Saturday, 31 May 2014

Where should Liverpool strengthen this summer?

Although the transfer window is a month away from officially opening, many clubs, including Liverpool, have already been busy seeking to build up their squads ahead of the 2014/2015 season. Following their first serious title challenge in five years, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, who recently put pen to paper on a new long term contract at the club, will be looking to improve both the quality and depth of his squad so that the Merseysiders can go one better than their second placed finish next time round.

What areas of his squad need most strengthening, though, if Liverpool are to finally win the Premier League? I look at four positions where reinforcements are required. 

Left back

Left back has been a long term problem position for Liverpool and, frustratingly, whenever a player has come in and looked like making the position their own; they seem to have been plagued with injuries. Both Brazilian Fabio Aurelio and Spaniard Jose Enrique are recent examples of Liverpool left backs initially impressing but struggling to regain form following persistent injury problems.

Enrique, like Aurelio, has spent too much time on the treatment table
Jon Flanagan provided a good account of himself when asked to play in an unfamiliar position at left back towards the end of last season and he arguably deserves the chance to fight to retain that place in the team next season. However, in the long term, the scouse Cafu will want to play in his preferred position of right back and Rodgers will want to sign a specialist left back to strengthen his defence, with Flanagan and Enrique providing ample back up.

Sevilla’s up and coming 21-year old left back Alberto Moreno, who will provide back up for Spain’s first choice left back Jordi Alba in Brazil this summer, has reportedly attracted Rodgers’ interest, although the club will have to stump up a hefty £15 million to acquire his services. At £30 million, meanwhile, Southampton’s 18-year old Luke Shaw is arguably overpriced. Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand could prove a cheaper and more realistic alternative, although his lack of Premier League experience- he’s only made 16 appearances- makes him a gamble.

It may be expensive to sign an established name at left back, but it could be more costly if the club go another season without sorting out their persistent problem in that position.

Right back

Kopites were left asking where the real Glen Johnson was last season. Complacency, brought on by a lack of competition for both club and country, meant that the number two’s progress stalled during the 2013/2014 campaign. Admittedly, injuries didn’t help, but that couldn’t excuse his consistently poor performances.

Defensive errors became more common while he also appeared to lack his usual attacking potency, providing only two assists throughout the whole season. As a result, it’s no wonder his Liverpool future remains unclear heading into the final year of his current £120k per week contract.

Johnson's form dipped noticeably last season
Martin Kelly, meanwhile, seems to have disappeared into the ranks of obscurity in the Reds’ reserves, rarely even making the bench last season. Expect him to be offloaded in the summer, at the very least on a temporary basis.

Jon Flanagan provides the one bright spot at right back and hopefully he’ll make the position his own in the long term. In the short term, though, Rodgers should look to sign another right back to keep Johnson on his toes. The competition should hopefully help him return to form sooner rather than later.

Centre midfield

Gerrard and Henderson were tremendous last season, the former re-inventing himself as an excellent ball-playing deep lying midfielder and the latter finally showing that he has the quality to play at Anfield and justifying his £16 million price tag. In addition, Allen did enough towards the end of the campaign to warrant staying at the club and Lucas is useful as a back-up to Gerrard, although he arguably lacks the attacking nous to fit into Rodgers’ first team plans.

Nevertheless, Liverpool could do with an extra man in midfield, to provide both depth and additional quality in the centre of the park. Another player in the creative and energetic mould of Henderson wouldn’t go amiss, since the former Sunderland man was badly missed during his three-match suspension at the business end of the 2013/2014 season.

Southampton’s Adam Lallana has been on the Reds’ radar. The 26-year old has abundant talent and took to international football like a duck to water when handed his debut against Chile at Wembley by former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, implying that he could cope in the Champions League.
Lallana could be a great addition to the Reds' midfield
At £25 million, there’s a risk that he might be overpriced and, as the examples of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing show, the Reds do not have a good track record in terms of purchasing exciting but expensive young English talent. It’s a lot of money to waste if Lallana fails to make the grade at Anfield. Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can, whose versatility could come in helpful, may be a safer signing at approximately £10 million, although clauses in his contract seem to be complicating any potential deal.

Up front

In total, Liverpool managed a remarkable 101 League goals last season. 52 of those were scored by the lethal SAS, while Sterling chipped in with nine strikes. Commentators ran out of superlatives as the trio broke all sorts of records and set the Premier League alight.

The least said about Iago Aspas and Victor Moses, though, the better. The pair were awful last season and are almost certainly going to be shipped out this summer. Loanee Moses will return to parent club Chelsea and Aspas, signed for just under £8 million from Celta Vigo, would surely be allowed to leave for a trivial transfer fee.

As good as the SAS are, they will need back up in case of injury or suspension, so two new strikers to replace Moses and Aspas would be welcome. Out of the blue, the Reds now seem very close to completing the signing of boyhood Liverpool supporter Rickie Lambert for £4 million from Southampton. The 32-year old England international may have only a few years of professional football left, but if he could repeat his 13-goal haul next season then that would certainly help the Merseysiders’ cause.

It would be a dream come true for Lambert if he signed for Liverpool
At the end of the day, he would be a much better option off the bench than Aspas and it would be a fairy-tale story if Lambert, who was rejected by the Reds as a youngster and subsequently worked in a beetroot factory, completed a dream move back to Anfield.


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