Author : Anurag Bhide
Daniel Sturridge has gone from being a benchwarmer at Chelsea to Premier League top goalscorer at Liverpool
I know Liverpool fans will surely rebel at the very suggestion, but hear me out. At the moment, despite us being above Chelsea in the table, not for one second should we fool ourselves into thinking we’re stronger than Chelsea. In fact, we still have only the sixth-best squad in the Premier League, and despite our excellent start, even whispers of a highly improbable title tilt must be put on hold.
The ten players Liverpool have signed this year are Sturridge, Coutinho, Toure, Aspas, Alberto, Mignolet, Cissokho, Sakho, Ilori and Moses. While Aspas, Alberto, Cissokho and Ilori have been signed either to improve the squad or with an eye on the future, the rest have all slotted well into the first team and, with the exception of Mignolet, have a common thread running in their move to Liverpool. Sturridge, Coutinho, Toure, Sakho and Moses have all come from a team presently stronger that Liverpool, and have made the switch for first team opportunities as they were marginalized at their former clubs and lacked game time. With no Champions League football to offer, Liverpool cannot dine at the top table of the football transfer market and this is the profile of player they must continue to target until they secure that coveted berth in the top European competition. That this is a World Cup year helps, as players lacking regular minutes will be keen to move in January to a club offering regular football.
The players linked for future transfers remain of a similar profile, meaning Liverpool are well and truly aware and exploring this market. Javier Pastore is one such, and may prove an excellent addition, but I fear he may be far too inconsistent for a team like Liverpool to indulge. If Juan Mata continues to be sidelined he would be the perfect signing, but even Jose Mourinho cannot ignore him for long as Chelsea is not Read Madrid, and teams far stronger than Liverpool want him anyway.
This brings me conveniently to my point that a strong Chelsea is good for Liverpool. I have just outlined the profile of player Liverpool must target. Chelsea is a veritable goldmine of exactly those players. They pay over the odds for the best players, and then put them out to pasture because of their huge squad.
Liverpool have already benefitted by bringing discontented players over. Sturridge is a bonafide success while Moses may well be on his way to be one. Moreover, Jose Mourinho is back at the helm at the Bridge, which opens up lines of communication with Brendan Rodgers as the former is a mentor of the latter. I’m sure that may have made a difference when bringing in Moses on loan, for Liverpool surely would not have been the only club in for him. Likewise, when Nuri Sahin came on loan last season from Madrid, Rodgers’s may have been the decisive voice in Mourinho’s ear, as again I do not believe there were no other clubs with an eye on him.
I am not for one second suggesting that Liverpool bring in damaged goods; far from it, for damaged goods are very difficult to shift due to their high wages and poor performance (Torres at Chelsea and Kaka at Madrid come to mind). These are simply players craving game time and not getting it. Being sixth choice in a position when the first five are all top class is no shameful thing and does not make the player any lesser for it.
That Liverpool can benefit this way only when Chelsea are strong is obvious; would Chelsea have sold Sturridge had they not brought in the then-reliable Demba Ba? A stronger Chelsea translates to a regular starting XI, less chopping and changing and consequently fewer games for the out of favour players. If Chelsea do really well over the next couple of months, I’d imagine a Willian, for instance, will be desperate to escape come January, by which time he will have started five games all season in a World Cup year. Liverpool should then be ready with the money. They were in for him in the summer, and six months on the sidelines at Chelsea will mean he may be available for much less than the 30 million Abramovich threw at Anzhi.
Now as a Liverpool fan, I certainly don’t want this to be a long-term transfer strategy, for that can only mean that Liverpool have failed to match up to the likes of Chelsea. Ideally, Champions League football and the financial windfall associated with it should be secured this season, but I would not really mind if progress is made without a top four spot to show for it.
Liverpool finished with 61 points last season and with 52 the season before, so I’d take another 9 point rise this time. 70 points have been enough to secure fourth spot in all but four seasons since the league was whittled down to 20 teams, but almost certainly will not this season because of the very even, six-way battle at the top. If we do end up with 70 points and four or five teams finish higher, fair play to them. But it will certainly have been a strong platform for further progress.
Liverpool should make the Champions League at least next season, if not this, which will set them up for a potential title bid in the next four or five years. Until then, we can always support Chelsea for the title and use their immense wealth to steal bargains for us.