Now that all that pre-season tour nonsense is out of the way, Liverpool can finally get down to the real business of playing competitive matches. They start their season for real tonight in a Europa League tie in the Belarusian city of Gomel against Belarusian cup winners FC Gomel.
FC Gomel are not a well-known quantity outside of their homeland but TLW’s very own Matt Volpi put together this excellent piece about them to enlighten Liverpool fans about exactly what the Reds are facing in this cup tie.
With the second leg due to take place at Anfield next week only days before Liverpool begin their Premier League campaign with a tricky tie away to West Bromwich Albion it is important for the Reds to get a good result tonight and take the pressure off so that a weakened team can be fielded in the home tie.
Brendan Rodgers will likely pick a relatively strong team tonight and with that in mind I thought I would take a look at three players who are ready to make a big impression for the men in red.
Last season Henderson was very much the right man at the wrong time, and in the wrong position as he struggled to adapt to life at Liverpool and on the right wing. Henderson is a very talented player and definitely a player with a bright future at Liverpool. His passing ability is unquestionable and his work-rate and attitude are exactly what’s required from a Liverpool player.
While many, including myself, have said he was not the right player for Liverpool to spend £16million on last summer as he was neither ready to play a starting role for such a big club, nor suited to the system Kenny Dalglish insisted on playing for most of the season, there is little doubt that he would have made a good addition to the squad had he been allowed to act as an understudy to senior players of greater quality. In that role Henderson could have watched, learned and featured intermittently. A lot like Lucas Leiva did when he first arrived and acted as an understudy to the trio of Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano.
Henderson was, unfortunately, forced into a starting role with which he was not comfortable with, or suited to, and his performances suffered from the off. He was taken off against Sunderland on the opening day of last season having impressed nobody in particular and that pretty much set the tone for the majority of his season. Late in the season he was moved into a central role and his talent began to shine through.
With Brendan Rodgers, and more importantly his philosophies on the game, now at Liverpool in place of Kenny Dalglish, this should be the perfect antidote to Henderson’s problems from last season. Rodgers is clearly a big fan of Henderson having spoken about him in glowing terms since his appointment as manager and will look to him as one of the building blocks for his Liverpool team. Rodgers has spoken of “remodeling” Henderson so what position he sees him utilized in remains to be seen. Henderson has attributes which could lend themselves to any of the three positions in a Rodgers midfield triangle with the right coaching and the right amount of time and patience.
Henderson looked far more comfortable when played in a three man midfield last season than he ever did in a four man midfield and with Rodgers being a staunch believer in three man midfield there should be little doubt that we will see far more of the good Jordan Henderson than we did last season when the bad Jordan Henderson was largely on display on the right wing.
Henderson looked at home in Rodgers system during his appearance against Spurs in Baltimore and will have also taken confidence from his involvement at the European Championships. Heading into tonight’s match with Gomel, Henderson is definitely a player who should be watched closely as his movement, passing ability, intelligence and work rate should see him play a big part if called upon.
If self-confidence was a direct reflection of a player’s ability, Jonjo Shelvey would be rivaling Lionel Messi for the title of the world’s best player. It’s a rare quality for a young player to have so much belief in himself without it crossing over into arrogance as it does with many others. Shelvey is self-confident, perhaps even borderline cocky, but there’s no arrogance in his make-up.
Shelvey impressed on the tour of America with his tenacity, his hunger for the game and his want for the ball. Often times young players who are promoted to a senior team are happy just to go along for the ride and play a secondary role, passing off responsibility to senior players. We saw a lot of that from Jordan Henderson last season, but not so with Shelvey. Shelvey always wants the ball. He wants the responsibility. He thrives on it.
While his passing and decision-making can often let him down, he doesn’t let it affect him. He just shakes it off and tries again. Time after time. While he needs to reign it in slightly and learn to play a bit more within himself, Liverpool should not try to quash that self-confidence. A loan move to a team that will grant him a starting role would help him greatly and benefit Liverpool in the long run.
Coming off the American tour, Shelvey is primed to make a big impression tonight against Gomel if called upon.
The first, and thus far the only, signing of Rodgers era came in the shape of a man he knows very well. Rodgers worked with Borini whilst both were at Chelsea and then took him on loan while managing Swansea. Borini played a big part in helping Swansea gain promotion to the Premier League and whilst Rodgers would have liked to have kept him at the Welsh club, the Italian striker had already agreed a transfer back to his homeland after his Chelsea contract expired.
Following an impressive first season at Roma which culminating in his selection for Italy’s Euro 2012 squad, Borini arrived at Liverpool for a fee in the region of £11million. Rodgers has spoken glowingly about him and with his wide-ranging list of attributes it’s easy to see why. Borini will bring a fantastic work rate, great movement, versatility and the ability to score goals with either foot to the Reds. He seems a tailor-made replacement for Anfield hero Dirk Kuyt who departed for Fenerbache earlier this summer.
Borini will be anxious to make an impact straight away as he looks to repay the faith shown in him by Brendan Rodgers and Gomel are the perfect team against whom to show what he can do. A good performance with a couple of goals would really boost his confidence, set him up for the season ahead and get the Anfield faithful behind him.
Don’t forget to check back to The Liverpool Word for after match reaction.