Liverpool’s early season form provides fans with hope for upcoming year

By Scott Thompson ’16, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Heading into the 2013-14 Barclay’s Premier League season, Liverpool FC, one of the most successful clubs in football history, was looking to improve over its last few campaigns, all of which presented disappointing finishes.

Last year, the team placed seventh, missing out on Europa League qualification in a slight improvement over its eighth-place finish the year before. For a club accustomed to success, the most recent of which being its 2005 Champions League title, these shortcomings are even more unsettling. Having been built by legendary managers such as Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, and Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool has struggled to recapture the achievements of these individuals, but, for the first time in over half a decade, the team looks to be on the right track with Brendan Rodgers, a manager from Northern Ireland in his sophomore year with the club.

Previously, Rodgers managed the Chelsea Reserves, Watford, Reading, and Swansea City, all while traveling throughout Spain to study different playing styles. The one that appealed to him the most was the 4-3-3 formation he first implemented at Championship club Swansea City, earning the team promotion to the Premier League, before moving to Liverpool.

Barcelona, arguably the best team in the world, uses a similar formation, as does the Spanish national team. With this in mind, it’s little mystery why Liverpool had such a difficult time adapting to this style of play, with the likes of Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll previously trying to anchor their offense. Slowly, Rodgers brought in more finessed players, like young stars Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, to allow for a creative style of play, while selling surplus players, such as Joe Cole and Charlie Adam.

Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, Liverpool had a few holes to fill, most notably that of center back Jamie Carragher, one of the greatest defenders in the club’s history. In compensating for his departure, Rodgers brought in Kolo Touré, a veteran from Manchester City, on a free transfer, as well as Paris Saint-Germain’s Mamadou Sakho.

Another shortcoming in Liverpool’s roster at the start of the season was that left by striker Luis Suárez, who had to finish serving his ten-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic the previous season. This led Rodgers to add depth by signing Luis Alberto from Sevilla and Iago Aspas from Celta de Vigo, all of whom fit into Liverpool’s passing-intensive style of play.

Now that Liverpool has adapted more to Rodgers’ completely different style of play, while adding the depth the team was missing last season, the players have taken great strides towards achieving former glory, beating rivals and current title-holders Manchester United, as well as ninth-place West Bromwich Albion and tenth-place Aston Villa. Despite losing important games to league-leaders Arsenal and third-place Southampton as well as tying Swansea City and Newcastle United, Liverpool has shown resilience, following its losses to Arsenal with a 4-0 victory over Fulham and to Southampton with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland.

The return of Luis Suárez also brought forth a dangerous striker combination, as he and Daniel Sturridge have scored a combined 14 goals and 3 assists. With Philippe Coutinho, the source of a majority of Liverpool’s creativity, undergoing surgery in September, the club saw a dip in performance, but appear to have stabilized with his return.

As the January transfer window slowly approaches, Rodgers will surely look to add even more creativity to his squad, hoping to secure a Champions League qualifying spot. At second place halfway through November, Liverpool seems to be in a good position to make a run but will have to add depth and experience to secure a top-four place by the end of the season. Regardless, the performance of this club is sure to be encouraging for fans who have endured too many years of mediocrity with a club accustomed to a much higher standard.

Sophomore Scott Thompson is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is sthomps2@fandm.edu.

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