While a lot can be gleaned about a manager's plans based on the first few games of the season, ten months and fifty-odd games require a plan b, c, d, and even e. Brendan Rodgers knows this well. Even though Alberto Moreno and Lazar Markovic didn't feature in Liverpool's 1-0 victory against Stoke on Sunday, nor are either likely to this coming Monday against Bournemouth, Rodgers has assured them that their services will be called upon as the season progresses.
"Both players are very talented players – that’s clearly why they’ve come here, because they’re both good players," he remarked. "Maybe for the first time in their footballing careers, especially being so young, they find themselves not being a regular. They know very well from the conversations we’ve had that it is a long, tough season and they will certainly be needed.
"It’s about when the opportunity comes, taking the opportunity and keeping yourself in the team. There is no player that hasn’t been told that. They are fighting and working well, and when the opportunity comes to play, I’m sure they’ll both be ready."
Markovic had little time to shine last season, and was largely anonymous in the games he did play. He is still young, however, and more playing time, likely in the cup games still to come this season, would only help his confidence. Another new signing that creates further road blocks for Markovic's return to the first team is the young Brazilian, Roberto Firmino. Making his debut for the final fifteen minutes of the opening match against Stoke on Sunday, Firmino seems on the path to full fitness after spending much of the summer competing in the Copa América.
On the subject of Firmino's training, Rodgers had this to say: "He’s building up his fitness really well. He’s a guy that helps himself because he trains to the maximum every single day and he’s coming along very, very well.
"He’s a good guy as well and every aspect of life here in Liverpool, he’s thrown himself into – both football and language. He is working very, very hard and he’s getting close."
On Monday, the former Hoffenheim man netted a hat trick in a closed door friendly against TNS. Though he may not be quite ready to start against Bournemouth, Liverpool fans should expect to see him in the starting XI soon.
Moreno, on the other hand, was Liverpool's starting left back last season. While everyone remembers his sensational thunderbolt goal in the third game against Tottenham, he did little else to recommend himself, and eventually got dropped when Rodgers reverted to playing three center backs after New Years. Though certainly not terrible, his lackluster performances have allowed youngster Joe Gomez to jump ahead of him in the pecking order.
Speaking on Gomez's debut, Rodgers said, "For a young player, 18 years of age, to make his Premier League debut away at Stoke against an outstanding player in Jonathan Walters with the experience he has, to cope as well as he did [was fantastic].
"I spoke to Jonathan after the game and thanked him for giving Joe that experience! He spoke well of him as well and knew he was a tough opponent to play against."
In truth, both debutante fullbacks, Gomez and right back Nathaniel Clyne, had solid games that bode well for their future and for the state of Liverpool's historically shaky back line. Competition for places in important, as anyone who remembers the last three seasons with Glen Johnson can attest to, so this is a good problem for Liverpool to have. Markovic and Moreno are both strong, young players with a lot of promise who Rodgers will look to encourage and help grow over the coming season.