We're just a few days away from getting our first chance to watch Liverpool play in a competitive(ish) match, which seems impossible given that we were lamenting how long the summer break was going to seem. It won't mean anything aside from the sentiment around the clubs' shared history with Bill Shankly--dubbed the Shankly Shield--but it's a chance to see Liverpool in action, and it will include a number of players that we'll get to watch in a red shirt for the first time.
Among those featuring are Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, both of whom were brought over from Spain earlier this summer. Brendan Rodgers had clearly identified both and worked to bring them in early in the summer, and today he elaborated on why he did so and how he sees them driving Liverpool forward.
"When we sat down last year we felt we needed to bring more of that mentality into the group - players with quality but also players with a winning mentality. Iago is a real competitor but he's also got quality as well. We're really looking forward to seeing him in action. (Luis Alberto)'s one who, over the next period of time, we'll see is an outstanding player. He fits what we're trying to do really well. He's a very young player but he's played competitive games, and the philosophy won't be anything new to him. He understands the game very well. He's got the right profile of what we want and he's another player who can score goals.
"I'm very much looking forward to working with him and seeing how he develops in the squad. There's no pressure. You saw with Philippe Coutinho, who came in at the beginning of the year at 20 years of age, and he was a similar profile - had experience but was young. He set the Premier League alight in his first six months here. Luis is big as well and hopefully he can produce for us like many of the Spanish players have done over the years."
This is the second time that Rodgers has mentioned Alberto in the same breath as Philippe Coutinho, and while he might announce that there isn't any pressure to match the Brazilian's performance after coming to Liverpool in January, it's hard to not expect at least a taste of what Coutinho offered. Alberto's got some of the class but will likely find himself in a more managed role, with a squad that's slightly deeper in the positions he'll be expected to play--and with Coutinho likely standing in the way.
As for Aspas, this only furthers my expectation that he'll contribute to both the physical and mental benefit of the squad; overt passion and drive have only come in spurts for Liverpool, often with Luis Suarez leading the way. They'll be without the Uruguayan for at least the first six matches of the season, and while Aspas won't be expected to replicate the form of Suarez, he can work to produce a similar emotional impact for a side that's too often found themselves accused of disinterest.
Neither are the "marquee" signings that supporters are looking for, or that the club would have gotten in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but both are purposeful and designed to help make Liverpool better, and hopefully they're able to follow through.