Brendan Rodgers has, to all appearances, finally got his man. Fans can talk about concerns as to how or even whether Christian Benteke fits at Liverpool, but he is quite clearly the striker that Rodgers wants leading the line for him this season. A year after failing to properly replace Luis Suarez, Rodgers has brought in a £32.5M scorer with plenty of league experience. A striker it was made clear from the start of the summer was the only one he ever really wanted.
After a year that ended in massive disappointment with a sixth-place finish. A year that saw Liverpool ejected from four separate cup competitions at stages when the fans could quite reasonably have expected them to advance. A year that saw as many frustratingly stubborn tactical choices as moments of managerial brilliance. A year that ended with Rodgers on the chopping block. After all of that, Rodgers has been given full backing. He has been given money to spend. He has been granted his top striker target.
He has been given the freedom to select a new support staff and, even before Benteke arrives, a string of very exciting—and largely proven—signings. Nathaniel Clyne is in to shore up right back and replace the departed Glen Johnson. James Milner as a skilled, veteran midfield presence helps to make up for the end of Steven Gerrard’s career in red. Roberto Firmino, one of the Bundesliga’s top five attacking midfielders and a player on the verge of superstardom has been brought in to add firepower.
The only question mark, really, had been what would happen at striker. Now, though, there will be Benteke. And there will also be Danny Ings on hand, another player Rodgers targeted early on and who arrives with plenty of Premier League experience. The expectations won’t be quite so high for him, but as part of a larger picture, it adds up to a situation where Liverpool no longer have any obvious gaps or weak points. At least as far as the manager is concerned. Whether the manager is right is another matter.
Many fans will continue to doubt that Benteke is the answer, particularly at £32.5M, but it’s clear Rodgers doesn’t share those doubts in the slightest. And at the very least that makes things clear heading into the new season. It means that Rodgers now has his players, his team—all told, the club will have spent nearly £200M bringing in new talent over the past two summers by the time Benteke’s transfer goes through and Ings’ fee is decided. It means he has no excuses for failing to deliver a top four finish.
Liverpool spent last summer bringing in youth and depth to support a return to European competition, and while things didn't go to plan, there is a lot of talent on hand. That talent has now had a year with the club to settle and learn under Rodgers, and it has now been supplemented with proven, experienced—and in many cases very expensive—starting options, giving the manager compelling choices that run two and even three deep at almost every position. The owners have quite clearly done their part.
Rodgers has now got in the players he wants; his top targets from fullback at one end of the pitch to striker at the other. The club have backed him, spending at a level past Liverpool managers could hardly have dreamed possible while they were in charge. The resulting pressure, both on Rodgers and some of his signings, will be massive. And it will be right to be massive. There are no more excuses left.