutinho’s 109 and Sterling’s 103 meaning he can make things happen in the final third.
The key to Liverpool’s success in 2013/2014 was the speed at which the team got the ball forward, therefore his dribbling ability will create more attacks which our strikers can hopefully finish off. Ultimately, I believe he acts as a replacement for Raheem Sterling. The German Bundesliga is fairly similar to the Premier League so hopefully he won’t take too long to settle in.
Aside from the new faces at the club, there are many players that must be moved on elsewhere. With Rickie Lambert moving to West Brom, Fabio Borini must be next in line to leave. The Italian has gone further down the pecking order following the return of Divock Origi from his loan spell at Lille and the addition of Ings and Benteke. Jose Enrique also looks as though his time at Anfield is over though he may not leave unless a replacement left back is brought in.
It has become clear in recent days that Mario Balotelli looks to be on his way out of the club which, if true, must be completed quickly and without trouble. If Brendan Rodgers has no plans for him then there is no reason for him to stay even if some Liverpool fans would like to see him stay. Even though I feel he deserves another season, a debate surrounding Balotelli is pointless at this stage.
A new strike force is a promising sign for Liverpool fans but more work needs to be done this summer. Another holding midfielder surely needs to be brought in to give Rodgers another option if Emre Can struggles in the role and if Lucas Leiva fails to return to top form. Besides this, another centre back should probably be a target unless Rodgers is brave enough to listen to the fans and give Thiago Ilori a chance. The manager must take a look at Chelsea and take note of how Jose Mourinho has at least one solid replacement for every position on the pitch.
I, as I’m sure all Liverpool fans are, am very much looking forward to seeing how our new players perform come the first game of the season away to Stoke.