The obvious answer is the departure of Luis Suarez and the niggling injuries that continue to trouble Daniel Sturridge.
However, the truth is that they have splashed the cash on a group of relatively average players that have failed to perform and develop as Brendan Rodgers would’ve hoped. This has led to a starting XI over reliant on the aging legs of Steven Gerrard, and on the young shoulders of Raheem Sterling.
The 2013/14 Premier League campaign saw Liverpool finish second, largely thanks to the 61 league goals scored by Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling. The brilliance of the ‘SAS’ partnership papered over the considerable cracks in other areas of the team – an average goalkeeper in Simon Mignolet and a defence marshalled by Martin Skrtel saw that Liverpool’s only means of defence was to attack.
Conceding 50 Premier League goals is staggering for a team that finished a single place below eventual champions, Manchester City.
In the summer Rodgers looked to address his frail defence, with the £20 million signing of Dejan Lovren and the acquisition of promising left-back Albert Moreno from Spanish outfit, Sevilla. Both, on the face of it, improving the vulnerable Liverpool defence. However, Lovren has looked a shadow of the man that played with such assurance in his first and only year at Southampton, whilst Moreno has struggled to nail down a starting spot in the first XI.
In comparison with the other top teams in the Premier League, Liverpool’s midfield is considerably below par. Steven Gerrard, arguably the best central midfielder of the last decade is now on the decline and isn’t getting any help from his fellow midfielders. Joe Allen, a player of great energy and commitment, but has always been out of his depth at Anfield and Lucas Leiva, forever on the fringes of a starting role, are not the players to take over the responsibility that currently rests with skipper and club legend, Steven Gerrard.
Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana were brought into the club for a combined fee of £45 million, joining from Benfica and Southampton respectively. Both have shown glimpses of what they can offer this struggling Liverpool side, but neither can hold down a regular spot on the team sheet. The red card given to Markovic, for a flailing arm in the Champions League game against Basel, summed up his miserable start to life on Merseyside. Lallana has fared a little better, finding the net twice in his 10 Premier League games, however, he has not been anywhere near as effective as he was for Southampton.
Of course, the biggest problem of them all was finding a replacement for Luis Suarez, something that Rodgers has been unable to do. £4 million for Rickie Lambert appeared to be a bargain, but his presence on the pitch seems to prevent the free flowing football that proved so successful for Liverpool last season. Controversy will always surround Mario Balotelli, but his talent is clear for all to see, which is why the £16 million Liverpool paid for him seemed like a gamble worth taking. But, 22 Premier League games between them and only 1 goal is simply not good enough for a side that expects to finish the season in a Champions League spot.
Brendan Rodgers claims that he is the best man for the job, and I would agree. He led his team agonisingly close to the Premier League crown, the first Liverpool boss to do so in over 20 years, and with a team that, at the start of the season, were expected to finish in a Champions League spot at best.
An established defensive midfielder to anchor the struggling centre-backs and an accomplished striker to capitalise on the chances created would be the first step in turning their season around.