A year on from falling agonisingly short in their efforts to land the Premier League title, Liverpool ended the 2014/15 campaign outside of the Champions League places and with their dreams of silverware dashed at the semi-final stage in both domestic cup competitions.
Something needed to be done this summer to get the club back on an upward curve, and manager Brendan Rodgers has been backed in the transfer market again in an effort to freshen up the ranks and bridge the gap on those that headed off into the top-four sunset last term.
Raheem Sterling’s exit may have left something of a sour taste in the mouth, but big money was generated for his services and the arrival lounge at Anfield has been doing a lot more business than the exit door.
Much of that movement was done early, with the Reds striking quickly to ensure that top targets were secured and a revamped squad was given as much time as possible to gel over pre-season and ready itself for the return of competitive action.
The first of those new boys to be welcomed to the fold were James Milner and Danny Ings, with the pair bringing with them differing qualities, but important Premier League experience.
Ings impressed in 2014/15 for Burnley, netting 11 times in the Premier League, and was snapped up by Rodgers as his contract at Turf Moor came to an end.
It is hoped that further potential in the 23-year-old can be unlocked on Merseyside and Jeff Stelling, speaking at the filming of the new TV advert from Carlsberg that transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world, told HITC Sport during a phone interview that the forward can be a success in new surroundings.
He said: “I don’t think he’s jumped too far. He was linked with all sorts of clubs. There was concern when there were strong rumours linking him with Real Sociedad, because I thought that would be a mistake at this stage of his career.
“He’s a very good footballer, he showed that consistently last season. Maybe by the end of the season he was struggling a bit, but he had to carry Burnley’s expectations almost solely on his shoulders. I think it’s a great move for him. For Liverpool, is he going to help turn them into Champions League contenders? I’m not sure. It is a big step up for him – can he get the goals, he will certainly get more chances.”
Liverpool also snapped up Milner at the end of an expiring deal, at Manchester City, and Stelling believes he will prove to be a shrewd addition if used where he can influence proceedings best.
He added: “That’s a good move. The great thing about Milner is that he wants to play, he always wants to play. He doesn’t pick up injuries and it’s only been in the last year or two that English football has really started to appreciate how he is. Since his Newcastle days, I’ve liked him and he’s still at an age where he has plenty to offer.
“I don’t think he’ll be a leader on the pitch, I haven’t seen that in him so much, but he wants to play centrally and how will that work? I don’t know, but Brendan has clearly got plans. When a player of his quality is available, the right thing to do is to take him and worry about it afterwards. I think he’ll turn out to be a good signing for them.”
On the need to avoid using Milner in a holding role, Stelling said: “England tried him for a half in that role and I think he’s better than that, more creative than that. He can run at players, has a good range of passing and I think it would be a waste to have him there. I would like to see him more advanced than that.”
It remains to be seen what Liverpool and England have planned for Ings and Milner but the wait is almost over for them and their fellow new arrivals, with Premier League competition returning this weekend.
The Reds have been handed a tough start by the fixture computer, but if their fresh faces can settle quickly and early momentum can be built, then there is no reason why Rodgers’ men cannot position themselves back in the top-four battle and end a four-year wait for a major trophy.
As the Official Beer of the Premier League, Carlsberg unveiled its latest “If Carlsberg Did…” TV advert during the traditional season curtain raiser between FA Cup winners Arsenal FC and Premier League champions Chelsea FC. Starring Jeff Stelling and Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, the new TV advert from the brand transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world. Watch the advert by clicking here.