Although there was a glimmer of hope following last week’s deadline day debacle that someone at the club might still be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the paucity of the squad, for the next four months at least, is now a certainty.
In defence, this does not seem like the biggest of problems. In fact, Liverpool seem pretty well staffed at the back.
Injuries permitting, the expected back four of Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique does not create much cause for concern and with able and experienced deputies such as Jamie Carragher, Martin Kelly and Sebastian Coates, Liverpool have a solid base on which to build. If the opportunity presents itself, the option is also there to give match experience to the likes of Jack Robinson, Danny Wilson and Jon Flanagan.
Further up the pitch however, Liverpool are facing more of a necessity to use their younger players, rather than a choice. Following the departures of Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt, as well as Andy Carroll on loan, the list of senior players who are capable of being selected in the front row of Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI is very short indeed.
The Liverpool Word wrote last week how Raheem Sterling, for all his exciting talent and obvious ability, needed to be carefully guided into the first team, for the good of his own development.
Following last Friday’s fiasco, particularly the failure to capture Clint Dempsey, it would seem as if any plan to keep Sterling from being thrown in at the deep end might have to be scrapped. However it seems that the manager is determined to keep the youngster’s best interests as a priority, having been quoted on liverpoolfc.com about the decision to delay his promotion to U-21 level for England:
I think with young players you have to be careful. They can be elevated above their station too quickly. That is a part of it in this country. They have one good game and they get elevated into superstar status.
He was absolutely fantastic through pre-season. You have seen his quality, courage and attitude in the recent games – it has been fantastic. But for the moment let’s just stay calm.
Sterling will certainly feature more often than perhaps even Rodgers expected him to this season and patience must be shown with him when he does. However, patience must also be shown to the rest of the side when Sterling is not selected. With the barnstorming start he has made to his senior career at Anfield, and the poverty of other options in his position, you can imagine the reaction to the first poor result when Sterling isn’t selected.
However, with this period in Liverpool’s transition to the new manager’s style, not every game is likely to go perfectly.
Why risk spoiling our young talent at the same time? The plan to convert Stewart Downing to a left back may have to be put on the back burner for now…
Sterling is not the only young player likely to get a look in at Anfield over the next four months. The question is, who else can supporters expect to make an impact?
One young lad who will surely hope to build on a bright start to first team action is Adam Morgan.
The academy graduate earned his full debut against Hearts last week, and could well see more of the competition before Christmas. However in a tricky group, he cannot be relied on too heavily if Liverpool hope to progress. It will certainly be a challenging juggling act for Rodgers. Morgan’s scoring rate at youth level is certainly cause for optimism but time will tell if he is able to transfer that rate instantly to the senior side.
Liverpool’s newest forward Samed Yesil is still only 18, but at this stage Reds fans will be eager to see what any new acquisition can bring to the table. Yesil may have been given some insight into the pressures of playing for Liverpool by his former manager, Anfield great Sami Hyypia, who gave the young striker his debut at Bayer Leverkusen. However that debut was the player’s single senior appearance in football to date and it may be some time before we see him given a chance to show what he can do for the first team, where he will wear squad number 36.
Another player for whom there are the highest of hopes is one Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre, better known as Suso.
Hype surrounding the Spaniard has at times been comparable to Raheem Sterling during the pair’s development. However, while Sterling is suddenly pushing himself into starting positions in major league games, Suso is nowhere to be seen. There have been some concerns as to what could be going on behind the scenes as the young midfielder’s contract is now within its final 12 months with no news regarding its renewal.
The gaffer’s comments since taking up the reins at Anfield leave little doubt as to the importance he places on player attitude, but rumours that Suso is lacking in that department remain just that – rumours. The player’s versatility from either wing or behind the forward line could certainly add something to the side, but whatever the reasons, Suso is obviously not considered ready for first team action just yet.
In his latest interview with The Anfield Wrap and Redmen TV amongst others, Rodgers did concede that Suso would be in his thoughts going forward—if he, and the other youngsters, showed what they were capable of, not just in matches but every single day in training.
So as Liverpool begin a tricky four month spell, perhaps we should not expect to see as many baptisms of fire as first thought. Injuries and suspensions may force Rodgers’ hand at times, certain experienced players may continue under-performing but on the whole Liverpool may be best served keeping the kid gloves on for their young starlets for now, and reap the benefits when they are truly ready.