Say it in hushed whispers, but Liverpool could be back. It has been a tough few years for the Scouse club. Liverpool have been on the receiving end of more mockery and derision than any other team recently, with their owners’ ridiculous spending, Luis Suarez’s antics and their fans’ constant harking back to glory days quite rightly mocked. However, under the tenure of Brendan Rogers, the club have quietly gone about righting the wrongs of the Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish regimes; selling off expensive flops (albeit at huge losses), bringing in some astute signings and establishing a true football identity. It is very early in the season to be making huge predictions, and it is doubtful that Liverpool will maintain their current top spot position, but since January their form has been tremendous and as the current transfer window comes to a close, Liverpool have a very capable squad.
Just a cursory look at the Liverpool squad is enough to provide a strong argument that this could be the year the Reds return to the top four. Mignolet is a very capable keeper, protected by a strong back four of Johnson, Agger, Škrtel and Enrique. A lack of depth in defence has seemed Liverpool’s greatest weakness, especially with Cissokho, Toure and Coates all injured, however, with Sahko and Illori set to sign before Monday, Liverpool now look to have some excellent defensive options. In midfield, the ever excellent Lucas Leiva is joined by Allen, club legend Gerrard and a vastly improved Henderson. These players all provide an extremely capable supporting cast for the club’s hugely talented attackers. The stars are undoubtedly January signings Coutinho and Sturridge, who struck up an instant symbiotic relationship that has reaped 19 goals between them. Joined by the industrious Aspas and promising young stars Borini and Sterling, Liverpool luck full of goals even before one factors in the return of maverick striker Suarez from suspension. Wins against Stoke, Aston Villa and Notts County had ensured a good start to the season for Liverpool, but it was Sunday’s win against Manchester United that really showed that Liverpool might be ready to re-join the big boys of England. On the day that would have been Anfield legend Bill Shankley’s 100th birthday, Liverpool beat a subpar United at home to top the table. Admittedly, this wasn’t a classic derby, nor was it a vintage Manchester United performance. However, what it did show was that Liverpool can triumph over the best teams in the league, something they didn’t do enough of last year, and if they can maintain this form, Liverpool should be considered dark horses for the Champions League places.
Elsewhere, the summer’s biggest, longest and most expensive transfer story has finally come to an end. It looked at times like the deal may collapse, but at long last, Gareth Bale has completed his 100 million Euro to Real Madrid. Tottenham will be sad to see the flying Welshman go, but many Spurs fans had been rubbing their hands at the huge sum and revelling in their new spending power as Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Vlad Chiriches all arrived in short succession. Optimism has been abundant around White Hart Lane this week, as Spurs fans have looked on at their North London rivals Arsenal with scorn, mocking their growing injury list and deriding their lack of transfer activity. However, reality soon came crashing back for Tottenham as they slumped to defeat against the Gunners this weekend. Despite all of their new firepower, Tottenham looked limp at the Emirates and were punished early by the rejuvenated Giroud. Spurs never recovered from this set back, even after the introduction of new boy Lamela and it was a timely reminder that so many signings will take time to bed in, with Arsenal playing with a fluidity and familiarity that Tottenham lacked. Until the new boys do find their feet and find some form, Bale will be a huge miss for Spurs, who will hope that they do not drift too far from the title race in the meantime. The transfer of Bale could mean more good news for Arsenal, besides just unsettling Spurs, as the Gunners are now reportedly in advanced talks with Mesut Ozil; the German having now been given permission to leave by Madrid now they have finally got their man.