With the first game of the new season fast approaching, we can look back on a seemingly successful summer
Beginning with our record signing of Andy Carroll in June, the chairmen brought what was a protracted loan spell to a positive and permanent close. Personally, I thought that this was a massive statement of intent. For me, Carroll had displayed exactly the right attributes last season to make him a fan favourite. I can’t quite see where fans of some other clubs are coming from when describing his game, particularly on his effort levels. From what I saw of him, his work rate and overall hunger were both sky-high.
Speaking of sky-high; I also think he had been given an unfair crack of the whip on the back of an unfair price tag when joining Liverpool. The guy is still only 24 years old and under the correct management and receiving decent supply (a la Jarvis & Co), there is no reason why he can’t comfortably reach 15 to 20 goals this term.
But of course, delivering the goods will have to be at the forefront of his mind. Not just to cement his club credentials but to make sure that he is firmly in Roy Hodgson’s plans when the World Cup comes around. Once fit, he needs a bit of luck to stay that way and playing in front of best-mate Nolan and under father figure Allardyce, his confidence should remain strong. The point of the players that we missed out on — and the first name springing to mind is that of Salomon Kalou — is perhaps a slightly more concerning one. There is clearly room for reinforcement if we are to consolidate and hopefully improve.
It looks as if Razvan Rat will be a useful acquisition, visibly in the mould of Big Sam’s tried and tested formula of physicality with a spoonful of courage. An international captain and an experienced head in Europe, he’s definitely worth a punt on a free transfer. He also looks as if he has a decent delivery — a very deliberate attempt at widening supply options into Carroll.
Not a new signing, but what appears to be an excellent returning player is Ravel Morrison. Every fan believed he had potential, and it is evident that a season in the Midlands in what we know (all too well) as a very tough league has given him a swift education in first team football. His pre-season has been more than promising, proving that he has great positional sense, vision and attacking intent.
More importantly, he has been scoring for fun — let’s hope that it translates when he gets his chance to play. At the other end, I think AdriÃ¡n has been brought in at a good age (26) for a goalkeeper. You also don’t get many better tutors than Jussi, which will hopefully leave us with a close-to-finished product between the sticks when the Fin finally hangs up his gloves.
Another face who almost inexplicably disappeared last season was Modibo MaÃ¯ga. He put on some lively displays (the most memorable being against Chelsea, jinking into the box and planting a pearler!) so I really hope that we won’t see him rotting on the bench this season. Keeping Mo DiamÃ©, for me, has been one of the most important things that the club has done over the last year.
If he stays fit, he is the perfect, modern central midfielder: skilful, powerful, and runs all day long. We saw glimpses of the way he can dictate games last year, so if Joe Cole and Matt Jarvis stay fighting fit and feed off of him — we will hopefully see plenty of goals. We are also seeing another crop of young, maturing talent beginning to emerge from our famous academy once again.
Danny Potts and Jordan Spence are edging ever closer to regular first team action, with the former in particular getting an energetic (and painful) taste of the top tier last year. Depending on additional signings and how crowded the treatment room will be, there is a very good chance we’ll be seeing more of both.
And finally; on hopes for 2013/14, we of course have to remain ever the pessimists and realists. We will always dream of broaching the top six and though anything is possible, I think a satisfying season would see us at around the 55 point mark and sitting pretty in 8th or 9th with a strong cup run to boot. You have to accept that there is a lot of quality in and around mid-table, so if we want to be knocking on the door of Everton & Co; we will need to be convincing against sides in the bottom half.