In the matter of just a few hours, Liverpool said goodbye to a potentially influential piece of their attack and welcomed a different one, as Maxi Rodriguez left to join Newell's Old Boys, his first professional club, and Fabio Borini, whose link with Brendan Rodgers dates back to the manager's days at Chelsea, arrived. There's certainly a general sense of excitement around Borini's arrival, although it didn't do the player any favors that he was unveiled so shortly after confirmation of Maxi's departure. Either way, today's moves leave us to wonder about what's in store for Liverpool's attack in the coming season.
Maxi was a known quantity, and one that, despite his lack of pace, could have been an integral part of Rodgers' fluid, possession-based style. As I noted earlier, he was all about incisive, intelligent runs, and his link-up play was at times unmatched in the squad. Even on aging legs, Maxi found himself in positions to crash home a rebound or tap in from short range almost solely because he forced himself into the right place at the right time. With Maxi there wasn't the sense that he just happened to be there--he was there because he meant to be, and that was of great benefit to both the player and the squad.
It's no secret that he was best when matched with players of a similar sensibility, or that he was at his worst when he was tasked with staying wide and trying to beat a man one-on-one. Cutting in and interchanging with the players further forward was Maxi at his best, and with Dirk Kuyt, Luis Suarez, and Raul Meireles his most frequent partners in attack towards the end of the 2010-2011 season, we saw some of the most enjoyable football Liverpool had produced since their 2008-2009 campaign.
It was more of the same--obviously to a lesser extent given the lack of playing time last season--as he linked up again with Kuyt and Suarez, with Bellamy proving complementary and Maxi again thriving when he was allowed to slice through the middle. The FA Cup quarterfinal against Stoke City was as good an example as any, as it was basically Suarez to Maxi to Suarez for the opener, and much of the good play they put together that day involved the Argentine.
This isn't entirely about Maxi, though, despite my inclination to spend more time discussing what he brought to the club. Liverpool's attack will be in large part impacted by the arrival of Fabio Borini, who's certainly nowhere near a like-for-like with Maxi, but one who will (hopefully) nevertheless fit well into Brendan Rodgers' system yet agin.
There's little for me to go off of in terms of playing style given how little I've actually seen him play, so this is more intended as a point of discussion. But from what I've seen, there's more to be expected from Borini on the finishing end than there is in the creation, as he appears a player who's excellent at finding space and making runs but not yet one who's either accurate enough in the passing game or involved enough moving forward to have a major influence on piecing play together.
It's certainly not for lack of effort, with one of his most celebrated qualities being his workrate and commitment. He's appeared to be a player that very much believes in defending from the front and tracking back, and the stats back that up. He's all-action all the time, and the idea of him lining up along a forward line with Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy is, at least in terms of how much they'd annoy an opposition defense, plenty appealing.
As I mentioned, however, his arrival doesn't account for the necessary work done by Maxi and Dirk Kuyt to get things forward in attack. If Rodgers' comments about Jordan Henderson earlier in the day have anything in them, that might indicate a more prominent role in ticking play along, and the supposed pursuit of Clint Dempsey would also provide a bridge from midfield to attack in an approach that's going to rely heavily on skill, timing, and accuracy.
But regardless of whether or not it's Henderson or Dempsey or someone else, it's clear that Liverpool simply need more from the summer window. They need depth, they need quality, and they need players that are going to make the side better. The wait has been worrisome, and I've got a tendency to catastrophize, but in the simplest of terms, Liverpool just need more.
In the end, it was a day that delivered reactions on both ends of the spectrum--losing Maxi the disappointment, Borini the excitement--and hopefully one that is just the start of Liverpool getting stronger.