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A Continent Far, Far Away

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Despite taking the blame for a few setbacks in the transfer window, a lack of European football this coming season could work in a number of ways for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers.

Alex Livesey

Apart from failing to attract the player to end all players, one of the perks of being a top eight side is an unfortunate absence from Thursday nights on Channel 5. Forget about an international audience or the fact that the UK's Channel 5 no longer carries Europa League coverage; we can look forward to watching the Europa League as neutrals. No more Young Boys, no Sunday-Thursday split, no long range stunners from Downing, no Shelvey swagger, no Borini debut goals, no stirring Suarez free kicks, no table topping group stage pride, and no jibes at our lack of top level European involvement. Yes, the Europa League will be dearly missed.

Our Brendan didn't really want the Europa League gig by any means necessary and seemed to get to grips with the job somewhat after a glorious away goals defeat against Zenit Saint Petersburg. Of course, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge provided a much-needed boost but Brendan Rodgers' side found greater consistency playing only once a week. For a manager who likes continuity whenever possible, having a tighter squad with just domestic concerns may be the best bet for a genuine top four challenge. In year two of his three year contract, Rodgers will need his side to experience a marked improvement to avoid an inevitable miasma from dissenters within and outside Liverpool's ranks.

Last season, many thought that Rodgers was feeling his way around the job and the squad, not quite experienced enough for a job that brings its own weighty expectations and unrealistic pressures. This summer has brought a different kind of Brendan Rodgers. Not exactly Rodgers 2.0 but one who wields greater self-assurance with a scouting network in place, a year's experience at one of football's toughest jobs, and a contract renewal possibly at stake. Communication, although frequent, from Liverpool's commander in chief has been much more incisive and concise. He's made progress in league points and now there's progress in words. Flogged horses aside, this is a manager who knows what he wants and in June, he spoke of his desire for the squad to pack on lean muscle.

You can flip it about, but we just need to build up the depth of the squad. I want people who might be disappointed because they're not on the bench. At the minute we probably don't have that so it's competition we want to get. I don't want a massive group. We want a tight group with a real core of 17 or 18 who feel they should always be playing and then supported be a few of our top young talents. We haven't had that - we have had one or two on the sidelines but we need more.

A lack of European football often comes at a price with the possible departure of Luis Suarez as well as missing out on top targets...known and unknown. Back in the 1990s and 2000s, the UEFA Cup carried a solid level of prestige, with managers such as Fatih Terim and Nevio Scala bringing unprecedented levels of success at Galatasary and Parma respectively. Recent winners such as Chelsea, Atlético Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Zenit deserve respect for their triumphs but the Europa League often looks like the soggy biscuit next to the big breakfast of the Champions League. Less glamour and money, and even less respect from players of widely acknowledged eminence. You know, the marquee ones.

Enough of the banes and let's think about the possible boons of no European football. Rodgers might feel warranted in trimming any player judged as redundant, which will result in the squad being composed of players Rodgers has either purchased or kept on. Whatever issues there were with the wage bill must now be a thing of a bygone age and our failure to qualify for any continental competition has facilitated quite a drastic alteration in the composition of the squad. Accelerating the building of Rodgers' squad is a welcome development especially if Rodgers has moved out the right players (I think he has) and looked at the right areas to be improved (still work to do).

Some could argue, with just cause, that Liverpool and European football can never be a bad thing even if it's not the Champions League. Just ask Gerard Houllier. Can there ever be a benefit from the absence of England's most successful side in Europe? Five Big Cups, three UEFA Cups, and three UEFA Super Cups. Memories. History. Legacy. Respect. Naturally, being separated from such arenas isn't part of anyone's itinerary. No European football this season might make our dreams of attaining Champions League football for 2014/2015 come true but I won't be calling for a referendum if Europa League qualification is all we can manage.

New players still need to arrive to add greater defensive depth, midfield stability, and attacking force if a genuine challenge is to be made. Tottenham will engage in Europa League battle this season with scrumptious Thursday-Sunday splits and Arsenal will probably be working out how to navigate domestic league matches after a midweek dose of that chirpy Champions League song. Liverpool's task will be more straightforward, at least in theory. One league match a week with intermittent domestic cup experiments depending on how far we progress. It shouldn't be too taxing or arduous for the manager and squad. With our North London rivals battling on an extra front, we should get a firm idea of where the projected squad stands and what our manager brings, which could be a heartening or sobering experience.