Liverpool kicked off their new Premier League season by garnering all three points against Stoke at Anfield.
While there were some nervous moments for the side, with Robert Huth hitting the bar after Simon Mignolet flapped at a cross, before then making up for that error by pulling off a brilliant penalty save from Jonathan Walters, who seemed set to snatch an improbable point for Stoke at the death.
Though they could definitely have scored more goals, one cannot deny that the Reds looked a far better equipped side, compared to the one that took the field against West Bromwich Albion 12 months ago, and was hammered 3-0.
Brendan Rodgers has, after another summer of mass culling of players who didn’t suit his playing philosophy, developed a team that is far more cohesive in its output, and is a much better side to watch, than it has ever been in the past decade, when it had largely become a counter-attacking side.
The movement and link-up play of Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas was a delight to watch at times, with Jordan Henderson providing the legs in midfield, covering a lot of ground, allowing Steven Gerrard to dictate play with the ball at his feet.
This combination opened up the Stoke defense on several occasions, with only the brilliance of Asmir Begovic and some lack of composure denying the likes of Iago Aspas, Coutinho and Henderson a goal.
Liverpool could have scored more against Stoke...
The lack of ruthlessness in-front of goal must be a matter of concern for Rodgers, but the way Sturridge finished off powerfully for the opener, shows that along-with the presently suspended Luis Suarez, who now looks quite likely to end up at Anfield, he has the right tools to work with, in that area.
However the bench might have been an area of concern for the Liverpool gaffer, with the inexperienced or not yet proven trio of Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling and Luis Alberto his options.
And this is where he is still trying to make some moves in the transfer market, hoping to land a marquee signing in the form of Brazilian attacker Willian. With his parent club Anzhi looking to cut their losses, the Anfield based club might make a swift move for the player, although his €30 million valuation is a debatable issue, considering that the player is yet to establish himself as a full-international or prove himself in one of the major leagues of Europe.
But if the club do manage to add him, and retain Suarez, the odds of which have never been better since the transfer saga started, the club would have the attacking prowess to match that of any other contender for a top four spot.
Which leaves the defense, with a centre-back probably still being a probability, with a deal for Aly Cissokho all but wrapped up, to provide competition for Jose Enrique.
In the heart of Liverpool’s defense, Kolo Toure has made rapid strides in pre-season, to jump from being an experienced reserve, to becoming the first choice starter alongside Daniel Agger.
While the former Arsenal man has started impressively, there is no denying that Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates have fallen down the pecking order at the club, and Rodgers would like to replace both, if given a chance.
Is he the man who could propel them into the Champions League?...
With Andre Wisdom likely to being given a chance in his more natural central position, the former Swansea manager has spent most of this summer trying to lure Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who he sees as a more suitable partner for Agger.
However a deal with Schalke has been difficult to agree, with the German club wanting a premium fee for a player who has just recovered from a lengthy injury. But even if the Greece International doesn’t arrive, Rodgers will need to find another alternative, unless he decides to show more faith in Martin Skrtel.
As of now though, the squad looks to be far more balanced than last season, and the Northern Irish coach has shown a sure touch in the transfer window this summer.
Simon Mignolet is already a hero for the Kop End faithful, after his penalty save, while Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas also impressed on their debut, and all through the pre-season.If Rodgers can add a marquee signing in the form of Willian and bolster his defense, Liverpool fans for once would have some basis on which they could look forward to a bright season, with a tilt at Champions League qualification a big probability, especially with no Europa League games to burden and test the squad’s depth.
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