Why Last Season Will Be Liverpool's Best For A Really Long Time
Despite ultimately finishing with no silverware, there is no doubt that last season was a huge success for Liverpool. Luis Suarez was in devastating form, Steven Gerrard adapted very well to his role as a deep-lying playmaker and Daniel Sturridge emerged as one of the best strikers in the league. I don't buy the idea that Liverpool "bottled" the title last season; they were never favourites, and did very well just to get as close as they did. Surely, even with the sale of Luis Suarez, they're in a decent position, right?
Wrong. I think.
I believe Liverpool are going to seriously struggle next season, for numerous reasons. The obvious one is the sale of Luis Suarez. He scored around a third of their goals last season, and he was the league's best player. He's certainly not going to be replaceable; what I think Liverpool will miss most is his dribbling, and the way he beats defenders on the turn so easily. As good as Daniel Sturridge is, there is no way he can single-handedly fill the void left by Luis Suarez.
The second reason I think Liverpool will struggle is Simon Mignolet. This is just a personal opinion, but I don't think he's good enough for a team with top four ambitions. Whilst his shot stopping is normally good, he's pretty rubbish at dealing with crosses. Mignolet was excellent at Sunderland, but he's required to be a more complete 'keeper at Liverpool, and I'm not sure he's up to it. His distribution is also an issue, especially as Rodgers seems keen to implement a heavily possession based game at Liverpool in the coming years.
It's no big secret that Liverpool's central defence let them down massively last season. Suarez and Sturridge would regularly rip teams apart, only to see their side drop points. The most obvious example of this is the catastrophic 3-3 draw vs Crystal Palace, which effectively ended Liverpool's title dream. Kolo Toure isn't very good any more, to be frank. I also believe there is a parallel universe in which Martin Skrtel was penalised every time he blatantly pulled a players shirt in the box, and where Liverpool finished 9th. Yes, everyone does it, but not to the extent Skrtel does. Daniel Agger is fine, but weak in the tackle, and I'm unsure that he's good enough to start. Mamadou Sakho is a good centre back, and whilst he wouldn't get into the Chelsea or Arsenal team, he's good enough for Liverpool. With large sums of money already spent on wide players and rumours of Alberto Moreno signing for £18m, I can't see them bringing in the quality they need at centre back.
I've never really liked Jordan Henderson. I was fully on board the "he's a waste of money" bandwagon, and I've never really got off. Maybe that's a little disingenuous, but I'm not at all convinced Jordan Henderson is a top class midfielder. His short passing is good, but he's rarely incisive. He does offer plenty of energy, but again he's nowhere near the other top teams box-to box Midfielders, like Yaya Toure or Aaron Ramsey. I'm certainly no expert on running styles, but Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out that Henderson's running style wasn't "sustainable", and may cause him problems. Will these problems start next season? Who knows.
On the topic of central midfield, I worry for Steven Gerrard this season. He's 34, and having disappointed for England in the soaring heat of Brazil during the World Cup, he may already not be in a great condition. Couple this with the return of European football at Anfield this season, and I think Gerrard may struggle to cope. As for Philippe Coutinho, I think Lallana will displace him next season. For me, Coutinho goes missing too often, and I think he'll struggle more than anyone now that Suarez has departed.