Liverpool: Why No Suarez Could Help Coutinho, Sterling & Sturridge
“No that’s fine, I’ll do the Liverpool vs. Southampton preview. Easy; just talk loads about all the former Saints that’ll be starting for the Reds on Sunday, pad the rest out with Suarez talk.”
Having signed Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren this summer for a combined fee of LOADS OF MONEY, it seems only fitting that Liverpool should ‘randomly’ draw the Saints as their opening day opponents for the 14/15 season.
Unfortunately for me, selfish footballers have decided to either further their career elsewhere (Suarez), had poor pre-seasons that confine them to the bench (Lambert) or suffered a bad injury (Lallana). Always thinking of themselves, what about my bloody narrative?
And despite the fact two of the three aforementioned signings will not start the game, it should still be one of the most intriguing games this weekend, between the two sides subject to the most upheaval over the last few months.
Liverpool enter their first official game of their post-Suarez era, having spent over £100m on new recruits. Having finished second last season, coming within inches of the title, it’s crucial that Brendan Rodgers’ side quickly move on from the loss of the Uruguayan and again lay down a marker to their rivals.
While you’d expect the onus to be on big-money new signings, much of the responsibility and expectation now falls on the shoulders of three players who played alongside Suarez last season; Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling, and Philippe Coutinho.
The level of Suarez during the previous campaign was so astonishingly high that Sturridge’s 21 league goals are often ignored or left as a footnote, when his acheivement should have been lauded. Such a lack of appreciation is sure to have left the England striker miffed and now that the South American has departed, it is down to Sturridge to prove he can lead the line alone in the absence of his former SAS partner.
SAS was alleged to be referring to Sturridge and Suarez, but anyone who watched Liverpool last season will tell you that in terms of link-up it was actually Sterling and Suarez who formed a lethal partnership (rather than the SAS’s combined individual brilliance). The fact that the young winger so often looked on the same wavelength as one of the world’s elite attackers shows what an incredible 12 months Raheem Sterling has had.
Brendan Rodgers has rapidly transformed Sterling from a promising talent to one of the most influential and flexible forwards in the country. His blend of pace, skill and end-product from either wing or through the middle make him almost impossible to defend against. It’s very easy to forget that he is still only 19.
Sterling will now take on even greater responsibility for Liverpool, but at his current rate of progression you’d not bet against him making great strides again and cementing himself as perhaps the club’s best player.
Perhaps the most interesting player to watch this season is Coutinho. The immensely talented Brazilian has shown glimpses since arriving in 2013 but still not yet truly announced himself. However, missing out on the World Cup in his homeland appears to have spurred him on and so far this pre-season Coutinho has been head and shoulders above the rest; seemingly determined to prove he should have been starting for the Seleção during the summer.
Both Sturridge and Coutinho’s best form came when Suarez was absent, with Coutinho in particular thriving on being the team’s creative hub, relishing the pace playing in front of him. For all Suarez’s brilliance, his departure could be what helps three very good players take their game to the next level and become world stars.
The attention will be on Lovren, Lambert and Southampton’s new manger Ronald Koeman this Sunday but the safe bet is that when the full-time whistle blows it will be a combination of Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho who have stolen the show. And it’s something the rest of the league better get used to.
Follow Matt on Twitter, @Empique