How have the summer signings done so far? Many Liverpool fans will not find common ground in finding an answer to the question. Four players signed in the summer have played over 1000 minutes in the Premier League with Brendan Rodgers likely to give only one more player a chance of breaking joining the four. Those four players in order from most to least in terms of minutes are Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, and Emre Can. Lazar Marković and Mario Balotelli are next on the list with Javier Manquillo and Rickie Lambert unlikely to see enough action to move from the bottom two places.
Raheem Sterling's unsuitability for a wingback/wide midfielder role on the right combined with Jordon Ibe's LCL injury could see Marković restored to the starting line-up. The young Serbian international only turned 21 earlier this month and has shown that he can produce fine all-round displays on the right side, despite recent inconsistent performances that resulted in him being dropped from the starting line-up. His commitment to the defensive role his position demands is as noteworthy as his talent on the ball, and perhaps he will be refreshed from time out of the side, determined to show what he can do on his return.
Mario Balotelli's 800 minutes will need a couple of starts to break a 1000 minutes, and Rodgers will need to throw something into his line-ups to disrupt opposition plans. The mercurial Italian could be the answer. If Liverpool persist with a back three, playing two strikers could offer a more direct threat as well as offer Daniel Sturridge support. If Sturridge is injured, the combination of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling behind Balotelli could be an interesting proposition. Sterling could be tasked to play higher up using his pace and movement to confound defenders with Balotelli dropping in to link the play. He has struggled for goals but nobody would be surprised if he thundered a powerful shot past an opposition goalkeeper or cleverly flicked the ball on for a teammate to score.
The expense of the loss to Manchester United will be felt after the international break as Martin Skrtel was charged with violent conduct by the FA for a stamp on David de Gea. Skrtel has been a rock in defence in his seventh full season at the club and the impending absence of the 30-year-old is not a welcome prospect. There is no player at the club more suitable than the role Skrtel currently occupies in centre of a back three. Dejan Lovren's propensity to be proactive and vacate the ball will not work but could be curbed by virtue of necessity.
Lovren is not the best passer of the ball and is excellent in the air so may feel more comfortable in the centre of a back three with the onus on Mamadou Sakho and Emre Can to distribute the ball more creatively. Kolo Touré could be another option but struggles in the air compared to Lovren. The Croatian international is suffering with an abdominal strain but his recovery could see him take up a vital role when Liverpool need him to produce his best for the club.
It may be difficult for both reserve options to adapt to a role that is probably more difficult than some may realise, which underlines how good Skrtel has been this season in covering for his partners as well as reacting quickly to danger. Another underrated part of the Slovakian's game this season is his communication with his fellow defenders and goalkeeper. Skrtel has been at the club for a long time and was present from the very beginning of Brendan Rodgers time at the club. If Lovren is to replace Skrtel, he will need to do well for the defence to retain the solidity we've seen over the past few months.
These three players represent nearly £60 million invested by Liverpool last summer and not a single one started in the home defeat to Manchester United. Marković has had a far promising season than the other two, but there's still time for all three to make significant contributions with a trophy to win and Champions League qualification to achieve. Interestingly, strong criticism has been aimed at all the players signed in the summer with the exception of Emre Can.
If Liverpool experience a strong finish to the season, it is likely to be with exceptional contributions from a few summer signings that could be used as a springboard for inspiring sophomore campaigns.