Maybe I didn't read *all* of the negative press on Hendo the last couple of years, but wow, does this guy have a chip on his shoulder against the fans/media or what? His post-goal "celebrations" have included last year's neck-vein-popping guttural scream of "F%@K OFF!" and more recently a just slightly less apoplectic version that although not offensive per se, definitely indicates not just a little pent up frustration. Who stole this dude's cookies?
Now, I'm all for emotion in my footballers, and I'd rather let the pendulum swing more towards electricity than monotony - as long as it doesn't touch insanity, but does Hendo have a screw loose or what? Can't fault him for effort or work rate of course, although his talent at this point in his young career is far short of world class. Seems like a back-up on this Liverpool squad and no more.
I've been pondering the starting eleven for some time now, as we all have. It's awfully hard to nail down a side when there's no telling whether Suarez is persona non Scouser. That said - I'd sell him to Real Madrid for a penny before I'd sell him to Arsenal for 100 million. I think Mr. Henry indicated as much with his "what are they smoking?" tweet. Considering that CL qualification is *PriorityONE*, why in the world would we let a striker of Luis' quality move to one of our main rivals for top four? It would be suicide! And don't tell me we'll just buy another striker with all that money we get in return - strikers like Suarez don't grow like weeds, and the season is upon us right now. I'd let him rot on the bench for a year like Tevez did before I gave Wenger a sniff. Keep Suarez. Play him.
So all of that said - let's say Suarez is part of the Scouse Strike Force. And lets assume for the moment that we know neither when Sturridge will return nor what form he'll be in. That leaves our "class" striking options at three of Suarez, Aspas, Sterling, and Cotinho, our midfield as Gerrard Lucas and Allen, and our back four as Johnson, Toure, Agger and Enrique.
Without additional transfers, our midfield and back four are basically set, for better or worse. Enrique is all effort, mid-talent, and should be upgraded if possible. But barring that - we go into the season, err...hopeful that he will improve. We have some depth at midfield, but not enough. I'd say we look "OK" behind our strikers. Mignolet looks fine.
Now, the real question becomes - how to work the front? Cotinho works best centrally, and just behind the forward strikers. That would mean Suarez and Aspas centrally in a 4-3-1-2. Unfortunately that means all wide play up front would have to come from bombing Johnson and Enrique all game long - not ideal. Alternatively - if you stretch the front three out you're taking Aspas wide of the box (and that man needs to be in the box - does he have a nose for it or what?) and if you keep Cotinho central that mean Luis wide as well in a classic 4-3-3. Don't love it. You could swap Sterling in for Aspas, to get more versatility out wide - but do we really want Aspas off the pitch?
I'm stumped, to be honest. I'm not unhappy with the 4-3-1-2, but I don't love it. Could Ibe play as a winger to add punch, instead of Enrique? Could Cotinho move to midfield in place of Allen (ugh -) and run out Aspas, Suarez and Sterling as a front three? I really don't know.
Excited for the season ahead. Many more goals to come this year, and fewer conceded - if all goes well.