Four wins in four games and three of them clean sheets! This season has started on a lot more positive note than the last one under manager Rodgers and there are a lot of factors that can be taken into account for this. When Luis Suarez was handed a ten match ban people assumed that Liverpool would falter badly without the services of their star striker. But the last few matches of the previous season and the first four matches of this season has shown otherwise.
Liverpool’s performance has improved a lot over this period of time and their dependency on Suarez has reduced to a great extent. There has been a new winning mentality to this team and the squad has gelled tightly during this time. To top it all Liverpool have also had a successful transfer window, bringing in players who cater to the needs of the manager and getting rid of players whom the manager feels surplus to the needs. The inclusion of Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto and Simon Mignolet highlights this fact as does the transfer out of Pepe Reina, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. But it has been evident from Liverpool’s activities in the market that they have valued their defence very highly this season.
Last season many observed that Liverpool were doing fine in front of the opposition’s goal, playing their passing game and taking the lead early in the match. But then their steam went off midway and more often than not they gave away their lead because of a silly defensive error. Their trusted goalkeeper for a long time, Pepe Reina also did add to these mistakes and last season the Merseyside club lost a lot of points due to this.
This must have hit Rodgers at the beginning of the new season and he resolved to tighten the defence of the team. The first action that he took was to bring in a replacement for club legend Jamie Carragher who had decided to hang up his boots. Carragher had served the club for a long period of time, but his retirement was certainly a boon in disguise for the club. His speed had reduced abruptly and he was nowhere his best last season. Thus Brendan Rodgers brought in Kolo Toure from Manchester City on a free transfer, although his age is not in his favour, Toure has the Premier League experience and the ability to lead the back-line when called upon.
After that the manager sought to mend the goalkeeping woes of the club by roping in Sunderland shot-stopper Simon Mignolet, a young keeper considered as one of the best in the league. That made way for Pepe Reina to leave the club on a loan deal to Napoli, reducing the wage bill to an extent. Although this decision to loan out Reina raised many eyebrows, as Reina had been one of the most passionate and top performer of the club for a long time, Rodgers was adamant in his decision. Jamie Carragher, who by then had moved on to become a pundit for Sky was spot on when he uttered the following words.
“He (Mignolet) has made a great start to his Liverpool career with three clean sheets. There was a lot of talk about Pepe Reina. Did Liverpool get rid of him because of his high wages? They got rid of him because Brendan Rodgers did not rate him. Rodgers rated Mignolet higher than Reina. It was nothing to do with wages. They still had to pay £9m for Mignolet so it is not about money. He obviously didn’t rate Pepe Reina.”
After three league games in charge of the Liverpool goal, no one can now doubt Rodger’s decision.
Then came the inclusion of Aly Cissokho form Valencia on a loan spell. Although he has been brought as a mere backup for Jose Enrique, whose performance has not always been top notch, Cissokho has brought with himself a certain physical aspect to the team, coupled with his blistering pace down the left flanks. This was at full display during the match against Aston Villa where he was subbed in at the later stages to assist the counter attack.
But among all these new additions people have perhaps forgotten Martin Skrtel, a man full of unexploited potential, but perhaps not at the best of relations with his manager. The sudden injury of Kolo Toure, who had been doing a great job along with Daniel Agger at the heart of the defence with maturity and sophistication, opened the doors for Skrtel to get featured in the team. And he probably gave his best performance in a red shirt on that day! Not providing any space to Robin Van Persie, he was sly in his job and precise would be an understatement. A player who had been tipped to leave the club all summer certainly ensured his career at Liverpool with that one performance and again Carragher had to say this.
“I don’t think after that performance it will be (his last game). If he had performed poorly today and Liverpool had lost, it could easily have been that lad’s last game of the season. He has had no pre-season. To come in and not give Van Persie a sniff until very late on it is great credit to him.”
Lastly came the transfer deadline day and Liverpool added another couple of options at their centre back. Mamadou Sakho from PSG and Tiago Ilori from Sporting joined the Reds, providing them with a host of options at the defence. Ilori would certainly be a future prospect and not have any immediate impact, but Sakho would certainly be the man of the moment now for the Kops. He was one of the best defenders at PSG but went down the pecking order after the French club spent a fortune to procure the services of Marquinhos from Roma. That prompted Sakho to make the move as he was aware of his gametime before the World Cup next year and ultimately Liverpool emerged the winners.
A player with unmatched physical stature, Sakho is a perfect man for the Premier League and he could go on to send chills across the spines of the forwards of the oppositions. Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, has expressed his pleasure at the purchase of these two players on the deadline day and that Sakho is as good as the elusive marquee signing the club has been looking for the whole summer.
“Sakho is a top, top center-half and that adds to the great center-back pairings that we have already and it will give that depth,” Ayre said. ”He’s an important marquee signing for us. It was a difficult one to do and it was a difficult one for us to get, but I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to attract him to the football club.”
Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini once mentioned that if a team has the capability to maintain cleansheets, then most of the time they would be able to create that one chance to score the winning goal and bag all the three points. The three games so far have shown that same trend for Liverpool and although the season has a long way to go, the supporters would like to believe that this year the club would finally be able to make a mark and break into the top four.