OpinionJohn Aldridge

Despite signings Liverpool will struggle to break into top four

Top striker: Benteke is a proven goalscorer
Top striker: Benteke is a proven goalscorer

Liverpool have signed a host of new players for a second successive summer — but it is still going to be very tough for them to break back into the Premier League’s top four.

I am far happier with the business done by Brendan Rodgers and whoever else is involved in signing players for Liverpool this year than I was 12 months ago, when a few big money buys arrived with plenty of question marks over their heads.
As it turned out, the likes of Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli (all too predictably on the last of those) failed to deliver for Liverpool last season and that meant Rodgers was back in a similar position when the club was given a massive £49m for selling Raheem Sterling.
You could see from the way they were signing players in the first few weeks of the summer that they knew the money was coming in from Manchester City for Sterling and Brendan was keen to get his trading done early.
The first few deals of the summer for Liverpool were all straightforward in my eyes. Tottenham, Everton and clubs of that ilk are still a step or two behind my old club in terms of prestige and tradition and that is especially true for English players like James Milner and Danny Ings, who were quick to sign up at Anfield.
Nathaniel Clyne is another great signing as he is proven in the Premier League, and as regular readers of my Sunday World column will know I was delighted to see Christian Benteke arrive a couple of weeks back after encouraging Liverpool to make the deal happen over the last few weeks.
It was never going to be easy for Liverpool to sign the world’s best players this summer as they are not in the Champions League and they have had to go after targets that were realistically available for a club playing in the Europa League. Well, they have certainly got one of the best in that list by signing Benteke.
I don’t know a whole lot about Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino, and spending £29m on a player who comes without too much of a track record of success is something of a gamble from my perspective. 
Let’s hope Firmino comes good, and as I suggested in the Sunday World last week, we all need to get over clubs paying such huge sums of cash to sign players in an era when Premier League teams know they have the buffer of a £5.1bn TV contract next season.
We are in the era of obscene figures when it comes to transfer fees.
Liverpool have been given a tough start to the new campaign with some seriously difficult away matches on their horizon, with Stoke away next weekend coming so soon after the 6-1 hammering in the final game of last season, before trips to Arsenal and Manchester United roll around in the first six games.
They need to make the most of their home matches against Bournemouth, West Ham, Norwich and Aston Villa and try to pick up some points in those away matches because we all appreciate that Rodgers needs a quick start after last season’s difficulties.
The players that have arrived should be ready to give an instant lift to the team as Milner, Ings and Benteke are used to playing in the Premier League and that is what was needed. There is no room for more disappointment this season and Rodgers doesn’t need me to tell him that.
There will be those waiting for Rodgers to slip up, but if he can get Liverpool into a decent position by the mid-way point of the season, he will have the prospect of all the top teams in the Premier League coming to Anfield in the first half of 2016.
A gap needs to be bridged between Liverpool and the sides that finished ahead of them last season, but it is not as vast as it seems because Manchester United were not too impressive for large parts of last season and Tottenham can certainly be overtaken.
It will not take much to get Liverpool winning again in my eyes because having watched most of their games live last season they created more than enough chances to pick up the points they needed to finish in the top four of the Premier League last May.
They had some fine midfield talent with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, but a desperate lack of cutting edge in the forward areas meant they came up short time and again and deserved to finish down in sixth place last term as a result.
Benteke, Ings and fellow new arrival Divock Origi will add a different flavour to a Liverpool attack that floundered so horribly last season and that is before we consider the impact that Daniel Sturridge should make when he returns to fitness,  hopefully for good this time.
The truth is, Rodgers has spent plenty of money in the last couple of years and he should now have a squad that is ready to compete for a top-four finish at the very least this season. 
So let’s put the cash spent out to one side for a minute and look forward to the new season with a bit of optimism as the misery Liverpool fans suffered for large portions of last season makes me believe that things can only get better.