Liverpool's buying spree this summer was a sharply executed multiplication of the squad depth available to Brendan Rodgers. 3XI looks bountiful, the squad seems prepared to compete across multiple fronts, and supporters everywhere are excited. But I, for one, am peeved. The influx of exciting young talent, you see, has made the task before us extremely difficult. For today, dear readers, is kit buying guide day, which seems especially important in light of the lack of literally anything else going on this weekend.
Before ranking the squad by kit worthiness, it behooves us all to revisit last season's official guide. Let's start with the rules we established then:
1) The Longevity Rule: simply put, we want any kit purchase to remain relevant for at least two seasons from the date of purchase, not that you would want the kit of a player who may be out the door anyhow. Writing this after the transfer deadline makes this task slightly easier than last season, but nonetheless some measure ought to be taken.
2) The Not Creative Rule: buying a kit is the ultimate expression of your personality. Yes, we ought to all own a Gerrard at some point, but that's exactly it, we all have a Gerrard. We can do better.
3) The Ahead of the Curve Rule: the flip side to rule #2 is that we strive to identify the breakout player before he breaks out.
4) The Current Player, Current Kit Rule: this is a matter of personal taste, but a kit should only be bought with the name and number of a player who actually played on that year's kit. A Fowler #9 or Dalglish #7 on this year's kit is therefore overruled.
5) The Youth Number Rule: this is a specific instance of rule #1, but if a player is still sporting his youth number from which he appears poised to graduate in the near term, a wee bit of patience is recommended. This rule carries a measure of uncertainty and therefore can be hard to follow.
In light of a number of developments with the squad, the kit buying guide committee has introduced two new rules.
6) Repeat Winners Rule: this rule did not exist last year for obvious reasons; however, since I trust each reader followed the guidelines last season and bought the kit of our winner, Philippe Coutinho, he is disqualified from appearing on this list again.
7) On-Loan Rule: Liverpool has dozens of exciting players on loan. An Andre Wisdom #47, or a Divock Origi #12 (right?) may seem tempting, but as stipulated by rule #4, he must be part of the current squad to be kit purchase worthy.
In an attempt to hit on rule #3, the committee misstepped slightly last season. In particular, our runner up to Coutinho seems to have been an especially dubious choice. In fact, both he and our third place finisher have lost their squad numbers. Ultimately, though, this is the risk we take. With no kit buying risk comes no kit buying reward. And with that, we move onto the squad.
Brad Jones, Glen Johnson, Kolo Toure, and Fabio Borini seem to be disqualified on the basis of rule #1. Sadly, it would appear that Lucas Leiva has befallen a similar fate.
We already disqualified Steven Gerrard based on rule #2, and given that he is now a mega international superstar striker, Daniel Sturridge, one of last season's finalists, is in violation of the Not Creative Rule as well.
Rule #3 disqualifies a number of established first team players, including Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, and Simon Mignolet.
Rule #5 knocks out the following: Cameron Brannagan, Jordan Rossiter, Jerome Sinclar, Danny Ward, Lloyd Jones, Jack Dunn, Suso, and Samed Yesil.
As mentioned, Philippe Coutinho fails on the basis of rule #6, and rule #7 lays waste to Oussama Assaidi, Sebastian Coates, Tiago Ilori, Jordon Ibe, Brad Smith, Andre Wisdom, Joao Carlos Teixeira, and the numberless Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, and Divock Origi. Of course, the flip side is that Javier Manquillo is disqualified as well.
The Dark Horses:
Joe Allen, one of our finalists last year, has been pegged down into the dark horse category, more a symptom of the influx of new talent than any slight against him. Only a phenomenal season will bump him back into the finalist category. Dejan Lovren may be an astute choice, but the committee felt there could only be one center-back in the finalist pool. New strikers Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert are tempting choices, but there was deemed to be sufficient uncertainty surrounding their ability to respect rule #1 into the future. Jon Flanagan, the people's choice, is an interesting dark horse, but the combination of his funky number and uncertain first team future condemned him to this area. Finally, Emre Can was extremely unlucky to miss out, and with a strong season he will surely wind up as a finalist next year.
6) Adam Lallana: when a player is selected for the Premier League best XI and still manages to fly under the radar, our kit buying spidey senses begin to tingle. Lallana, Rodgers' marquee summer signing, has yet to play a single minute for Liverpool. However, Lallana is poised to make an instant impact for Liverpool's first team, and when he does, you'll be glad you were one of the first to sport his name on your back.
5) Mamadou Sakho: it is rare to advocate for the purchase of a center-back's kit, but Sakho is just that, a rare breed. His unorthodox number pairs perfectly with his playing style, and the strength and confidence with which he plays will surely migrate wholly from the kit to you. At his young age and already beaming international reputation, a Sakho #17 is a near can't-miss kit purchase.
4) Alberto Moreno: if one match is any indication—and when is it not?— Moreno is set to be the long-term solution to Liverpool's left-back woes. Moreover, his passion, commitment, and personality, have already seen him become a favorite among supporters. Moreno will be around for a long time, and his will be among the safer kits in your drawer.
3) Lazar Markovic: here the committee feels the need to take another measured risk. The hipster choice, a Markovic #50 will surely stand out in any pub or stadium stand. Let's call this one a hunch.
2) Raheem Sterling: the committee disqualified Raheem last year on the basis of his squad number, and the feeling that surely he isn't long for it. While those concerns remain, they are the only factor standing between the precocious teenage wunder and a kit buying title. The feeling is palpable. Raheem is minutes away from becoming a world phenomenon, and we cannot risk waiting another season before advising the purchase of his kit. Whether he stays with #31 or switches to #11, Raheem is here to stay.
Your Champion - Jordan Henderson
However. Liverpool has a future captain in its midst. A future Not Creative Rule violator. A midfield behemoth and natural leader, Jordan Henderson deserves our undying kit love, and he deserves it today. The image of 'Henderson #14' will be so intertwined with Liverpool's on the world stage, that it would be a breach of your confidence in us to recommend any other kit purchase before his. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool's #14, is the kit buying guide winner of the 2014/15 season.
What do you think? Any considerations the committee ought to include next year? Do you agree with our hierarchy of kit buying needs? Leave your vote, comment, and love below.