EPL: Potential over pedigree

EPL: Potential over pedigree
Lazar Markovic (L).

Liverpool have lost their superstar but, instead of investing in a like-for-like replacement, they've opted to spread their resources across a range of new players.

Luis Suarez is gone. His goals are just memories.

And some Reds' fans are a little concerned. And they have every right to be concerned.

When Gareth Bale left Tottenham for Real Madrid last year, the proceeds were spent on seven new players.

At the time, one excitable observer commented that Spurs had "sold Elvis and signed The Beatles".

As it transpired, they didn't even get "One Direction".

Roberto Soldado barely scored, Erik Lamela barely played and only Christian Eriksen ever displayed the kind of form that justified the investment.

Now Liverpool supporters fear that they may be going the same way with the signings of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic.

But there are reasons for the strategy, and they're not without merit.

While it is frustrating to see Chelsea splashing out on proven quality like Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, the London side are in a very different position.

Chelsea are already geared up for the challenge of a war on two fronts, at home and in Europe. They just need to be tweaked. Liverpool are in transition. They need to be rapidly expanded.

It's one thing to lead a thin squad into a title race unhindered by overseas travel, but it's entirely another to use that same squad for two or three games a week all season while racking up the air miles.

Liverpool's priority was always going to be boosting numbers and quality.

The Reds' owners, the Fenway Sports Group, are also followers of the "moneyball" principle that preaches investment into under-developed young players to squeeze maximum value from the transfer market.

No matter how much money they received for Suarez, they were always going to be ideologically opposed to the idea of hurling enormous sums out for established footballers at the peak of their careers.

Signing players over the age of 27 on four-year contracts gives limited resale value.

With someone like Lambert, who turns 33 next February, it's less of a concern because the transfer fee is so low.

Integration

There is also the question of integration. Tottenham gave a flawless demonstration of the difficulties of blending seven new players from seven different backgrounds, all of them foreign, into an existing team.

Liverpool, by buying youngsters such as Markovic and Can, will hope to bypass those issues by allowing the players time to settle.

Instead of throwing them into the first team immediately, as Spurs did with Soldado and Co, Brendan Rodgers can hold them back and let them adjust to their new homes.

After all, Markovic and Can are still only 20.

Lallana, 26 years old and now an England squad regular, shouldn't have too many problems in settling into life at Melwood and so the £25 million ($53m) seems a safe investment.

Finally, there is the grand plan.

Rodgers is not interested in creating something flimsy and transient.

He wants young, malleable players that he can sculpt into shape.

He wants a progression of footballers, from youth to senior, who can all play intricate football at speed.

Markovic and Can have shown great potential, but Rodgers believes that he can make them even better.

This is dynastic management. At least, that's the ambition.

Liverpool's most pressing problem this season will not be their recruitment policy, it will be their expectations.

Rodgers' side came so close to the title last May and it is only natural for their supporters to want to take one step further this season.

But they are no longer a surprise package, they no longer have Suarez and they are no longer blessed with a light fixture list.

It is entirely possible that they will take a step backwards this season.

And, if that happens, everyone will need to keep his head.

 

Reds' new buys

Lazar Markovic

Age: 20

Position: FW

Previous club: Benfica

Transfer fee: £20m ($43m)

Iain Macintosh's take: Quick forward who can play centrally or out wide. Made his debut for Serbia at the age of 18.

Emre Can

Age: 20

Position: MF

Previous club: Bayer Leverkusen

Transfer fee: £9.8m

Iain Macintosh's take: Gifted, technically excellent midfielder who has represented Germany at all youth levels.

Adam Lallana

Age: 26

Position: MF

Previous club: Southampton

Transfer fee: £25m

Iain Macintosh's take: Energetic and versatile midfielder who can play anywhere between the defence and the front line.

Rickie Lambert

Age: 32

Position: FW

Previous club: Southampton

Transfer fee: £4m

Iain Macintosh's take: Powerful striker who offers a "Plan B". Started pre-season a week ahead of schedule.

 

I went to Partizan and won the title. I went to Benfica and won the title. Now I have joined Liverpool and want to win the title, 100 per cent.

- Liverpool's latest signing, Serbian winger Lazar Markovic


This article was first published on July 17, 2014.
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