It seems almost by default.
We're tired of talking about transfer dealings. Who might be going, the rare story of who might be coming, all the silliness. But there's a season almost upon us, and with that brings far more fun questions to discuss. We still have the rest of the month to talk about what should be done with the Agger cash or Dempsey being too much money and the such. So today, who is going to emerge from the shadows and gives all a surprise?
What's sad about this category is that there's too long of a list of players that were terrible or disappointing last season that have a chance to bounce back this season. I suppose the encouraging thing is that because there's enough of them, there's a decent chance that at least one of them will probably greatly improve this campaign.
Before the signing of Joe Allen, I probably would have gone for Jordan Henderson in this spot. Though some of us feel he wasn't as terrible as most thought last year as he struggled with being shunted out wide where he's not comfortable, he certainly didn't wow anyone. Except when he was playing right back at Blackburn, of course. But with Brendan Rodgers's high-tempo, high-energy system that calls for intelligent passing coming to town and those being the hallmarks of Henderson's game, it seemed a natural fit. He got a start in the first game that mattered, which only fed the belief that Henderson was going to be first-choice with Gerrard and Lucas. But with Allen now in the fold, one would have to assume that he's down the pecking order and might not get enough looks.
Usually, you go for a new signing here. But there's only one other one than Joe Allen to discuss, and that's Fabio Borini. We know he'll get the chances, and whether he's a surprise or not depends on what your expectations are. Some merely feel he'll provide what Maxi did but just more often, a suitable option out wide who aids the attack but doesn't make it fly. Others feel he really could be a revelation and greatly enhance Liverpool's goal-scoring. We really only have one season of top flight football to study with Borini, and I will not be surprised at whatever he provides. Joe Allen is another, as he also only has one year of top flight success for us to go off on. Liverpool fans were burned by Henderson last year, who was in a similar situation. But Allen is a fit for the system he was brought in for, specifically designed for it, and will almost be automatically be a first choice. He'll get every chance, and is at an age where he can improve greatly.
Sometimes you go for a young player coming through in this category, and the main contender from that is Raheem Sterling. He's exciting, but he's raw, and one wonders how many looks he'll get. He'd have to wow in several substitute appearances before even getting a chance to start a league game, and still might go on loan. Certainly would not fault anyone for choosing the youngster, though.
There are a few other contenders from the "Crap Last Year But Better This Year" category for this title. But a couple of them probably won't get enough chances to be that. Charlie Adam is clearly on the bottom rung of the midfield depth chart, which is fine with all of us. Even Jonjo Shelvey appears ahead of him, and you wonder if Adam is long for the club. We know Rodgers would probably like to see the back of Andy Carroll, and he's got a lot to prove to be a regular first teamer. Sebastien Coates could be a contender if Daniel Agger goes, but has a lot of growing to do.
Which leads me to Stewart Downing. That doesn't mean I think Downing will be great, but I think the gap from what he was last year to this year could be the biggest among the options. He's already, seemingly, getting Rodgers's nod, starting both games against Gomel. He's really the only option out wide in the first team right now that can be trusted with consistent starts. And whether we think the money for him was ridiculous, Downing has always been a serviceable-to-effective winger before last year. If he's merely effective, that would be a huge leap from last year.
So who you got?
Who Will Be Liverpool's Surprise Player?
Stewart Downing (166 votes)
Jordan Henderson (58 votes)
Raheem Sterling (178 votes)
Fabio Borini (169 votes)
Joe Allen (118 votes)
Charlie Adam (9 votes)
Andy Carroll (101 votes)
Sebastien Coates (37 votes)
Other (22 votes)
858 total votes