Before we go any further, it should be noted that Liverpool have just signed 24 year old Moroccan winger Oussama Assaidi from Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie. More on him in a minute, but first it’s the final portion of celebrity doppelgangers.
Luis Suarez = Seth McFarlane
They’re both incredibly talented and incredibly controversial. McFarlane is the creator of the popular American animated series Family Guy; a show whose jokes tend to toe the line quite a bit. Suarez has now been involved in two very infamous events; a blatant handball at the 2010 World Cup to save his native Uruguay’s chances of advancing and a dispute with Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who claims Suarez. Both of these men are hardly well liked, but they both very good at what they do. Suarez has recently inked a new deal that will likely keep him at Anfield for a long time. This is excellent news for Liverpool as Suarez will be expected to shoulder the scoring load for the Reds this season. Despite serving an eight match suspension last season he still led the team in scoring and this season should be no different. With newcomer Joe Allen and Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard supporting him from the midfield, there’s no reason Suarez can’t vie for the scoring title this year.
Andy Carroll = Edge
If you’ve been following me since I joined GFT then you’ve probably already heard me reference this one once or twice before. This was the inspiration for this whole “celebrity preview”. You could certainly say that Andy Carroll is “Rated R Superstar” of English soccer right now. West Ham United have already attempted to secure his services, but Carroll has said he would like to stay at Liverpool. I’m not sure Brendan Rodgers wants him, but Carroll showed some significant signs of improvement towards the end of last season. Regardless of how he fits in the new system, I think Carroll deserves one last full season to prove himself. Put him as the lone striker in the new 4-3-3 and he can nick some poacher’s goals. Plus I’ll get to yell SPEAR!!! every time he scores.
Fabio Borini = Adam Lavine
This one is a bit more physical than anything else, although Fabio Borini’s “daggermouth” celebration leads me to believe he has the swagger to be the frontman for a band, even if that band is really really lame. Borini is one of three new arrivals this summer. He played under Brendan Rodgers at Swansea so he knows the system that the new boss wants to implement. The Italian’s best skill may be his finishing. He certainly is capable of the spectacular and while it may take a little time, I think we’ll see plenty of spectacular goals from him in the future.
And that wraps up the celebrity portion of this preview. Now it’s time for predictions!
Will Liverpool land Nuri Sahin?
My guy reaction is no. The latest rumors say it would be a loan deal and while that would certainly be a huge steal for Liverpool, I think this is the roster that Brendan Rodgers will go to battle with in 2012/13.
Well it’s clear the 4-3-3 is the formation of choice. The only question is where everyone fits in. Here’s my take.
Johnson – Skrtel – Agger – Enrique
Gerrard – Lucas – Allen
Borini – Suarez – Downing
This is almost identical to what Brendan Rodgers used for the second leg of the Europa League qualifier with FC Gomel, but I’m thinking Joe Allen will get the nod over Jonjo Shelvey. I’m sure the formation will be a little more fluid, but I think Lucas is better off being right in the thick of things rather than Gerrard. Suarez will make a great point to the three prong attack up front. The more I think about it, the more I like this group on paper. And with options like Andy Carroll up front and Joe Cole and Oussama Assaidi in the midfield coming off the bench, there’s a lot to be excited about going forward. I really liked what I saw of Assaidi in his highlight video. He’s very technically gifted and very fast; two traits that should help him fit into Rodgers’ system quite well. And if the Sahin deal gets done then suddenly a Top 4 finish doesn’t seem so far fetched.
Most Important Player
It’s tough to pick just one given the fact that a brand new system is being put into place and Rodgers doesn’t have all of “his guys” yet. Just based on what we saw in the two Europa League matches it looks like the team will do a little better in the offensive third, especially if Borini can make an impact right away and Carroll finds his place within the new system. So with all that being said, I think the key component is Lucas. If Liverpool can hang onto Agger then the backline will be fine. The key will be having that defensive midfielder to retrieve the ball and get the ball back to the likes of Gerrard and Joe Allen to jump start possession. If Lucas can play like he did in 2010/11 then I’ll feel a lot more optimistic about a potential Top 4 finish.
I know it’s still very early, but there’s something about Oussama Assaidi that I like. He plays with the kind of swagger you need to play the “Spanish 4-3-3″ style of lots of short, quick passes to advance the ball forward. The newbie winger is great on the ball and that’s going to help him flourish under this new system. I think there’s a good chance we could see six goals and eight assists out of him this season and that would go a long way towards helping the offense. There’s lots of young talent here now (Borini, Allen, Shelvey, Raheem Sterling) but I think Assaidi will have the biggest impact of all. Huge last minute coup!
Most Likely To Disappoint
He’s already been a disappointment, but I don’t see how Charlie Adam gets any significant playing time this season. He’s not suited for the new system at all. I think he’ll be mired on the bench and we’ll likely see him leave in January, if not before the end of the summer window.
Luis Suarez should score somewhere between 12 and 15 goals this season. That will be more than enough to lead the team. The bigger issue is where the rest of the goals will come from.
Best Case Scenario
Liverpool capture some of their old magic and come out of the gate looking like Barcelona 2.0 in Rodgers’ system. They get up for their first three home matches against both Manchester clubs and Arsenal and grab three shocking wins, instantly vaulting them to the top of the table. A favorable schedule down the stretch helps them hang onto their pole position at the top and the Reds vanquish the demons of their worst finish in a long time last season by winning their first title in the Modern Era.
Worst Case Scenario
The team fails to adapt to Rodgers’ new system and struggles mightily in their first three home matches putting them behind the eight ball early. Luis Suarez and Daniel Agger jump ship during the January transfer window and the team limps to even worse finish than last season by coming in at No.12 in the table.
Most Likely Scenario
They steal one against a psychologically weak Arsenal side to go along with some victories away from home against West Brom and Sunderland and get off to a decent start. The players slowly but surely pick up the new system causing Rodgers to stand pat during the January transfer window and ride out the second half with what he’s got. Other top teams with lots of questions (Tottenham and Arsenal to name a few) struggle and open the door for a Top 4 finish, but unfortunately, the team still isn’t quite up to the challenge and finishes 7th in the table. A one spot improvement from last season gives them lots of momentum going into 2013/14 with the new system finally working properly.
Right now I still have more questions than answers, but I do know this: based on what we’ve seen in preseason so far, it’s going to be fun to watch this Liverpool team in 2012/13 regardless of the actual results. Get excited!
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”