How Are Liverpool's New Kids On The Block Faring?
A third of the 2015/16 season has already passed, but it’s been a topsy-turvy three months for Liverpool. We’ve seen a change of manager, rumours of Steven Gerrard’s return and an injury-ravaged squad which would make Abou Diaby and Darren Anderton feel at home.
Among those to have been sidelined are some of the eight summer arrivals, but how have their first few months at Anfield panned out so far?
Christian Benteke’s £32.5m arrival split the fanbase (sound familiar?). Some were pleased that the Reds had signed a recognised centre-forward with a proven goalscoring record, while others guffawed at the eye-watering fee.
The big Belgian has struggled with injuries so far and has started just seven of our opening 12 league games. Nonetheless, he has found the back of the net more consistently than our top-four rivals’ main centre-forwards, with the exception of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku.
His four league goals have been crucial, too. He scored the winner against Bournemouth and gave us the lead at home to Southampton, while his introduction at Chelsea on the hour-mark helped swing the game in our favour. The only goal to not affect the result was his spectacular overhead kick at Old Trafford, which pours scorn on the argument that his only attribute is his heading ability.
Benteke’s profligacy against Palace was a slight concern and the fitness issues remain worrying, but his talent as an out-and-out No.9 is there for all to see, which is hugely welcoming after last year’s troubles.
It all started so well for Danny Ings. A goal within minutes of his introduction at home to Norwich City was followed up by the opener in the derby a fortnight later. He was then rewarded with a first England call-up, only to see his season effectively ended by an ACL injury.
It wasn’t just the nature of the injury that was so galling, but the timing of it too. The 23-year-old – who didn’t feature for a single minute in the opening three games of the season – had just managed to establish himself as a first-team regular while Sturridge and Benteke struggled with injuries.
His tenacity and work-rate lifted the whole team and his understanding with Sturridge against Aston Villa seemed telepathic as the Reds scored three goals at home for first time this season.
His positivity hasn’t waned since picking up the knee injury though, and Ings has vowed to come back stronger when he eventually returns to first-team action.
Strictly speaking Divock Origi is not a new signing, but the young forward spent all of last year on loan at Lille and only made his Liverpool debut this season.
He’s played far more regularly than many thought, starting six matches in all competitions, and led the line well in Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge away at Spurs, but is yet to find the back of the net in a Red shirt.
There’s no doubt that he’s a prodigious talent – his performances at the 2014 World Cup are testament to that, as he kept Lukaku out of the Belgian side in the knockout stages.
It’s easy to forget that Origi is still just 20 and everyone involved at Liverpool – coaching staff, players and fans alike – must let the youngster to develop in his own time to allow his talent to flourish.
The first few months of the season have been frustrating not just for the team, but for Roberto Firmino in particular. The fanfare surrounding his signing was unlike any other arrival at Anfield this summer as the unexpected nature of the transfer, Firmino’s exotic name and the rich goalscoring history of Liverpool’s new No.11 caught the imagination of Reds fans across the globe.
However, he has been limited to cameo appearances on the whole and then cracked a bone in his back to compound matters. He has started to feature more heavily under Klopp since returning though, and scored in a man-of-the-match performance during the 1-0 win over Bournemouth in the League Cup. He followed this up by leading the line at Chelsea and laying on an assist for Philippe Coutinho.
It’s fair to say that there is still plenty more to come from Firmino and the next few months will offer a better gauge of whether he is value for money.
Of all the summer arrivals, James Milner seemed to be the most astute piece of business. Despite their bottomless pit of money, Manchester City were desperate to keep hold of the midfielder, but Liverpool were able to prise him away with the promise of regular first-team football.
However, after a steady start, the 29-year-old’s performances have started to crumble. Ever since Jordan Henderson departed the team through injury in mid-August, Milner has looked anything but an experienced leader.
Klopp has described him as “the complete footballer” and his endless pressing and professionalism makes him a dream for any manger, but with a number of players due back from injury in the coming weeks Milner may find himself consigned to the bench.
Nathaniel Clyne has been the standout success of the eight new signings. The majority of Liverpool fans will agree that Clyne has performed well in his short career on Merseyside so far as he has made the right-back spot his own.
Nothing he does is spectacular, but he’s incredibly solid – which is a vastly underrated trait in modern-day football – and the 24-year-old has played every single minute of league football this season, with a fair few cup games thrown in for good measure too.
The Daily Mirror’s Merseyside Football Correspondent, David Maddock, has included Clyne in his team of the season so far and said: “I’ve gone for form above reputation, picking those players who have been most effective – and consistent – for their clubs so far this season.”
Can’t argue with that.
The 18-year-old Londoner has taken everyone by surprise. Not only did the £3.5m transfer itself come out of left-field, but Joe Gomez’s performances then left everybody stunned.
Gomez admitted that he thought he would leave the club on loan, but after impressive showings in pre-season he was handed starts in the first four Premier League matches.
The standout game came at Arsenal, where he kept Alexis Sanchez, Santi Carzola and Aaron Ramsey in check. The only blot on otherwise squeaky clean record book was the penalty conceded in the 3-1 loss at Man Utd, but it was the first error by an 18-year-old thrown into the pressure-cooker environment of Premier League.
Gomez is now working with Ings to overcome an ACL injury of his own, which is a bitter blow as he would have surely featured under Klopp, especially as Mamadou Sakho is ruled out until the New Year.
What can be said about a goalkeeper not even deemed good enough to start for Bolton Wanderers last season?
The Ed Sheeran lookalike ‘earned’ a move to Liverpool in the summer after an impressive display in a 0-0 draw at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round in January, but has appeared just twice for the Reds since the switch.
His penalty-shootout heroics on his debut against Carlisle United earned him a modicum of credibility, but the fact that Simon Mignolet is still undoubtedly the No.1 despite his shaky performances says a lot about Bogdan’s ability – or lack of.
The sooner Liverpool sign a proper goalkeeper to solve an issue which has plagued the team for years the better.