Ranking Liverpool's Top 5 Players During Opening Weeks of 2013/14 Season – Bleacher Report

Liverpool‘s perfect start to the 2013/14 season has produced not only some wonderful team performances but also a number of standout individual performances from the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Lucas Leiva and Kolo Toure.
The Reds have been quickest out of the blocks in the opening weeks of the new campaign, winning all three of their Barclays Premier League games by the same scoreline—1-0—while progressing to the third round of the Capital One Cup with a 4-2 victory over Notts County.
These victories mean that Liverpool are the only side in all four divisions yet to concede a league goal.
Whilst Brendan Rodgers’ side have been solid defensively, they have been far more threatening at the opposite end of the pitch than the scorelines suggest.
While Toure and Daniel Agger have marshalled the back line superbly, the likes of Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson have looked dangerous going forward.
The following list will rank the Reds’ standout performers during the opening weeks of the season by analysing their impact and contribution in each of the games they have featured in.
On this occasion those who make the definitive list will be chosen from the players that have featured in all of the Reds’ league fixtures so far.
Read on to see who makes the cut and who narrowly misses out.
Toure settled into the Liverpool side extremely well during the opening weeks of the season and looked to be forming a formidable partnership with fellow centre-back Daniel Agger.
Following two clean sheets in his first two games for the club, he was forced off with a groin injury during the Capital One Cup win over Notts County with a serious-looking groin injury.
Reds fans, however, saw enough from Toure in those two encounters to assure them that they have got themselves a real bargain in the no-nonsense Ivorian.
A faultless debut against Stoke City was almost made ever the more memorable when he came within inches of opening the scoring with a powerful header that crashed against the crossbar.
Another clean sheet the following week away at Aston Villa—during which he handled Christian Benteke arguably as well as anyone has—along with assuring fans that there is life after Jamie Carragher means that Toure gets an honourable mention for his efforts so far.
It is more than likely that had Toure featured in all of the Reds’ league fixtures this season and not missed out through injury, he would have forced his way into this list.
Newly appointed vice-captain Agger finally appears to have put his injury troubles behind him and has flourished in the opening weeks of the season.
Now Liverpool’s second longest-serving player has been outstanding at the heart of the defence during the opening weeks of the season and has been an important figure in helping the Reds chalk up three clean sheets.
Despite a rush of blood to the head on the opening day of the season in which he inexplicably gifted Stoke a penalty—brilliantly saved by Simon Mignolet—Agger has been otherwise flawless.

He has been a figure of authority at the back, and despite forming a good understanding with Kolo Toure, he looked equally as comfortable alongside Martin Skrtel in the win over Manchester United.
Also justifying the popular Dane’s inclusion on the list is his hand in the winning goal against the Reds’ fierce rivals.
Clever movement in the box saw him outfox the usually reliable Rio Ferdinand, losing the United defender and heading the ball straight into the path of Daniel Sturridge to head home.
Along with Skrtel, keeping Robin van Persie relatively quiet as well as winning countless aerial duals and making tackle after tackle and block after block—although closejustifies Agger’s inclusion ahead of Toure.
He had to be in the list somewhere.
Despite his trademark late arrival into the box appearing to be a thing of the past, Gerrard’s presence in the Liverpool side is still as big as it has ever been.
The opening weeks of the new season have seen Brendan Rodgers continue to deploy his skipper in the deeper midfield role he occupied for much of the last campaign.
Although fans are used to seeing the dynamic midfielder virtually win games on his own for the Reds, Gerrard’s contribution in his new role has not gone unnoticed.
His passing—as expected— has been second to none, and the work he put in during the victory against Manchester United was arguably as hard as he has worked defensively since Istanbul.
He was everywhere, chasing back to break up attacks, and the tackle he made on Danny Welbeck in the second half when the United striker appeared to be getting away from him summed up his performance.
The Liverpool of today is a relatively young side, and when defending one-goal leads like they have done so often this season, the experience and leadership skills displayed by Gerrard have been invaluable.
It is this leadership along with the passion and determination shown by the skipper in each and every game this season that sees him into fourth place.
A surprise inclusion to some perhaps, but those who have watched every minute of Liverpool’s season so far will recognise the importance of the job that Lucas does in the middle of the park.
The Brazilian just does the basics, nothing flashy and nothing out of the ordinary. He breaks down opposition attacks, wins the ball back and gives it to the likes of Steven Gerrard or Philippe Coutinho.
After two years of injury hell, Lucas looks to be back to his best.
In the opening weeks of the season, the protection he has provided for the Reds’ back four has been invaluable.
Not only does he reassure defenders that they have got that protection in front of them, it also gives the likes of Coutinho and Jordan Henderson the freedom to attack, knowing that Lucas is there to cover.
Although guilty of the odd rash challenge and partial to a booking every now and again, the midfielder has been as crucial as any Liverpool defender in ensuring that his team are yet to concede a league goal.
It is the fact that Lucas is as important to his defenders as he is to the team’s attacking players that see him squeeze in ahead of fellow midfielder Gerrard.
Mignolet had big boots to fill following the departure from Anfield of Pepe Reina during the summer and the Belgian has not disappointed so far.
An 87th-minute penalty save on his debut immediately endeared him to the Reds faithful, and he hasn’t looked back since, making vital saves in each of his side’s opening three league games.
Just one week on from his spot kick heroics and despite being a spectator for most of the game against Aston Villa, a fantastic one-handed save from a Christian Benteke shot—again late on—earned his side the three points.
Many say the sign of a top goalkeeper is one who can make a save when called upon after having nothing to do for large periods of a game; in Mignolet, Liverpool have exactly that.
The trend continued during the visit of Manchester United when after being relatively untroubled for the majority of the game, the reliable Belgian palmed a powerful Nani drive away from danger.
Three Premier League appearances and three clean sheets means that Mignolet is impossible to ignore when ranking the Reds’ best performers so far this season.
This perfect record along with match-winning saves at crucial times in games means there can be no argument for his inclusion in this list as runner-up.
If anybody has benefited from Luis Suarez‘ suspension then it is Daniel Sturridge. The Reds’ striker has been nothing short of sensational in the opening weeks of the season.
Deployed by Rodgers in his favoured central-striking role, the pacey England international has flourished, and what better way to start a new season than to score the winning goal in all three of his side’s 1-0 wins.
Sturridge has been a handful for every defence he has come up against and has justified his inclusion as Liverpool’s top performer so far this season by displaying the ability to score different types of goals.
His opening-day strike in the win over Stoke saw him arrow a powerful drive into the bottom corner of Asmir Begovic’s goal from around 20 yards after earlier having a headed goal ruled out for offside.
The individual brilliance shown during his winner away at Aston Villa has seen the strike become an early contender for goal of the season.
If he hadn’t already endeared himself to the Kop then a winning goal against Manchester United will go some way to earning him legendary status at Anfield.
Sturridge showed he can also be the poacher the Reds are crying out for, following up a clever piece of movement on the goal line with predatory instinct to turn Daniel Agger’s header past David de Gea. 
His inclusion at No. 1 in this list was inevitable. He hasn’t just been Liverpool’s best player so far this season but arguably the Premier League’s standout performer.
Goals win games and it is Sturridge’s goals that see him pip Mignolet into first place.


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