After blowing away nearly every defence in the country in 2013/2014, scoring an average of 2.66 goals per game, the level of excitement surrounding Liverpool was paramount at the beginning of 2014/2015. They had sold their top goal scorer in Luis Suarez yes, but they still had 21 goal man Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling was only going to get better, and who knows, maybe Liverpool was the place for Mario Balotelli to finally make headlines for all the right reasons. What was the worse that could happen?
From a Liverpool point of view, worse than the worst happened. It all started to go very wrong for the Reds very quickly, after Sturridge found himself sidelined due to yet another injury. Mario Balotelli just could not fit in, and began to sulk on and off the field, and the amount of pressure heaped upon the young shoulders of Raheem Sterling was simply too much to bare, as he misfired time and time again in front of goal.
Having scored a whopping 101 goals the season before, the contrast at the club was remarkable, as they grafted in vain in a desperate search for goals. Only 52 goals were scored in the league in the end, with Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge contributing a crippling eight goals total in the league. With such a marshmallow like bluntness upfront, the fact that the Reds were even able to finish sixth is actually quite commendable really.
Since then, the Anfield faithful have had to say good-bye to their inspirational captain Steven Gerrard, who incidentally was also their their top scorer last season, and have been subjected to the shambolic behaviour of Raheem Sterling as he forced a move away from the club. It is no wonder that the murmurings amongst the ranks on The Kop have been rife with apprehension.
Now, the new season lies upon the horizon, and Brendan Rodgers has again dipped in a transfer market in a bid to dispel the growing fears, as he continues on his mission to replace Suarez two seasons too late. The Northern Irishman has brought in Danny Ings from Burnley, and Christian Benteke as he looks to add a point to last season’s mallow. Now, however, the big question on the lips of Liverpool fans is, where are they all going to go Mr. Rodgers?
In terms of strikers, for the moment at least, Rodgers has Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Danny Ings, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini all on his books at Liverpool. While he may not be short of choice, it could be argued that he is not exactly spoilt for choice. I did my best to rank them in what I think will be the proverbial pecking order at The Reds this coming season.
7. Mario Balotelli
Should he still be a Liverpool player next season (which is is highly unlikely if Brendan Rodgers possesses even a speck of common sense), Super Mario will be the last of the names to make it onto the Liverpool team sheet as far as strikers go. He just does not fit at Anfield, his lack of goals, his negative body language and his demeanour in the dressing room can be detrimental to the rest of the squad. In my opinion he has to, and will, go.
6. Rickie Lambert
I like Rickie Lambert; he is a sturdy, honest player who has worked unbelievably hard to get to where he is. The unfortunate truth for him though is that he simply does not suit the Liverpool style. He is a target man. Isolated up top last season, he suffered and was never able to make his mark at the club. I would not be surprised if he is moved on too by the time the transfer window slams shut.
What is the gamble?: Lambert just does not fit at Anfield, and is unable to provide the goals.
5. Fabio Borini
The Italian has never been a favourite of Rodgers, and we can expect that to continue into the coming season. Borini lacks the kind of finishing so desperately needed at Anfield. Obviously, hardly getting a game does not help, but it was clear to see that during the minutes he did have, he just was not quite up to the high standard expected of a Liverpool front man. Borini can expect another season on the bench, unless a loan deal or a full transfer out of the club comes to his aid.
What is the gamble?: Not of the Liverpool standard. Rodgers surely will not risk a backlash from the fans by playing Borini ahead of some of the other players in this list.
4. Divock Origi
The young Belgian has bags of potential and at only 20 years of age, his best years are definitely ahead of him. However, he is unproven in the Premier League, and after having an underwhelming season at Lille on loan last time out, Rodgers is likely to ease him into English football slowly. For now, Origi should be content with cameo appearances and starts in cup games and the Europa league, as he looks to cement a spot in the starting lineup in the coming years.
What is the gamble?: Young and unproven at Premier League level.
3. Danny Ings
Playing for Burnley last season, a side that was relegated three weeks before the end, Danny Ings was a shining light out of the gloom, managing a decent tally of eleven goals by the time May came around. Liverpool fans will be sceptical though, remembering the last time they signed the star of a relegated side in Charlie Adam. Ings however is no Charlie Adam. He is young, determined, and far more suited to the Brendan Rodgers game. He will benefit too from the extra chances the Liverpool midfield will create. While his finishing is not sparkling as of yet, his movement is incisive and quick, making him an ideal target for the creative Liverpool midfield. Adding to that, Ings an admirable poaching ability which could well see him adding those vital goals to the Liverpool tally that they so sorely missed last season. Ings will need to take his chances when he gets them if he wants to secure a regular spot in Rodgers’ thoughts.
What is the gamble?: Still young and is not accustomed to the level of expectation at a club like Liverpool.
2. Daniel Sturridge
This was the hard one. We know the quality of Sturridge, we know his capabilities and how much he is loved at Anfield. His dancing celebration has been a trademark of so many great moments for Liverpool since his arrival. Sadly, for all involved, his fitness remains a massive worry and that is why he does not make the top of the list. He is only expected back in training sometime in September and in turn, will only be match fit towards the end of October provided everything goes to plan. When that time comes however, Sturridge will certainly be given a chance to prove himself again, and Liverpool fans worldwide will be anxious to see him dancing at Anfield once more.
What is the gamble?: Fitness… Obviously.
When you consider his price tag, it is blatantly obvious that Benteke will be Rodgers’ favourite to lead the line in the absence of Daniel Sturridge. It would make no sense to spend so much money on someone, and not give him adequate game time. Benteke has proven that he can score in the Premier League, having only been out scored by the likes of Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Robin Van Persie since his arrival on English shores in 2012. He will be eager to add to his record of 42 goals straight away as he looks to hit the ground running in his new surroundings. Should he put in some good performances and bag the goals so dreadfully needed at Anfield while Sturridge is sidelined, Benteke could well cement and build a house on the spot he has at the top of this list.
What is the gamble?: Will the big Belgian be able to deal with the weight of expectation attached to his monumental 32 million pound price tag?
If it were to all pay off, were Rodgers to win big, it could well be enough to secure a top four finish and he will once again be the toast of the town. Should his strikers fail for the second season running however, Rodgers will find himself under massive pressure to hold onto his job at Anfield and come the beginning of 2016/2017, there could be a new man at the helm of Liverpool FC.