In this series, we look past the usual first XI for the top sides and instead shift the spotlight to the five back-up or reserve players who could make an impact in the season ahead.
First up is the mighty Liverpool. With the likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Simon Mignolet secured of their places in the first XI, added fixtures in the Champions League will mean more will have to step up and fill in when called upon.
this year’s jon flanagan? could coates play his way to the first xi?
This is literally a make-or-break season for Coates, in every sense of the word – and that is if Coates isn’t sold or loaned out again. The Uruguayan defender was bought by Kenny Dalglish for £7 million, with much expected of him. Tall in stature, aggressive and good on the ball, he seemed to be the man to replace Jamie Carragher. Alas, injuries blighted his time at Anfield so far, and he has barely featured. Brendan Rodgers has given him a run of games in the pre-season friendlies so far, and to be fair, Coates has impressed. Maybe Rodgers is simply putting him on display in the shop window, hoping for some takers, especially since Dejan Lovren has joined the club, pushing Coates further down the pecking order. However, with Daniel Agger likely to leave should a decent sized bid come in, Coates could be the man to provide the cover and competition for the likes of Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Lovren.
After spending the whole of last season in and out of the side, Allen needs a breakthrough season to justify his £15 million price tag. He should not worry too much yet, as he can only look to the likes of Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson for inspiration. Both did not inspire much confidence when they first arrived, but has since proven their ability to play for this club. Allen needs to contribute more in terms of goals and assists, as his metronomic passing ability will not be enough to keep him in the side. Both Philipp Coutinho and Henderson adds more to their game, with the former’s creative vision and the latter’s stamina and pressing both key to Liverpool’s current game plan. Whatever Allen has been doing, others can do too, plus more. The young Welshman has quite a mountain to climb to ever establish himself as a first-team regular for the Merseyside club.
Like Coates, considering the Spaniard is not loaned out or sold, Suso can play a vital role for the Reds this season, especially off the bench. The Spaniard whizkid needs to measure his performance level to Coutinho. Suso will do well to learn from the Brazilian magician, and he will need to improve his game significantly to even challenge for Coutinho’s place. Suso can be a very good option whenever Coutinho needs a rest or is out injured. Age is still on the ex-Real Madrid trainee’s side, but sooner or later he will have to fulfil his huge potential.
Probably the most impressive player during the pre-season so far, Ibe could be this year’s Raheem Sterling. There is this uncanny resemblances to the playing styles of both young wingers, with a impressive turn of pace and low centre of gravity helping both glide past opposition defenders. Ibe’s presence is hugely beneficial for Rodgers, as Sterling cannot afford to be complacent, and that Rodgers has a like-for-like replacement for Sterling, whenever the England World Cup winger is out-of-sorts. There will also be less pressure to play Sterling all the time, unlike last season, and this could give Sterling the freedom to flourish. For Ibe, he can simply bide his time and hope to make a considerable impact when called upon.
lambert simply needs to hit double digits to be considered a success.
The England international knew he was never going to be first pick, but Lambert will still be very important for Rodgers. Sturridge might be the main man to lead the line right now, but Lambert will and must provide that different option and different threat for opposition defenders to think about. No longer will there be the threat that is Luis Suarez, instead Lambert will provide the type of link-up play that brings in other players, like Sterling, Adam Lallana and Henderson, allowing the midfielders to score more goals. Lambert is fully aware he lacks any pace, so he will have to make it up with smart interchanges with his team-mates, which will mean more of a team game at Liverpool next season. No longer can they rely on the brilliance of Suarez, now everyone, especially the midfielders, will have to contribute goals. Lambert will be key to that.
Who do you think, beyond the first eleven, will have the biggest impact for Liverpool this season?