After ascending to the Valhalla of the Champions League for the first time in too many years, Liverpool were always going to spend big this summer. Improved marketing revenues, the English Premier League’s huge new TV deal, and the £75million sale of Luis Suarez gave Brendan Rodgers plenty of ammunition in the transfer market.
Rodgers has so far spent roughly £89 million on six new players, but spending big doesn’t always mean spending wisely. So who did Rodgers get for that money, and what will the new faces at Anfield offer Rodgers in terms tactical options? Read on to find out.
Adam Lallana, Attacking Midfielder, £25m
Lallana is a pretty interesting case study of a player working his way up the ladder of the English league system. Staying with Southampton for his entire senior playing career to date, he’s played and succeeded in League One, the Championship, and now the English Premier League. Remarkably, he’s managed to make the Players’ Choice First XI at each level, and there’s not a lot of players who can say that.
Lallana brings a combination of quality and versatility to Liverpool’s attack that the club desperately needs. He can play across the attacking midfield band or as the most advanced member of a midfield trio, and possesses a rare combination of a high-octane work rate and top-shelf technique and creativity; not only does he have Jordan Henderson’s ability to run full-out for days, he pairs it with the silky first touch and divine passing vision of Philippe Coutinho.
Lallana has been the heart of Southampton’s attack for years and now he can be the same on Merseyside. Be it in the starting lineup or from the bench, Lallana offers a ton of value to Liverpool as a player and couldn’t be much more of a perfect fit for what they do and what they need.
Dejan Lovren, Center Back, £20m
A bit of a surprise purchase, but Lovren’s is a face that fits. The Croatian international plays with a style and purpose that meshes well with what Brendan Rodgers typically asks from his central defenders. He’s solid in possession, helps lead his line well, and can play on either side of central defense. Lovren is strong in the tackle, which is good in the more physical English version of the game, but is equally capable of winning the ball back with his feet or going to ground if needed.
Liverpool perhaps spent too much for him; Southampton spent less than half of what they got for Lovren when buying the defender from Lyon just a year ago. As talented as he is, Lovren’s got some issues that make such a high fee a concern, with his positioning tending to be a problem too often and being inconsistent at best in one-on-one defending thanks to poor decision-making.That said, at 25 he’s only just starting to get in to the typical “prime” age for a defender. Between that and Rodgers’ ability to develop players, this could actually wind up being a bargain for Liverpool in a few years.
Rickie Lambert, Striker, £4m
Not the most dramatic or headline-stealing transfer, Liverpool’s deal for Rickie Lambert may nonetheless wind up playing an important role for Liverpool this season. Over the last two seasons, he’s grown from an afterthought from the lower leagues to an established, quality Premier League striker, and now he’s returning to his home and the club that once gave up on him as a teenager as they swing back to success for the first time in far too long.
Barring disaster, Lambert likely won’t get a ton of starts in the league or Champions League, but as a “Plan B” tactical option, domestic cup starter, and all-around good backup to Daniel Sturridge, Lambert has plenty to offer Liverpool. His sense for linking play and supporting the attack from the center forward position fits in perfectly with Rodgers’ style, and his physical nature offers something this side has lacked since the departure of Andy Carroll. And frankly, if Sturridge goes down injured for a spell, Liverpool could do a whole lot worse than replacing him with Lambert.
Lazar Markovic, Winger, £20m
If you want one of the most electric and promising attacking prospects in Europe, look no further than Markovic. The 20-year-old Serbian international has a delightful name, blazing speed, sharp vision and raw skill, all of which makes for a terrifying package, one that will quickly feature as part of Liverpool’s attack rotation.
Markovic crosses well, plays through-balls into the box, can play either flank, up front, and even behind the striker to some extent, and has a finish so smooth he’ll leave you begging for more. He also busts his butt without the ball, working to get himself in to good positions to get fed the ball, or to win it back when his side is out of possession. As if it’s not scary enough that they already have 19-year-old Raheem Sterling on one Anfield flank, now there’s someone with the same high ceiling on the opposite flank.
Despite his immense natural skill, Markovic is an unfinished product and will need some time to work some of the rawness and inconsistency out of his game and match the frenetic pace of the Premier League. While he makes those adjustments, though, Markovish will still make for an incredible impact off the bench as a substitute and spot starter, something Liverpool desperately lacked a year ago. Once he does mature and make that adjustments he needs … look out.
Emre Can, Midfielder, £10m
Talent and youth seem to be the buzzwords of Liverpool’s summer. Can was once the crown jewel of Bayern Munich’s youth system, but transferred to Bayer Leverkusen a year ago. The plan seemed to be for Bayern to trigger Can’s buyback clause next summer, once he had a couple more years of experience under his belt, and then slide him right into that fabled Bayern midfield.
Instead, Liverpool swooped in and convinced Leverkusen to give Can up a year early, and Liverpool fans should be thrilled. Can runs like a bull, using his deceptively quick pace and bodybuilder’s power to disrupt the opposing midfield, but he has a surprising amount of guile and technique to press to his advantage. Equally as comfortable distributing the ball at a variety of ranges, thundering from box to box, or blowing up opposition attacks, Can will be a versatile and valuable part of Liverpool’s midfield during their Champions League campaign this season, and probably for years to come.
Divock Origi, Striker, £10m
Origi won’t be at Liverpool this season; he’s been loaned back to Lille. But the 19-year-old Belgian starlet, who made several big substitute appearances at the World Cup when Romelu Lukaku stuttered, has everything required to play a huge role in Liverpool’s future. Origi never looked out of place or intimidated for a moment in the Wolrd Cup, and made an impact in every match, scoring one wonderful goal and using his presence and skill to be a factor in several others.
Origi is blessed with a rare blend of speed, power, and technique, one that Liverpool recognized in the latter stages of last season when he started to ascend to the forefront at Lille. If he fully realizes his gifts, you could be looking at a striker with Raheem Sterling’s pace, Didier Drogba’s brute strength, and the trickery and skill of David Villa. With a package that well-rounded, we might, might, be looking at the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It’ll likely be at least a couple of years before you see Origi’s full impact, but with patience and a little luck, this special prospect could turn in to a special star for Liverpool and make the transfer fee they spent to get him look like a pittance.
But wait, there’s more …
The transfer window is open through the end of August, so there’s plenty of time for Brendan Rodgers to make even more additions, and the man’s been pretty clear that that is the plan. Don’t be surprised if future additions are in the same mold as above: Young, fast and full of promise. (Rickie Lambert excepted, of course … )