New faces, huge test for big-spending Liverpool
MAN CITY v LIVERPOOL
(Tomorrow, 3am, SingTel mio TV Ch 102; StarHub TV Ch 227)
The departure of Luis Suarez was long written in the stars.
But, when combined with the chain reaction that followed, however, Liverpool could be left standing on thin ice.
Tomorrow morning (Singapore time), the Reds take on Manchester City, who pipped them to the finishing line in May. The face-off should provide an early gauge of where Liverpool are headed this season.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has wasted no time in spending the £75 million ($155.6m) recouped from the Suarez sale.
For an approximate combined fee of about £100m, the Northern Irishman snapped up Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno and Rickie Lambert. Promising youngster Javier Manquillo joined on a two-year loan.
Three of them - Manquillo, Lovren and Lambert - saw action in their opening match, a 2-1 win over Southampton at Anfield.
Lambert made quite an impact after coming off the bench last Sunday. With his second-half introduction, Liverpool got their second wind and eventually notched the winner through Daniel Sturridge.
Rodgers now has the strength in depth he so craved, one which will put them in good stead when they battle it out in the Champions League and strive to do well in the EPL.
The influx of new faces may come at the expense of stability and it will put Rodgers' squad rotation skills to the test.
The last time a Premiership club went on a shopping spree as extensive as this, it didn't end well.
It was only 12 months ago when Andre Villa-Boas looked all set to take Tottenham Hotspur to the next level.
The situation was similar.
They had money to spare, £85.6m to be exact, after having just sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
So, Spurs smashed their own transfer record three times - on Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela - and took their spending past £100m.
Others like Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Christian Eriksen and Vlad Chiriches also arrived amid much fanfare.
By last December, Villas-Boas was out of a job. The glut of new players needed time to settle, and Spurs' chairman Daniel Levy has never been a patient man.
Striker Soldado became the face of the failed project, although the majority never found their stride, either.
Villas-Boas' gamble hinged on them hitting the ground running, and they didn't.
The difficulty in getting a team with many new faces to click quickly could be seen from their disjointed performances, before and even after he left.
Heavy defeats by West Ham (3-0) and Manchester City (6-0) preceded the 5-0 beating Liverpool dished out to precipitate his sacking.
Caretaker manager Tim Sherwood couldn't prevent the team from losing to Man City (5-1), Chelsea (4-0) and Liverpool (4-0) too.
Rodgers' supermarket dash isn't over.
Italy striker Mario Balotelli is on the brink of a £16m move to the Merseyside club, while their interest in Germany midfielder Marco Reus remains strong.
Liverpool's owners appear more benevolent than Spurs', so Rodgers is not under pressure to deliver right away.
This season is all about consolidating their position in the top four rather than delivering the league title that slipped from their grasp last term.
But the worry is that if the going gets too tough early in the season, the criticism will mount and doubts may engulf the team before they know it. The process is not always reversible.
After the leap they took last season, expectations are high and not all at the club will have the stomach if the Reds a take a few steps back.
What happens at the Etihad will provide early clues if Rodgers has the magic wand.
NEW REDS’ SAINTLY SHOW
How three of Liverpool’s new signings fared in their opening match
The right back started well against Southampton, but like most of the rest, faded as the match progressed.
Showed excellent physical qualities which should help him adapt fast to the English game.
Put in an assured performance at the back. Made some strong challenges and demonstrated his passing ability. Partnership with Martin Skrtel looks promising.
A 15-minute cameo was all he got. Southampton were threatening to score the winner, but Lambert’s movement gave the hosts another dimension, and they went on to win through a Daniel Sturridge goal.
“Big teams can do without people who pick and choose when they will have a go. It’s a high-risk signing and I wouldn’t want him.”
— Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness on Mario Balotelli (above), who is on the verge of joining the Reds
“Sturridge was able to play alongside Luis Suarez, so why not Balotelli? Even then, the arrival of a new striker would surely inspire the England man.”
— Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson on Balotelli