By Toby Davis
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers could find himself under pressure sooner than expected with a host of new signings to bed in and a devilish run of fixtures to kick off the new Premier League campaign.
There were rumblings of discontent among supporters after the club finished last season in abject fashion with an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at Stoke City to end a dismal streak that dropped them out of Champions League contention.
Rodgers came under heavy fire from a disgruntled fanbase, who questioned his credentials following a third trophyless season at the helm, but he lived to fight another day after an end-of-season review by the club’s American owners.
Doubts about his position, however, could resurface if Liverpool endure the sort of miserable start to the season they had last year.
There has already been significant change on and off the pitch at Anfield.
None more so than the departure of long-serving captain Steven Gerrard, who left the Premier League for a swansong at American side LA Galaxy.
Yet he was not the only high-profile exit as Liverpool’s standout performer from last season, Raheem Sterling, engineered an acrimonious departure to Manchester City.
In terms of new arrivals, however, there is evidence to suggest Rodgers has been trusted to bring in his preferred choices this time rather than having his will bent to that of the club’s much-discussed transfer committee.
Christian Benteke, a bullish and highly mobile targetman, has been poached from Aston Villa to add some brawn to a Liverpool squad that at times looked lightweight by comparison to their rivals last year.
Brazil forward Roberto Firmino was recruited for a substantial fee from Hoffenheim and comes with lots of promise, while James Milner adds mobility and experience to the midfield and Nathaniel Clyne fills a vacancy at right back.
There has also been substantial change amongst Rodgers’ coaching ranks with former right-hand man Colin Pascoe dismissed as assistant manager along with first-team coach Mike Marsh.
Sean O’Driscoll, who enjoyed mixed fortunes in managerial stints at Bournemouth, Doncaster Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, has come in as Rodgers’ new assistant with former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister taking up a coaching role.
The new arrivals will have to bed in quickly as the fixture computer has not been kind, even if it has shown a comedic bent by sending Liverpool back to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke in their opener on August 9.
Then it all gets rather unpleasant as Liverpool face all of last season’s top five away before the end of November.
Should they be struggling in the Autumn, there may be one more significant change on the horizon.