We’ll solve top-four puzzle: Rodgers

Reds have improved squad’s depth and, with more signings to come, boss predicts “we won’t be too far away” from Champions League.

Daily Mirror

Bullish Brendan Rodgers believes he is finally piecing together the transfer puzzle that will launch Liverpool’s top-four assault.

The Reds’ boss has quietly performed a major overhaul of the Anfield squad since arriving a year ago, dramatically reducing the wage bill by axing some of the overpaid dead wood he inherited, while discovering exciting new talent such as Philippe Coutinho.

And that process has continued this summer, with Rodgers slipping under the radar to already land little-known Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas – who will complete a £7million move this week – while lining up another young Spaniard in Luis Alberto.

Sevilla winger Alberto, 20, is likely to be next through Anfield’s front door.

Rodgers knew his first season as Kop boss would be a struggle given the lack of depth in his squad, but with more young stars, such as Armenian hot-shot Henrikh Mkhitaryan and highly-rated Greece centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos also lined up, the Liverpool manager is far more confident of reaching his top four target.

And Rodgers revealed his sights are set far higher than the disappointing seventh placed finish of last season, insisting he is desperate for the pressure of competing for the top four.

“I’m not here to be comfortable, to sit and earn the money and just enjoy being Liverpool manager,” he explained.

“There’s a pressure that comes with it and I believe we’re in a much better place to challenge now. I think we can do it – I believe we have built a real good base this year.

“Of course, it will be a tough ask because, as we improve, other clubs will have masses more money to do so as well.”

What that means is finding players of talent such as Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, who performed brilliantly in the second half of the season after arriving from Inter Milan and Chelsea in January, and proved real bargains in the transfer market.

Aspas in largely unknown outside Spain, but made an impact on La Liga last season with 15 goals, while Alberto impressed on loan at Barcelona’s B side, and shows huge promise at a tender age.

Mkhitaryan, despite playing for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, appeared on the radar of Europe’s top clubs, but Rodgers has stolen a march by committing more than £20m to capturing a player who scored 25 goals from midfield last season, and interested the likes of Juventus and Chelsea.

With Kolo Toure already lined up on a free to add experience to the back line following Jamie Carragher’s retirement, the widely admired Papadopoulos set to join from German side Schalke for a fee of around £12m and Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori a target, Rodgers believes he is starting to strengthen a squad that had lacked depth because of cost-cutting measures that trimmed more than £25m a year off the wage-bill.

“What we showed last season was promise. There were moments of disappointment and moments of delight, but when I look at the reality of it we scored 47 goals the year before and this time got 71 – and we hope to add to that amount,” he explained.

“Defensively, for a team that was supposed to be very strong a year earlier, we only conceded three more goals.

Now I believe we will improve again – and we have to because we want to sustain a challenge and aim higher every season.”
Rodgers knows next season, at least, he won’t have to rely on youthful rook.