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Are Liverpool ready to challenge?

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As the transfer window officially closed yesterday, clubs all over the country were scurrying around to get their last minute business done and players through the door.

One club that was not active yesterday, inwardly at least was Brendan Rodgers Liverpool. The Merseyside club had their deals done and players signed weeks before the window shut yesterday evening. The question now then is whether Rodgers and the Liverpool board have done enough to take the club back into the Champions league places.

The Sports Lowdown football lead Ian Turner evaluates the clubs new recruits, giving his opinion on what we can expect from Liverpool this season.

James Milner – Free

A man Rodgers had been monitoring since it became apparent he was not certain to sign a contract extension at Manchester City. Arsenal had made their interest in the England international clear also, but after rejecting an apparent £165 000 per week contract from City it was soon announced by Liverpool that they had agreed a deal with Milner and he would officially join the reds when the window opened at the start of July.

Since then he has done nothing but impress and was soon announced as Liverpool’s new vice-captain. When Liverpool lost Steven Gerrard to LA Galaxy, it was of upmost importance that a player of James Milner’s, quality, work rate and amount of experience was recruited sooner rather than later.

Its early days for his Liverpool career, but the opening signs are good, producing a wonderful defensive displays against Arsenal and Stoke, whilst showing great ability on the ball. He may have been a free transfer, but James Milner could prove to be one of the best pieces of business across the Premier League.

Danny Ings – Tribunal

A signing that has definitely split opinion amongst football fans in general, let alone Liverpool’s. In the large part though it’s seen as smart business, a player who scored 11 premier league goals at relegated Burnley is now expected to score goals, something he should be able to do now he’s at a club which should provide him with far more opportunities than he was supplied with at Burnley.

His early opportunities have been limited, mainly due to the fact Liverpool have been hanging on to the points they had already got. He was though however the only bright spark in a dismal 3-0 home defeat to West Ham this past weekend.

Many fans and former players such as John Aldridge are calling for Striker to start at Old Trafford in Liverpool’s next fixture, as Rodgers looks to add goals to his side, who have only scored twice in the opening four games.

Adam Bogdan – Free

Simple and Smart signing. Liverpool chose not to offer Brad Jones a new contract when his latest deal expired at the end of June. This didn’t come as much of a surprise; without making any disastrous errors in the Liverpool goal, he never once applied sufficient pressure on Simon Mignolet or even his predecessor Pepe Reina and both Mignolet and Reina’s performances, seemed to suffer due to the lack of competition.

Early reports have been positive regarding Bogdan’s performances at Melwood and Mignolet’s early season performances seem to show that. The former Bolton keeper’s best chances of playing will certainly come in cup competitions both domestically and in Europe.

Liverpool fans can at least have confidence in their new back up keeper.

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Joe Gomez – £3.5M

A young talented professional, with a massive amount of quality for his age. When he signed for Liverpool early in the transfer window it was widely reported that the 18 year old would be loaned straight back out for the coming season. These reports where soon squashed and to many peoples surprise Gomez has started all four of Liverpool’s fixtures, impressing enough to get a call into the England Under 21 squad.

At his age he will inevitably experience a dip in form, but with Rodgers track record of managing young players, I feel he will manage his work load, so he can continue to play to the best of his ability every time he pulls on a red shirt.

Roberto Firmino – £29M

The signing that has arrived a year late. Many people were hoping for a signing like this 12 months ago, when Luis Suarez departed the club for Barcelona. Not for a second am I saying he would of then or even will now have the impact Suarez did on the Liverpool team, but there is certainly the hope, that partnered with fellow Brazilian Phillipe Coutinho, Firmino can provide the magic moments Liverpool fans crave for.

The Brazil international, was most certainly a fan favourite at his former club Hoffenheim, where he created and scored goals from all of the front four positions. He also, similarly to Suarez, showed a massive desire to press the opposition back line, as well as track back and help his team defend, a trait Rodgers loves in his players.

His first games have been tough as he gets up to full fitness after an extended holiday following his involvement in the Copa America. In glimpses he has shown what he is capable of and the fans certainly cannot wait for him to get into his flow and one thing is for sure they will do is allow him to do this.

Nathaniel Clyne – £12.5M

Just what Liverpool have needed for the past two maybe even three seasons. Brilliant in attack and more importantly suburb defensively. After successive impressive seasons at St Mary’s, it’s no surprise Liverpool made him their number one defensive target. The only surprise is that Liverpool faced minimal completion for his signature.

Opening signs have been as good as expected, he’s played a massive part in Liverpool’s up until Saturday solid start to the season. Operating from right back he has snuffed out attacks and provided a threat going forward.

Liverpool’s fans will enjoy watching England’s right back for many years to come.

Christian Benteke £32.5M

Liverpool made it known very early that Christian Benteke was the striker they wanted. However for a considerable period of the window it seemed like Liverpool where going to look elsewhere. This was because of the his high buyout clause, but as soon as Raheem Sterling left for £49 million it became clear that Liverpool would meet Bentekes buyout clause and complete the transfer.

Many, including his former manager Tim Sherwood, have doubted whether the Belgium striker would fit the profile of a striker in a Brendan Rodgers side. These doubts come from the failings of Rickie Lambert who failed to make any impact in his one season at the reds.

The early signs are good however showing great ability with his feet as well as his head. He’s already scored his first goal for Liverpool, all be it in controversial circumstances in the 1-0 home victory over Bournemouth. His own scoring record stands up to the best in the league, he found the net 42 times in 88 league games at Aston Villa and Liverpool fans will hope he can continue that record at Anfield.

Another thing this signing allows is for the pressure to be lifted off star striker Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has suffered horribly with injuries in the past year and with Liverpools lack of options up front, it has meant when Sturridge has been fit to play, he has had to play. Hopefully now this will not be the case.

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So how far can Rodgers new look squad go?

The ultimate aim will of course be to break back into the top four.

Is this possible? Well it seems to be as hard as ever to break in with other teams spending heavily, but with Benteke, they don’t only have a prolific, proven Premier league striker but they will have the option to knock the ball long, something they haven’t been able to do in recent years with any affect.

So I do see Liverpool being involved in a battle for the top four come April, whether this will continue into May is something that will probably depend on their involvement in this year’s domestic cup competitions and how far they get in the Europa League.

One thing is for sure, should Liverpool not still be in contention for the Champions League places come January it may be a new manager the Liverpool board will be looking for. As another season of mediocrity, after a second successive summer of big spending, the fans may lose patience themselves.

Brendan Rodgers Christian Benteke danny ings James Milner Joe Gomez Nathaniel Clyne Roberto Firmino

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