English Premier League life after Suarez, Bale

Last updated 05:00 26/08/2014
Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez

STAR PLAYERS GONE: Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.

Analyse this: Premier League kicks off

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The old cliche reads a super team will beat a team of superstars. Last year, Spurs had to put this theory to the test and it is a similar situation that Liverpool find themselves facing as the current season gets under way.

In the 2012/13 season, Gareth Bale was a phenomenon, single-handedly propelling Spurs to the verge of that treasured fourth spot. His goals were decisive and spectacular, his left foot was a thing of beauty, which combined with his outrageous athleticism and skill created a seemingly endless highlights reel.

In a similar vein, Luis Suarez in 2012/13 was playing at a world class level. Then somehow he took it further last season once he returned from his now customary start of season biting ban.

Thirty-one goals in the league along with mind-blowing assists and moments of skill not only got Liverpool back into the lucrative Champions League spots but within one clumsy slip of a first league title in god knows how long.

This is where the problem lies for clubs like Liverpool and Spurs. These performances have helped to propel their clubs to new heights but, much like death and taxes, inevitably it brings the interest of one of Spain's superpowers.

The glamour, prestige and financial muscle of these two clubs offer the pulling power and the means to secure just about any player they so desire.

In return, both clubs were paid handsomely and herein the dilemma lies. How do you compensate for the loss of such a treasured commodity in your starting 11?

Availability of top, top class players (or lack thereof) and the respective status of the two clubs means that it's not possible to spend 50 million pounds or more to buy someone to fill the spot.

Even if they could would it be the best option?

The term that has been thrown around this year is that Liverpool are 'doing a Spurs' and purchasing a  collection of lesser players in an effort to replace their talisman. This however is well off the mark.

Spurs landed a number of quality players but they did so with a scattergun approach that was not coming from the manager or fitting his philosophy. Their new players all arrived from overseas leagues which meant there would be an adjustment period needed. 

The theory that they had sold Elvis Presley but bought the Beatles fell well short of the mark.

Saying that, the season wasn't as much of a disaster as it was painted to be by many. While the club seemed constantly on the verge of collapse they did collect their highest points total in the Premier League era while never quite finding their stride.

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With a great new manager in place and all of last season's signings now settled in it may well be that selling Bale, while not immediately benefiting the team, has put them in a stronger position for the future.

Of all their players, watch out for Erik Lamela to have a real impact. He may have had a shocking debut campaign but this kid is a rare talent.

This brings me to our dear friends on Merseyside and their current situation. They've veered from the path that Spurs went down and have attempted a different method. They lost their biting maverick, their rare talent, who seemed to create more headlines for his misdemeanors than he did for his play.

They've replaced this flawed genius with ... a flawed genius. Another player who is capable of breathtaking goals while also giving the tabloids endless headlines - Mario Balotelli is on his way back to the Premier League.

While not currently comparable talents, Balotelli is a player with all the potential to take over Suarez's mantle as the talismanic main man of Liverpool.

This is a high risk, high reward play by Rodgers. Suarez's childish antics often bought negativity and scorn on their club and after his departure he could have been forgiven for wanting to keep away from that type of distraction again. But at the price Balotelli was made available clearly this was a chance worth taking.

If someone is able to get Balotelli settled and focused this is a player that could be worth 50million pounds in two years' time. A far cry from the 16million pounds they are shelling out now.

However, Balotelli has never been a prolific scorer, notching only 14 goals in Serie A last season, the vast majority of which were penalties.

Another question mark hanging over this move is how he'll play with Danny Sturridge - a player who has dominated the league since he moved to the club.

One of these two may be forced to play a position that is not their favoured to accommodate the other. A potential recipe for some dressing room disharmony?

More unhappiness among the squad could stem from Balotelli's lazy and disinterested performances when things aren't going his way. In a hardworking team like Liverpool's this may get a few players grumbling.

Supplementing the signing of Mad Mario, Liverpool have used this transfer window to readdress the balance in their squad.

Last year, they had the league's two standout strikers and Rodgers was intelligent enough to adapt his system effectively to get them both on the field. The flipside of this meant they lacked balance and conceded a ridiculous amount of goals.

It'll be nigh on impossible to make up for Suarez's missing goals, even if Balotelli is a roaring success, but if they can tighten up that leaky defence they may just be able keep their goal differential similar.

The incoming signings, of which there have been plenty, further show they've deviated from Spurs of 12 months ago.

Along with a number of promising prospects from foreign leagues there have been acquisitions from English clubs (Southampton) and in Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo they've landed three players who will most likely be starting in their back four before the season is out. A drastic improvement.

There is no doubting, and it would take even the most one-eyed and unintelligent of Liverpool fans to argue with me on this point, that the sale of Suarez has weakened their starting eleven.

What has happened though is a reinvestment of that money into a massive strengthening of their squad, an absolute necessity with the return of Champions League football.

Liverpool were never going to win the league this season, even had Suarez stayed. The added strain of Champions League football along with the impressive signings and squads of the genuine title contenders (Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal) means that last season was their shot.

But with the intake of new, young, talented players with a lot of potential (costing just over one Luis Suarez) they could be contenders for many years to come beyond this one.

Right now consolidating their top 4 status should be the priority and if achieved considered a success.

Weekend thoughts:

* Two games, two clean sheets, two goals for Diego Costa. Despite a shocking first half Chelsea came up trumps. Thibaut Courtois made some great saves with the game scoreless and has just about locked down the starting keepers spot whilst Cesc Fabregas is looking like he was born to play in blue.

* Alexis Sanchez is going to tear this league up ... eventually. An early substitution here and a second poor performance showing that even the most talented of players can take time getting used to the game in England. Great resilience shown by Arsenal to come back and steal a point at the death. Most teams will be more than happy leaving Goodison Park with a draw.

* I thought Swansea would struggle after selling some key players, but, so far things are looking great. This is an undoubtedly talented squad and maybe without the distraction of the Europa League that caused so many problems last year they'll be back in the top half of the table.

* QPR are the pits, however their squad's got too much talent and Harry is too good a manager for them to get relegated, but right now they look awful.

* Stewart Downing looked like the player Liverpool thought they bought for 20million pounds all those years ago as West Ham did a great job crushing Crystal Palace. Scored a fine goal too.

* Man United's defence is nothing short of awful. You have to wonder how long Louis Van Gaal will persist with having three at the back. Speaking of awful, Man United's midfield is also shocking. If Angel Di Maria does for some reason sign it will go a huge way to remedying this. He's a tremendous player who managed to adapt his game from being a flying winger to central midfield master at Real Madrid last year after Bale was signed. I'd have him in my team over James Rodriguez every single time, can't help but think Real Madrid are making a colossal mistake.


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