What do Liverpool need to buckle down and do next season to ensure success, and what does that success entail in terms of trophies and league placement?
I want us to sign quality over quantity this summer. Decide what the vision for this team is going forward and get in 3-4 strong players who fit into that vision and fill gaps in the squad. Set up the team around the spine of Mignolet, Can, Coutinho, and Henderson. The players need to brush this off and come back from the break with their heads together, ready to commit to this project. The defense needs to be sorted first thing. The talented young players at our disposal need to continue in their development. Someone needs to step in and fill the leadership void left by Steven Gerrard. I don’t know if Brendan Rodgers should be the one to lead our next campaign, but at least the club seem to have put any speculation and uncertainty to bed early.
Commit one way or the other to a project. Be it Brendan Rodgers’ "We Play All Positions All The Time" brand of football or to bringing on a Director of Football, FSG need to make a call. We’ve got a very solid player core with a lot of promising youth. Let’s not muck about and fritter away any more seasons. I mean, we’re a solid piece up front and maybe one or two further back from really pushing on. Provided we don’t lose the likes of Lucas or Sakho, we really ought to be able to improve on this season’s performance dramatically.
Sign better players that fit in with the current personnel. Do you value the player who cleaned up at the club’s end of season awards and was recognised by the PFA for his excellence this season? Sign players that fit the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Jordon Ibe, Lazar Marković, Daniel Sturridge (if fit), and Raheem Sterling (if he stays). It’s that simple. If those players are going to be around, then get new players in who fit with the way they play. Those players can already play well together, so help them help themselves. Liverpool spent enough last summer to be successful, it wasn’t a matter of funding, just allocating said funds. It may be wise to have an idea where a player fits, and while this isn’t always possible with form and injuries, it’s generally sensible to do. What’s Emre Can’s best position? Somewhere in midfield? Find the answer to that. Players generally need to be in positions where they can give their best. FSG also have to decide if they have the strategy and system in place that they want, and if not, ask themselves if the alternative working better than the originally conceived plan. Find the answers and amend as appropriate even if that means keeping Rodgers, but as my exacting and disciplinarian grandfather used to say: whatever you do, do it well.
It starts this summer. FSG seem to have made their call on Rodgers, and now the manager (though still with the possible help of a director of football) needs to sign a striker and a defensive midfielder and build the window around those two additions.
There has to be a clear plan when the season begins: how should the team play and how do we make moves that help the team win now while developing players for the future? If Liverpool are to get back into the Champions League there needs to be some luck on their side -- injuries must be minimal and Liverpool’s rivals must slip a little (and one of them usually does). But the whole "create your own luck" mindset holds true. The team cannot afford the same kind of stubborn managerial mistakes that we saw this past season, and the careless errors in the defensive third need to be sorted out. If improvements come in those two areas and the young players in the team continue to progress, then a successful campaign is very possible.
It’s hard to say what our objectives will be next season before we see what the summer brings. Liverpool absolutely need to get this window spot on, and there's no margin for error. That means a functioning, mobile, and prolific striker, a rock solid defensive midfielder (especially if Lucas is allowed to leave), a starting calibre right fullback, and some kind of goalkeeper. On the managerial front, while I understand the reservations people may have about giving Rodgers full control, there are too many people pulling in different directions as things stand and that’s even more damaging to the club’s prospects. Next season needs to bring a vision with it, with everybody working towards the same goals. It’s up to FSG to figure out how best to make that happen.
Yeah, they need an identity. From top to bottom, they need to have a defined approach that all involved are invested in, both on and off the pitch. Those in charge of making the decisions have to be much, much better and more consistent, and those on the pitch need to have a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities. Whoever’s in charge and whoever’s playing, they’re not going to have success unless there’s a well-articulated structure in place.
Success would look something like this season but with Champions League qualification. Get into the round of 16 or thereabouts of the Europa League, get to a domestic cup semifinal or final, and finish fourth or better. Over the course of this past season Liverpool simply weren’t good enough, particularly over the first few months and the last, and that sealed their fate. They need to do better throughout, but they need to start far, far better or things will get ugly.
Sign a Director of Football, give that man the keys and let him drive. As Chuck recently said - do what you said you were going to do in the first place and put that structure in place. Because the project is just so close to being perfect! But you gotta hire the guy who hires the guy(s). Rodgers is not suited to being both coach and GM, and we know that beyond a shadow of a Dejan at this point.
Somebody in the top four always slips up, which means even if Liverpool aren’t clear favourites, it should be the realistic, achievable goal heading into next season—at least as long as they don’t slip up. So no more wasted transfer fees on players who are obviously poor fits going in. No more playing players out of position after it’s become clear they aren’t comfortable there. In short, no slipping up. After this season, that’s what Brendan Rodgers has to do: not slip up. At all. If he can't manage to pull that off, he’ll be gone by Christmas.
Echoing the general sentiment that a DoF should be brought in for the long term, even if FSG have decided to stick with Rodgers. If he puts up a fight, he needs to be replaced with somebody who’ll trust and work within the structure the owners want in place. Internal power struggles do nothing but hurt the club. Once that’s taken care of the rest should fall into place with a few smart signings - a striker and defensive midfielder being the priority - just as long as the manager can put them in a position to win. That manager can be Rodgers, if he’s willing to work that way, and hopefully that FSG appear to have decided to stick with him means he's willing.
Spend some time really re-evaluating both what we think the gaps are in the squad and what kinds of qualities we’re looking to fill those gaps with. No more square pegs in round holes. No more trying to shoehorn a player who is a poor fit just because he’s got amazing talent best revealed in a completely different playing style (and he’s cheap!). I’ve never been all that fussed on the idea of marquee signings, just good signings that fit what we need, and I’d love for the transfer committee whatsit to just take names and star power out of the equation to find good players who fit what we’re trying to do. Our chronic ties to Christian Benteke so far this post-season don’t fill me with hope that this is an approach they’re taking, but I need a sign that we’re looking for players who work for what we’re trying to do and not just because we like them regardless of fit. Fourth and a cup final is success for me next season, but like I sad at the start of this past season, those being the goals doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or that we’re not going to struggle to get there.