July 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Ten Predictions For Liverpool’s Season

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1 – Higher Defensive Line

As I’ve written at length, the defining tactical tweak Rodgers needs to make this season is to set us up to play with a higher defensive line. A lack of pace at the back forced us to drop deep last season, but with the acquisition of quicker centre-backs with more experience playing high-up, we should be able to camp out in the opponents half from now on, allowing us to squeeze the play when out of possession and build slowly when we have the ball.

 

2 – The Pressing Issue

A welcome consequence of holding a higher line will be that we can implement a more effective pressing game. If the space between your defensive line and strikers is large, you are left with a massive area for your midfielders and attackers to close down. If the defensive line is pushed higher – squeezing the gap between attack and defence – you end up with more players in a smaller area, making it far easier to close down the opposition. This season, I expect pressing high up the pitch to be a far more obvious feature of our approach.

 

3 – Resting On the Ball

Although the high defensive line makes it easier to press consistently, a high press remains an energy-sapping tactic. We didn’t see the much talked-about resting on the ball last season because we didn’t press as much as Swansea did under Rodgers, so there was no need to take a breather. This year, I expect to see us pass the ball about in our opponents’ half more. I imagine this will frustrate some fans who will be unhappy to see the ball rolled back to Agger when we are stationed in the opposition half, but it’s that patience and slow-build approach that lets the team recover energy and catch teams off-guard. Brazil used to play in a similar way (slow, slow, slow, quick), passing the ball around almost nonchalantly before suddenly upping the tempo and catching teams off guard. I think of it like a boxer who works the left jab without any intention of causing real damage, so that the inevitable right hook isn’t telegraphed.

 

4 – Joe Allen Comes Good

I’m still baffled that many fans can’t see Allen’s class. Yes his form suffered after picking up a shoulder injury, but he was our best player in the early part of the season, and his technique, mobility and intelligence should be obvious. He was unfortunate that when he was at his best, the team were struggling, and by the time Lucas had returned and Coutinho and Sturridge came in, his form had gone off the boil. I expect him to return to his best this season and silence his many critics (or at least make them look foolish).

 

5 – Borini Scores Goals

There’s a real divide in opinion on Borini. Many of those fans thinking he is simply rubbish, and point to his lack of goals last season as evidence. This conveniently omits the fact that his season was ruined by injury, and the only real game time he got was early on when the team was still adapting to a new way of playing. The more thoughtful among us maintain that Borini is a cultured player with excellent movement and good game intelligence. Carlo Ancelotti compared Borini to Filippo Inzaghi because like Inzaghi, Borini is a nuisance of a player prepared to defend for his team from the front. During this summer’s Uefa Under 21 tournament he showed that as well as his work off the ball, Borini also has an eye for goal. He may not be prolific, but I expect the young Italian to prove himself a valuable member of the squad in his second season.

 

6 – January Signings

Despite many of us feeling reinforcements are required in the left back and defensive midfield positions, it looks like the club will prioritise signings elsewhere this summer. With the four buys we’ve already made and more expected on the way, we should have decent strength in depth in all other areas, leaving just Lucas and Enrique short on competition. Come January, if there is any money left in the pot, I think we can expect a purchase or two to ensure we have competition all over the pitch.

 

7 – Cup Winners

This one is a bit of a punt, but without any European competition this season, and with a more balanced, deeper squad, we ought to be able to take the domestic cups seriously without impacting on our league campaign. If our senior players were to play no part in the cups they would only feature in 38 games all season, which isn’t a lot in the modern game. Instead, I expect us to mix it up in the cup games with a blend of senior and younger players, giving a really good chance of making it through to the latter rounds. I’d expect us to play a youthful side early on, with those on the periphery of the first team also getting a chance to stake a claim, but if we advance to the latter rounds, the sides we field would no doubt take on a more business-meaning look. A cup win would give our young side a taste of success and the hunger for more, as well as silencing some of Rodgers’ critics.

 

8 – Coutinho Sets the League Alight

Some might argue that he already did this last season, so it isn’t much of a prediction at all. If Coutinho could carry his form from the second half of last season across the whole if the next, he wouldn’t just be a candidate for our Player of the Year, or the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year, he’s be in contention for Premier League Player of the Year and unlucky if he didn’t win it. He really was that good. Of course, we have to remember that he is still very young, and will suffer dips in form at times, but whereas form is temporary, Coutinho’s class is as permanent as it is obvious. If he gets to play in the hole as I would like to see him, I think he can be an absolute revelation.

 

9 – The #RodgersOut Brigade Will Rise Again

The improvement after the signings of Coutinho and Sturridge took the wind from the sails of this Armada of fuckwits temporarily, but they won’t have actually learned. With the number of ins and outs, there will once again be an element of transition about this season, with setbacks along the way and progress likely to come stuttering until the team fully gels. That will give the #RodgersOut crew plenty of opportunity to mouth off, pointing to every little setback as ‘proof’ he isn’t the right man for the job, while ignoring the general trend of steady progress.

 

10 – Champions League Qualification

OK, so I’m setting myself up for a fall here. Not because I think it’s impossible, or even unlikely, but because so much can still change, and 5th could turn out to be an incredible showing. If Suarez leaves, breaking into the top four becomes instantly more difficult as his goals leave with him, and there’s no guarantee any replacement signings will do the business. Even if he stays, finishing 4th (or above!) will be an incredible achievement, but there’s something about Rodgers that I haven’t fully been able to put my finger on that gives me faith that he will lead us there eventually, if not this season. Our form for the second half of last season wasn’t far of the CL pace, and with a good start this time around, you never know what might happen.

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