LIVERPOOL’S exit from the League Cup at the hands of Swansea City hurt. Having lifted the trophy for a record eighth time at Wembley back in February, the Reds surrendered it meekly on a desperately disappointing night at Anfield.
The road to the capital had started to open up and a genuine chance of silverware was carelessly spurned. However, the hope is that some good will emerge from that painful setback after it laid bare the alarming lack of depth in Brendan Rodgers’ squad.
After the surprise wins away to Young Boys and West Brom with second string line ups, the club’s owners must have wondered what all the fuss was about.
Throwing in the youngsters alongside some experienced pros on the fringes and expensive misfits had done the trick.
Not on Wednesday night. Liverpool were found wanting during an inept first-half performance. The squad’s weaknesses and the need for reinforcements was glaring.
The over-reliance on Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez was underlined by the sudden jump in tempo, intensity and quality following their introduction in the second half. The boss had planned to give the duo the night off but was forced to take action after such an insipid opening 45 minutes.
Some have bemoaned the fact that Rodgers made nine changes but with a gruelling schedule the manager had little choice.
Considering his predecessor won the League Cup and still got the sack, it’s no surprise that the competition was bottom of his list of priorities. The real issue is the calibre of the replacements Rodgers is able to call upon.
At one end of the pitch Liverpool are blessed with decent back-up. Brad Jones has proved that for the first time in years there is genuine competition for the keeper’s jersey.
Even when Pepe Reina is fit, there is no guarantee that he will instantly regain his place.
Defensively, Liverpool have reliable deputies with the likes of Sebastian Coates, Jamie Carragher and Jack Robinson waiting in the wings. However, it’s further forward that Rodgers has got serious problems which need to be addressed.
Samed Yesil endured a torrid home debut but you had to feel sorry for the young German striker. When the 18-year-old was signed from Bayer Leverkusen back in August, Rodgers said it would be up to two years before he was ready to play in the first team.
But after the mistakes made in the summer transfer window, coupled with the injury to Fabio Borini, Yesil now finds himself as the second choice frontman behind Suarez. For a club of Liverpool’s stature that is ridiculous.
Having impressed in previous games Oussama Assaidi should probably be cut a bit of slack after his display, but the same can’t be said of Joe Cole, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson. So much for staking a claim for more regular action. None of that trio would even still be at Anfield if the summer had worked out differently.
Cole dug his heels in and said he wanted to stay despite being told he was surplus to requirements and unlikely to feature. There were no offers for Downing, while Henderson rejected the chance to move to Fulham.
Rodgers has barely called upon them for Premier League duty, instead preferring to put his faith in Academy graduates. But at some point the likes of Raheem Sterling and Suso will need to be taken out of the firing line. Their form is bound to dip, but who can Rodgers rely on to fill the gaps?
Liverpool must try to battle through until January when all eyes will be on how much backing FSG give the manager.
Of course it will take several windows to shape the squad the way Rodgers wants it but the next one is vital.
FSG’s desire to invest in youth and build for the long-term is laudable. But if they don’t buy proven talent for the here and now they run the risk of losing star names.
Rodgers is adamant Liverpool can still attract the best. If he’s not backed in January then the Reds run the risk of drifting aimlessly towards mediocrity.