There is perhaps no player whom Liverpool fans have spent the season speaking about and salivating over more than Alexis Sanchez. After a successful World Cup, the Chilean forward was top of many lists of transfer targets, and although Liverpool played a significant hand in attempting to convince the player to move to Merseyside, he eventually ended up in London. With Sanchez and his Arsenal teammates visiting Anfield on Sunday, Brendan Rodgers had a bit of melancholy to deal with over the transfer that never was.
"To not get him was obviously bitterly disappointing," Rodgers said in his pre-match presser. "He’s a world class player with outstanding quality and even bigger work rate. He would have been perfect for us. He made his decision. The best option for him."
"Sanchez was identified for us as someone who would have been a key signing and really just a roll on to what we had with Luis Suarez. So to not get him was obviously bitterly disappointing, but once he was gone that was it. We just had to focus on what we had."
What he had — and ultimately ended up with through an additional signing — was an injured star striker and two other strikers less suitable for the pressing game Rodgers would prefer to use. Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli may not provide the speed up top that Sanchez might have been able to offer, but Rodgers does have options to achieve that speed and he demonstrated that mid-week in League Cup action.
"If you look at the team the other night against Bournemouth, you see the value of having that pace in the central area of the field," Rodgers continued. "First of all it allows you to press and it means that your game can be much more aggressive. You press the ball in the high areas of the field and if you looked at us in the opening 20 minutes of games because of that pressure and suffocation of opponents we can get the ball back higher up the field.
"It gives you more chances of a goal, if you are winning it higher up the field, 25 to 30 metres from goal, you are going to create more chances. But when you have got the players playing in the way we want to work you can see the issues and the problems we can cause opponents. We had for probably the first time that ability to break forward with speed and on the counter attack. We haven’t had that."
Seeing shades of the old Liverpool against a Championship side resting many of its key players is certainly one thing; replicating that form against a fully functioning if also uneven Arsenal side is quite another. If Liverpool are to get a result on Sunday, though, Brendan Rodgers will first have to find a way to neutralize the threat of Alexis Sanchez before considering anything else.