Lack of European football both hindering and benefiting Liverpool
Liverpool’s lack of involvement in either the Europa League or Champions League this season appears to be having both a negative and positive effect on the squad as we reach the halfway point of the campaign.
January 8th, 2014
Many see the Europa League, not the prestigious UEFA Cup as it once was, as a competition not worth the grief that comes with it—the Thursday night trips to Eastern Europe, the rearranged Sunday kick-offs, little financial reward and the massive fixture schedule. In that case, no involvement in Europe is a good thing. For the large part of the season, it has left Liverpool with a week to rest in between Premier League games, and made the season all about fighting in the league.
But Liverpool are building a squad hopeful of challenging both domestically and in Europe within the next few years. To do that, Brendan Rodgers needs a deep squad of talent to call upon. The problem comes when he has little or no games to play his fringe players in. After all, only 14 players can be involved in a single match day.
With little playing time together, Liverpool’s fringe players appeared to lack cohesion with their first-team colleagues as Liverpool stuttered to an FA Cup third round victory over Oldham on Sunday. Iago Aspas looked better, but slow and weary, whilst Victor Moses looked uninterested and lacked any punch in attack. Martin Kelly and Luis Alberto looked someway off match-sharp. It was only when Philippe Coutinho and Lucas were introduced into the game as half-time substitutes that Liverpool came to life and eventually beat the League One side.
But can the likes of Aspas, Moses, Alberto and Brad Jones be expected to work well in the first-team having had little playing time previously? It would be difficult to expect any calibre of players to instantly click with each other’s games. It makes a run in the League Cup, FA Cup, or involvement in Europe appear increasingly important.
As Rodgers looks to improve both his first-team and squad in the January transfer window, it is important that the fringe players see quality match time, staying match sharp and working with their teammates regularly.
Hopefully qualification for Europe next season will force the issue upon Rodgers and the Reds—that more players need to be playing more often for Liverpool to become great again.