Liverpool opened their Premier League campaign with a stale 1-0 win over Stoke, avenging their 6-1 defeat on the final day last season. It would be somewhat folly and naïve to condemn a team’s season on the back of one performance, yet it is painfully apparent that Brendan Rogers will fail to guide his team back into the Champions League places this year.
The Merseyside club have a tremendously rich history, one to be admired and respected; their current crop of players will struggle to force the hand of a trophy engraver, etching their own history. There is one simple reason why ‘Liverpool FC’ won’t be sketched onto the base of a trophy this year, or why one will not see this famous name among the top four teams come the end of the season: an absence of elite players.
Were it not for an ill-positioned slip by Steven Gerrard, and a laughable collapse at Selhurst Park, The Reds would have, with the staggering effects of momentum, lifted the 2013/2014 Premier League. Despite the weaknesses in that side, they still managed to mount a serious attack on Manchester United’s crown; the difference between that side, and Liverpool’s current squad, is a fully-fit Gerrard and a Luis Suarez at his peak. Both players that at that time, were among the elite in world football. Suarez’s ability to win games smoothed over the cracks in Rogers’ side, whilst his uncanny awareness to find space and draw opposition players with him offered a platform from which the likes of Sturridge and Sterling could thrive.
From this, one can conclude that a team only needs one, or two, world-class players to bring success to a club. Whilst last season’s champions Chelsea were a team blessed with quality throughout the squad, they relied on match-winning performances from the likes of Hazard and Fabregas: elite players. If we turn our attention to Manchester City, Aguero and Silva are unquestionably within the top 15 in the world. Louis van Gaal has also constructed a starting eleven which includes top-class players: Schweinsteiger and Rooney. Although, this last example is vulnerable to questioning, their acquisition of Di Maria, even if he failed to make his mark at Old Trafford, at least displays an intent in bringing some of the very best players.
Such an ambition to bring in players that are thought of as world class appears to be exclusive to the aforementioned clubs, and not Liverpool; this is not be-fitting of a club with such an enviable history. One may dispute this argument by pointing to Philippe Coutinho: a player with immense ability, granted, but a player that is too inconsistent to lead Liverpool to success. Indeed, the Brazilian does possess the power to win matches for Liverpool, as seen with his wonder strike against Stoke. Yet, a creative, attacking-minded player cannot be credited as ‘elite’ if he only managed five goals in the Premier League last time out. Further to this, the crafty Brazilian disappears far too often to be described as world class. However, he is still young and has potential to become the player that Liverpool desperately need; for now, unfortunately, he does not have such criteria.
Liverpool have everything necessary to bring in the world’s best players: financial muscle, a prolifically successful history and passionate, faithful fans. Why they have not endeavoured to acquire such class remains a mystery. There is, however, no mystery when it comes to Liverpool’s fate this season.