New reds must shine after Suarez

New reds must shine after Suarez
Former Liverpool star Luis Suarez will start training with his new Barcelona team-mates after getting the green light from the Court of Arbitration for Sport

To pinch Rafa Benitez's priceless analogy, Brendan Rodgers has sold the table and bought six lampshades.

Against Manchester United this morning (Singapore time), the Liverpool manager's new signings will try to float through proceedings, but there is the risk that the wheels could eventually come off another Liverpool shopping trolley.

With Luis Suarez gone, Elvis has left the building and been replaced by six session players, nervously standing in the shadows and fiddling with their instruments.

If the spotlight consumes them in a loud, glitzy, glorified exhibition in the United States, then they are going to sound horribly out of tune when the Premier League season kicks off.

When Benitez famously criticised the stringent financial restrictions imposed upon him by a miserly Valencia board, he said: "I asked for a table and they brought me a lampshade."

But Rodgers finds himself blessed with enough cash to splurge on a table fit for the Last Supper.

And yet, the suspicion remains that he has a penchant for picking lampshades, spreading his funds too thinly and ending up with mediocre buys.

No player beyond the line-ups of Real Madrid and Barcelona could replace Luis Suarez, of course. But Liverpool's latest six combined might not either.

The Reds have spent more than £80 million ($168m) on Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Rickie Lambert - with a further £10m lavished on Lille striker Divock Origi, who has been loaned back to the French club for another season.

Club officials have also travelled to Spain to break the deadlock over the proposed transfer of Sevilla left back Alberto Moreno.

Liverpool have offered £16m. Sevilla want £20m; they can wait, the Reds can't. The Reds will cave in the end.

Even if Moreno joins, who has the potential to shine like the Uruguayan? Suarez is an irreplaceable gift no doubt, but Rodgers might be accused of swopping him for six pairs of socks.

Despite finishing second in the Premiership, his transfer track record doesn't fully convince on Merseyside.

A tale of two coaches - he has inspired in a tracksuit and irritated with a chequebook.

A long-term admirer of Louis van Gaal's obsessive commitment to imposing an attacking doctrine, Rodgers favours a similarly-attractive philosophy at Anfield. Liverpool's 5-1 humiliation of Arsenal epitomised his progress.

Give Rodgers a whiteboard and he'll espouse the values of van Gaal and Johan Cruyff. Give him the company credit card and he displays all the restraint of the Kardashians.

Put simply, Liverpool improved last season despite Rodgers' dubious signings, not because of them. Their final-day win over Newcastle included only three of his purchases.

Simon Mignolet, Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge started and another two -Philippe Coutinho and Aly Cissokho - came on the second half.

FLAWLESS JEWEL

Sturridge was the flawless jewel in Rodgers' scratchy crown, Coutinho's craftsmanship was a pleasure to watch, and Mignolet was dependable without quite being indomitable.

Take those three out of the picture, however, and Rodgers' transfer landscape takes on an unsightly perspective.

Fabio Borini had a decent loan spell at Sunderland, but didn't offer quite enough to justify his £11m price tag, or unduly concern Champions League opponents.

Allen and Mamadou Sakho offered flashes of brilliance, but Luis Alberto proved a US$7 million ($8.7m) disaster while Victor Moses, Cissokho and Kolo Toure fizzled quickly.

Toure surprised many initially with several sterling performances before becoming a comical liability.

And a sheepish Iago Aspas slipped through the back door and returned to Spain with his tail between his legs.

Their shortcomings were largely shielded by Suarez and Gerrard, but the Uruguayan is gone and the indefatigable skipper is a year older and returning from what he has called the worst three months of his life.

The new signings cannot be mollycoddled. They sink or swim in the Champions League. There is no time to tread water. The sharks are circling.

There are positives of course. Markovic and Lallana could allow Raheem Sterling to join them in a rotating front three behind Sturridge. Emre Can is a pivotal wall of midfield muscle. Lovren provides defensive stability and Cinderella Man Lambert brings a more direct attacking option.

Rodgers has understandably focused on their potential, but he said much the same after his previous shopping trips. He is closing in on £100m, but still hasn't bought a name to rival Alexis Sanchez, who turned down Liverpool for a London move to Arsenal.

And Suarez is no longer around to drag transfer market mediocrity into the light.

If Rodgers has bought half a dozen lampshades, they need to be switched on quickly.


This article was first published on August 5, 2014.
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