It hasn't taken long for Liverpool's two newest squad members to make a discernible impact--Daniel Sturridge came in and started scoring goals immediately, and save for a fairly dry spell while he was struggling for form and fitness, he's continued his effectiveness in front of goal, shrugging off supporters' early hesitations about attitude and fit to become an integral part of Liverpool's attack.
As for Philippe Coutinho, early returns indicate that the sky's the limit for the gifted young Brazilian; the hesitations about his signing were for different reasons--slight build, stagnating at one of Italy's biggest clubs, talk of overhyped potential--but were present nonetheless, it seemed as though there was plenty to prove for a 20-year-old that had been bought for a suspiciously low fee. And, at least to this point, he's made any reservations about his signing look silly, arguably having a bigger influence than Sturridge and improving Liverpool's attack exponentially.
In a season in which there's been so much negativity, their additions have been reason for optimism, and they've got Steven Gerrard feeling hopeful about the club's prospects heading into next season:
"Sturridge and Coutinho are both signings for the starting XI, and they can both be even better next season. I'm convinced they will be two big players for us. And if you add another striker to that and you have Luis coming back, then that's the firepower we need to be challenging nearer to the top four. In fact, if we had got in Sturridge and Coutinho at the start of the season then I think we'd have been right up there among the top four.
"Our target at the start of the season was the top four so it's clear our consistency hasn't been good enough. I'm not really a stats man, I prefer to look at the bigger picture, but if you look at our amount of goals and clean sheets, it's clear we are moving in the right direction. It's not all gloom and doom. We've played some fantastic stuff this season, and besides a handful of games we've always been in with a shout."
On the one hand, it's top four's on the way, which isn't cause for much more than an audible groan, but it's also hard to argue with the idea that Liverpool would have been better off bringing Sturridge and Coutinho aboard in the summer window. Having them onboard for the start of the season in August will no doubt leave Liverpool in better stead than they started last season, and if they manage to have a fit Fabio Borini and retain the services of Luis Suarez, they'll have more depth and quality as the season gets going.
Finishing this season strong is still the top priority, and that task resumes on Sunday at Anfield. You'd be forgiven for sharing in the captain's optimism and casting an eye towards the summer, though, as the prospect of strengthening this squad further on the heels of a successful January window is an enticing one.