x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Liverpool seem to lack some scoring in life after Luis Suarez

Swansea City's Wilfried Bony appears the prime target now that Liverpool withdrew from a deal for QPR’s Loic Remy, while Rodgers has ruled out any move for AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli, writes Richard Jolly.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for a few good scorers before the English Premier League starts up again. Cal Sport Media via AP Images
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for a few good scorers before the English Premier League starts up again. Cal Sport Media via AP Images

Manchester United had Louis while Liverpool lacked Luis. Perhaps the presence of Louis van Gaal and the absence of Luis Suarez was the determining factor in the International Champions Cup final.

For Liverpool, every game is a confirmation of the obvious: the Uruguayan will be missed.

They had trial separations during the two lengthy bans Suarez served as a Liverpool player.

Now the permanent parting of the ways leaves a void. Suarez was top scorer, capable creator, controversy magnet and a focal point for fans, whether those at Anfield idolising the Uruguayan or rivals fans targeting him with less complimentary chants.

They lost to United on Monday without both halves of the “SAS” – the sold Suarez and the hamstrung Daniel Sturridge.

The latter’s return to England was a precautionary measure and manager Brendan Rodgers expects him to be available for Liverpool’s opening game of the new Premier League season against Southampton on August 17.

It is just as well; Liverpool can scarcely afford to be without both halves of the Premier League’s most prolific partnership.

As it is, the manager is keen to ease the sizeable burden on Sturridge’s shoulders. The search for striking reinforcements continues.

“It is crucial for us,” Rodgers said last week. He has already signed two, but one of them, the Belgian teenager Divock Origi, who played at the World Cup over the summer, has been loaned back immediately to Lille.

Wilfried Bony, potent for Swansea City last season, appears the prime target now that Liverpool have withdrawn from a deal for Queens Park Rangers’s Loic Remy, while Rodgers has ruled out any move for AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli.

Ever flexible, he has swapped shape in pre-season fixtures, alternating between 4-4-2, featuring two strikers and a midfield diamond, and 4-3-3. If Sturridge is the main forward now, his manager wants the option of pairing him with another.

Instead, and with fewer alternatives, Rickie Lambert led the line alone against United in Miami. It was a far cry from their March meeting in Manchester, when Suarez and Sturridge both started and starred.

Liverpool benefit from speed in attack and Lambert’s lack of pace was notable. Goals, too have been missing.

Read more: Liverpool hope to sign Philippe Coutinho to new contract

Pre-season games can be notoriously inaccurate indicators of a player’s prospects but Lambert has made an uncertain start.

There seemed something symbolic that a man who converted 34 penalties from a possible 34 for Southampton had a spot kick saved against AC Milan.

It was not an official match, but it was an indication of a struggle to replicate his finest form in the colours of his boyhood heroes.

His is an extraordinary story of a player, who was released at 15, returning at 32 after a long journey through the lower leagues. After the romance follows the reality: it remains to be seen if he can make the grade at Anfield this time around.

So perhaps the most significant signing Liverpool have made could be the one defensive newcomer, Dejan Lovren.

Goals flowed at both ends last season. Liverpool scored a club record 101 in the league, but also conceded 50, only Tottenham Hotspur conceded more from teams in the top eight.

In 1977, the year they won the first of their five European Cups, Liverpool lifted the Division 1 title, despite scoring just 62 times.

As Rodgers has started pointing out, even if you subtract Suarez’s substantial contribution, Liverpool still scored 70 goals last season.

Factor in the arrivals of Lambert and Adam Lallana, who struck 13 and nine times respectively for Southampton, and Lazar Markovic, who chipped in with five for Benfica, and Liverpool have almost made up the shortfall. On paper, anyway.

In reality, it is more complicated. Rodgers is a manager who intelligently utilises a large squad but the quest for a coveted, expensive signing has been a theme of his reign.

So, too, has been the way such players have eluded Liverpool and there is a vacancy for a poster boy for their summer business. None of their forward and midfield recruits looks an automatic choice – yet.

Suarez was but, even if he had spurned Barcelona’s advances, he would have been ineligible anyway because of his four-month suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

One way or another, they were always condemned to life without Luis.

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