Liverpool must buy wisely this summer, with Adam Lallana their top target, but also stick with youth and learn from errors

Brendan Rodgers has seen his side take a giant leap forward this season, but their are improvements to be made

Chief football correspondent

The exit route for the away team at Selhurst Park takes the players out of a side door through a gate and on to a coach parked yards from where the supporters are held back by barriers. On Monday night, the Liverpool team were applauded out one by one by their waiting fans, but the players themselves left in silence – with one exception.

Kolo Touré did not play any part in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace, other than to lead Luis Suarez off at the end with the Liverpool striker’s face hidden in his shirt, but he is affable to a fault and has seen his own fair share of triumph and disaster. “The only way to learn things is to make mistakes,” Touré said. “That’s what we are going to learn: see what went wrong and try to do better next year.”

Touré should know, having become increasingly error-prone the longer his career has gone on. But this time it was not him at the centre of a Liverpool defence that was so comprehensively unpicked by Palace in the closing stages of the game, exposed by the pace of Yannick Bolasie and the ice-cool finishing of Dwight Gayle, whose contribution was lost in the drama.

Liverpool’s defensive collapse on Monday, and the subsequent criticism from the manager, Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Carragher, a former player, has overshadowed all else. They have now conceded 45 goals this season, 18 more than they did on the occasion of their best finish of recent times, that second place in 2008-09 (although their plus-50 goal difference is identical to that season). Failure to beat Palace also meant that they would not reach the points tally of 86 from that year under Rafa Benitez.

Of course, there is much more to losing a game on the counter-attack than the opposition simply picking holes in the back four. Liverpool missed the presence of Jordan Henderson, a tireless worker in breaking up the counter-attacking threat of opposing teams. But even so, one would have expected more from a defence led by Martin Skrtel, a veteran of 2009, who was alongside Carragher for most of that season, and Glen Johnson, a former Premier League winner himself.

 

If it does turn out to be the end of Liverpool’s hopes of a first league title in 24 years then talk inevitably turns to the summer, and who Rodgers can acquire with a budget fattened by Champions League income. There is no reason that Liverpool, if they fail to win the title this week, should view their chance lost for a generation, providing they can build sensibly again this summer.

In the close season of 2009, and having come so close, Benitez, beset by the ownership problems at the top of the club, failed to sign Gareth Barry, sold Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa and made a £17m investment in the catastrophic Alberto Aquilani. Within a year of finishing second in the Premier League by one point to Manchester United, his team were seventh in 2009-10 and he was out the door that summer.

Of course, after five years at the club and with much energy wasted on the turmoil around Liverpool’s owners at the time, Benitez was in a very different place to Rodgers now. But then the challenges that Rodgers faced, and overcame when he took over the club in 2012, are very different to those he will face taking a team into the Champions League next season and with the expectation of another title challenge.

His signings last summer of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas, for example, for a combined total of £14m in transfer fees, have not been a success. But in the modern transfer market they were a moderate gamble. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been a good acquisition and Rodgers has excelled in the deployment of younger players such as Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan as well as his signings Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.

Adam Lallana will be a target for numerous clubs this summer Adam Lallana will be a target for numerous clubs this summer  

That is one reason why all the indications are that Adam Lallana has made Liverpool his first choice when, as seems likely, Southampton listen to offers for their England international forward this summer. Lallana shares a management agency with Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, another potential Liverpool target, although signing him presents problems of its own.

Bringing in such an experienced player who desperately wants to continue playing as a first-choice left-back would potentially block the immediate progress of Flanagan, who has switched from the right of late to make that position his own. As Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has decided at times over the years, that immediate uplift of a new signing is not always worth taking for the long-term effect on the young player it blocks.

Over the season, Liverpool have shown themselves to be a club which, like Arsenal, gives young players a chance – and a chance beyond those afforded to the likes of Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair at Manchester City or the long list of teenagers acquired by Chelsea’s academy.

Liverpool have cultivated a long-term interest in the Derby County midfielder Will Hughes, and Dele Alli, of MK Dons, an 18-year-old midfielder who has never played above League One. It will be intriguing to see which route Rodgers takes. Naturally he will want to show he is capable of competing with other Champions League clubs for big names, but the success of Sterling, above all, shows what can be accomplished with young players.

As his team-mates walked out of Selhurst Park behind him, Touré put Liverpool’s draw with Palace in perspective.

“At the start of the season nobody was expecting to be where we are right now. I think everybody is surprised how we have been coping with the pressure and with the big teams. We have been putting on the pressure until the last game of the season. For us it’s great. This is a really young team. We’re going to take some experience from that.”

Easy for him to say, with his two Premier League winners’ medals won at Arsenal and Manchester City – more than the rest of the Liverpool squad combined, in terms of the English league title. But he has a point. There is no reason why Liverpool could not have another crack next season, and it would be a shame to lose the emphasis on youth that has marked this season out from any other.

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?