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Ronnie Whelan: Liverpool's new boys not the answer

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01:  Newcastle player Sammy Ameobi (l) challenges  Dejan Lovren during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on November 1, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Newcastle player Sammy Ameobi (l) challenges Dejan Lovren during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on November 1, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Newcastle player Sammy Ameobi (l) challenges Dejan Lovren during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on November 1, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

IF Luis Suarez had stayed at Anfield, I wonder how many of the expensive and, so far, seriously under-performing signings would Brendan Rodgers have bothered with?

The thought struck me while I was watching Manchester City stagger over the line at the Etihad and saw Angel di Maria, Danny Blind and Marcos Rojo, before he went off injured, play reasonably significant roles in the story of the game.

After watching Liverpool lose to Newcastle on Saturday, the comparison in my mind between the business Louis van Gaal did in the summer and Brendan Rodgers' work in the transfer market could not be more stark.

They were in a similar situation. Both men needed to buy and buy quickly and both men had the funds to do it. Rodgers chose Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno, Lazar Markovic, Ricky Lambert and Mario Balotelli; Van Gaal went for quality.

It didn't save Manchester United yesterday but there is no doubting the talent he got for his cash. I have nothing but doubts about the men who came to Anfield.

To put this in context, Rodgers' problems began when the vision he had for the season ahead was blown apart in Brazil. Suarez was at the centre of everything he had planned.

You can have a debate about the fact that Suarez was an accident waiting to happen and that Rodgers should have been making plans much earlier for life without one of the top three strikers in world football.

That's not just hindsight. That's common sense. The fact that Suarez covered up a multitude was clear to a lot of people, although I feel that most fans were just so relieved to be back at the sharp end again that they suspended their doubts and let the season roll along.

I know I had to suspend disbelief. I was late to climb on the 'Liverpool can win the title' train because of the concerns I had about the back four but I bought a ticket in the end.

After the Liverpool game on Saturday, I caught the second half of Bournemouth's win over Birmingham and I was bowled over by the speed of their passing. This was the way Liverpool played last season and Rodgers has the same players apart from Suarez.

Liverpool are playing this lot on their home patch in the Capital One Cup in mid December and if his players don't shake themselves out of the torpor they are in, Rodgers might just get a lesson from a Championship team that put eight past Birmingham recently. I find it hard to believe that they have forgotten how to pass the ball and from looking at Rodgers' body language on the touchline of late, I think he finds it baffling too.

Then you come back to the signings he made. Why haven't they filled in at least some of the gap left behind by Suarez and why is the team playing in such a static and unco-ordinated way?

A lot of this must be down to the players. Maybe the biggest gap Suarez left behind was in their heads. Perhaps his presence alone was the crucial component in play which allowed Rodgers and his players to believe they could win.

With certainty replaced by doubt, it must be very difficult to integrate new players, particularly when one, Mario Balotelli, has even greater potential for controversy than Suarez had.

If the morale is not right, the new lads will sense that but even if the environment might be challenging, it's down to Rodgers and the players' own professionalism to push through the difficulty and start to make a difference on the pitch.

There's something about the way Rodgers comes across at the moment which suggests to me that he is still struggling to get over the events of July and August

He seems ill at ease. He frowns a lot and the relentlessly positive man can no longer carry it off in press conferences, simply because right now he doesn't have a great deal to be positive about. And yet. Liverpool, playing, I'm sure Rodgers would admit, badly, are currently three points off fourth place and you would have to hope that they cannot play much worse than they did against the Toon.

That's the optimist in me talking. But then I think about Balotelli and all the other signings. Van Gaal got blue bloods; footballing aristocrats who would walk into any team in the world.

If he got two or three more in January, he will fancy his chances of pushing into a Champions League qualifying spot and my gut instinct tells me that this will be Liverpool's target too.

So United losing in the derby yesterday was probably good news for Rodgers, though van Gaal came very close to sneaking a point.

Manchester City fell asleep after Sergio Aguero gave them the lead and were like nervous kittens until the game ended.

Rodgers is not the only manager with problems but I'm sure he would gladly accept Manuel Pellegrini's.


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