Liverpool’s thin squad became a major concern after injuries ruling out a number of first team regulars in the build up to back to back losses against Manchester City and Chelsea over the festive fixture period exposed the lack of depth at Reds boss Brendan Rodgers disposal.
Although they were expected to strengthen in January, the Anfield outfit was unable to bring anyone in, missing out on both FC Basel winger Mohamed Salah, who chose to join Chelsea after being pinched by the London side, and promising FC Dnipro attacker Yevhen Konoplyanka, after negotiations with the Ukrainian club turned less than amicable. Despite their failures in the market, the Reds continue to prosper on the pitch as their 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal on Saturday will attest.
“I have a great belief in the players here that I have got. And we want to build on that over the coming years” said Rodgers in his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Craven Cottage on Wednesday. “But I take great pride in making people better, both on the field and helping them off the field.” The Northern Irishman has had a profound impact on the Merseyside club in his second season in charge, and his work with the Reds relatively young squad has been a particularly impressive point of pride.
“If you’re talking about can they cope with pressure, then you only need to look at the last number of games that we’ve had,” enthused Rodgers with a smile. “In the last couple of games at home, against Everton and Arsenal, we had 19-year-old Raheem Sterling playing wide. Jon Flanagan is 21, Jordan Henderson is 23 and Coutinho is 21, but it’s not affecting them because they are concentrating on their performance.”
If you want to develop youth, you have to give them a shot; Rodgers doesn’t have much of a choice in some cases, but if the youngsters keep pushing on the way they are, and Liverpool finish in the top four at the end of May, you could argue that not bringing anyone in during the transfer window was actually a positive.