It’s been a busy summer in the red half of Merseyside, with Liverpool having signed up 10 new players since last season came to a close. The influx of so many players has lead some to question if Liverpool’s dressing room harmony could be upset, particularly after the arrival of a certain Italian superstar.
The dynamics are important but I don’t worry because if you are a top player with a top mind then you want other top players. If you are a top player and looking at another top player coming in then you will be thinking, ‘He can help us.’ A top player with a top mentality responds to the competition.
Said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers when asked how Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli will fair together in the team.
Since Brendan Rodgers became manager, Liverpool has adopted a pressing style where the role of the midfielders in retaining possession is crucial in deciding the team’s overall style of play. The team executed the style well last season to see them finish second, two points behind Manchester City. But still there was a feeling Liverpool could have wrapped up the title win were it not for a draw at Crystal Palace and a loss to Chelsea. But it was in the Chelsea game that even Rodgers admits his lack of options limited the team’s chances of winning.
People talk about the run-in and the pressure and all of that, but in the last 14 games we won 12, drew one and lost one and the one loss was so unfortunate.’’ Rodgers said, ’’ We had actually played really well and then just before half time Stevie (Gerrard) slips (against Chelsea). That has nothing to do with winning the title, it’s just a slip. You go one-nil down and it is difficult. For 70 minutes we knocked on the door but I didn’t have depth then to change the game, I didn’t have the squad to reverse the personnel.’
Could Balotelli be the player to lead Rodgers’s reverse personnel? Although Rodgers admits that his squad is already strong enough to mount another title challenge, he also acknowledges that depth in the City squad played a key role in their title defense. At times the opponent seems to have an upper hand in the Liverpool diamond style of play, mostly when running out of time, but with Balotelli the manager will have an option to change the team to a new style.
And with the Champions League coming back to Anfield, depth of the squad will be key to balance performances in the Premier League and success during European nights. With Luis Suárez having left for Barcelona there was a need get players to fill the void. Although Rickie Lambert joined from Southampton, the future of Fabio Borini remains uncertain and signing Mario will provide more back up for Daniel Sturridge.
The frustrations of attacking a team for 70 minutes in the same way without a goal should therefore be minimal, if Rodgers is able to bring out the best from the new signings. And as Raheem Sterling recounted after the Southampton game,
“Sometimes it’s not about pretty football, it’s about grinding out the result and that’s what we did today (against Southampton). And we showed some great football at times.”
If the regular style fails to yield results, then Rodgers will go on and employ a reverse personnel system led by Balotelli and Liverpool may as well grind their way back to the top of the league.