5. Christian Benteke will be OK
Not terrible, not amazing, OK. Tactically it’s hard to see how he fits into Brendan Rodgers system. Liverpool don’t play to his strengths and rarely deliver crosses. Getting the likes of Nathaniel Clyne to provide some natural width from full-back will be key in adapting to suit their new striker.
That said, Benteke is nowhere near as one-dimensional as Andy Carroll was. He’ll hold the ball up very well and bring Liverpool’s talented array of attacking midfielders into play. Ignore his poor pass completion stats, as they are warped by the amount of headed flick-ons he attempted at Villa. Whether his impressive all-round play is matched by his goal tally is another matter.
4. James Milner will prove he’s not that boring
Milner’s decision to join Liverpool on a free transfer was influenced by Rodgers’ promise to play him in a central role, having been employed as utility player at Manchester City.
A regular spot in the team will give Milner the platform to really build some form. He looks well-suited to the central midfield position in Rodgers’ midfield diamond, with his high work-rate and quality on the ball.
In his last season at Aston Villa before leaving to join City, Milner revelled in a central midfield positioning and was showing signs of developing into a Frank Lampard-style player. Now is his chance to get his career back on track and hit those heights again.
3. Lack of defensive investment will be costly
While Liverpool have invested heavily this summer they’ve largely ignored their defence, so often their weak point in recent seasons. Clyne is an improvement on Glen Johnson but is not going to solve the issues at the back.
Rodgers has decided against recruiting another centre-back, gambling that the likes of Dejan Lovren can come good. In goal, Simon Mignolet’s form varied between the sublime and ridiculous. The signing of Adam Bogdan should provide decent competition but it’s hardly an emphatic statement compared to how Arsenal brought in Petr Cech, despite the fine form of David Ospina.
The goalkeeper and back four just don’t match their rivals in terms of individual quality and Rodgers much get the midfield balance right in front of them to ensure that they’re adequately protected.
2. Can will ease Gerrard pain
It’s going to be strange for Liverpool fans to get used to watching the side with Steven Gerrard, but Rodgers struggled to accommodate him in the team last season and ultimately a parting of the ways will be easier for everyone.
The man who can fill the deep midfield role employed by Gerrard in recent seasons, is Emre Can. Signed from Bayer Leverkusen as a midfielder, last season he played almost anywhere but the middle of the park.
With Gerrard gone, Can looks like the outstanding candidate to anchor the midfield, ahead of the fragile Lucas Leiva. Supported by the hard-running of Milner and Jordan Henderson, Liverpool should be a more secure unit in the middle of the park than in previous campaigns under Rodgers.
1. This will be Brendan’s last season at Anfield
Liverpool’s owners could have quite reasonably decided to sack Rodgers in the summer after a poor last season. Instead they have backed his judgement again in the transfer window.
There’s no room for failure now. Yet the trouble is, success seems unlikely. Last season’s top four of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United all look stronger than a year ago, while even finishing above a Spurs side that have topped Liverpool in six of the last season seasons, will prove difficult.
It all points to this being Rodgers’ last season at Anfield. The ending could come next summer if the season is a mere disappointment, or mid-season if it veers into disaster. With Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti both out of work, the temptation to flick the guillotine will never be far away.