Of the many complaints registered during the fall, one of the more popular ones focused on the lack of proven, ready to win now talent in Liverpool's squad. With a number of summer signings clearly ones for the future and others struggling for fitness or form, Brendan Rodgers was left with a squad that lacked any sort of consistency or identity, and it was no wonder their form for the first few months of the season was among their worst in decades.
They've managed to right the ship through the winter and into a challenging stretch through February and March, and it's largely been done on the backs of a number of promising youngsters who have started to settle. That development wasn't entirely unexpected, but for a fan base who found themselves so close to a Premier League title in the spring, patience was hard to come by.
Their development has been a regular talking point for Rodgers, and ahead of another significant test for his squad--which will likely again include a number of youngsters--he made mention of the promise this group holds:
"There's a lot of development in this team still. It's a different team to last year in many ways, but most importantly, the philosophy is the same. We're still looking to achieve the same sort of things as a group, and that's vital. I think we've got some really exciting young talents here. Take Jordon Ibe, he turned 19 in December. He's an incredible player and it's great to see him performing, it's enjoyable for the fans.
"The young players who came in during the summer [Emre Can, Alberto Moreno, Lazar Markovic, Javier Manquillo] have settled now in their life away from football as well. Everything is coming to fruition now. The first couple of months of this season was about adapting to everything - the expectation of a big club, and as we go on, we'll improve. But I think we'll really get to see the best of this group next season."
That excludes Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, as well as Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Allen, and Jon Flanagan, all of whom check in at 25 years old or younger, nor does it include Tiago Ilori, Joao Teixeira, and Divock Origi, talented youngsters currently on loan, or the likes of Jerome Sinclair, Jordan Rossiter, and Harry Wilson, who have shown promise in the youth and reserve ranks.
Converting that impressive assembly of talent into proven winners in the top flight is another matter altogether, but as far as foundations go, it's hard to argue with Rodgers that Liverpool's set up well for success in the not-so-distant future.