The biggest nightmare for Liverpool and their fans came to fruition this summer, as superstar striker Luis Suarez left the club to join Barcelona for a fee of around £75m. Replacing Suarez will be near impossible after his 31 Premier League goals in just 33 Premier League appearances last season, and instead of a replacing or rebuilding, reshuffling will likely be the modus operandi at Anfield this summer.
So far, the players who have joined the club — were Suarez still around — would actually be putting Liverpool into an extremely healthy position compared to their rivals in England. However, with Suarez now gone, the landscape changes for the worse and it puts Brendan Rodgers into a difficult position regarding the direction of the team from here on out.
Rodgers never planned for Suarez leaving; it’s just suddenly arrived, and with his philosophy of purchasing young players who will improve over the course of time, does Rodgers now vacate that philosophy to splash out big on a replacement? He probably won’t, and if things go wrong, questions will inevitably be asked regarding the reasoning behind not sufficiently replacing Suarez with the money the club received in return for the Uruguayan.
To this point, Liverpool have acquired Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert from Southampton, Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen and Lazar Markovic from Benfica. All of them are good additions to the team, but none of them are able to replace Suarez, obviously. Last season, with Suarez, Liverpool were scintillating in attack but susceptible in defense, yet Rodgers, curiously, has not actually strengthened the defense as of yet. That will change in the coming weeks, surely.
Lallana lit up the Premier League last season and probably deserved more game time for England at the World Cup than he actually got thanks to those very performances. His close control, vision, passing and finishing abilities are all complemented by his work ethic and desire, and being in his peak, Lallana is ready to step into the Liverpool team from day one.
His former Southampton teammate, Lambert, is likewise seasoned, experienced and ready to immediately step into the team if called upon. Lambert is not a particularly great athlete, but he is a goal scorer; and with Suarez now gone, Liverpool will need as many goals as he can muster to try and fill that particular void.
Unlike Lallana and Lambert, Can and Markovic may not be ready to immediately perform in the Premier League. Can is a versatile player who is primarily a defensive midfielder, but he can also fill a number of other positions including being a box-to-box midfielder instead. Can could prove to be Steven Gerrard‘s long-term replacement in the holding position, but until that time comes, he may have to find alternate positions to get game time. At 20 years of age, though, he has plenty of time to learn, mature and adapt until then.
Markovic is the most exciting of the Liverpool signings made so far. The Serbian is very quick and fleet of foot, and he can play pretty much anywhere in an attacking capacity. Initially a winger, Markovic has drifted more centrally in recent times and could feasibly fill any attacking position Rodgers requires of him.
The fascinating aspect of Liverpool’s setup going forward will be which formation Rodgers eventually settles on. With the players now at his disposal, he has a variety of options to cipher through and Suarez’s exit may have just muddied those waters further still. But overall, Rodgers will be content with the incoming transfers he’s made so far, and instead, it will be the outgoing Suarez who will concern and disappoint the most.
Liverpool still have plenty of goals in their squad, however, and a lot of creative attacking talent to provide the necessary service. But the defense must still be a concern after some of last season’s performances. It let the team down on a number of occasions, and more than any other area, the defense still needs appropriate bolstering before the new season begins.