By Steve Webster
on Twitter @dcypher_
There was great relief when FSG (then NESV) wrestled Liverpool FC from the strangle hold placed upon it by the cowboys Hicks & Gillett. That momentous day in October was glorious but tinged ever so slightly with fear of the unknown, more Americans; we all feared more false promises and more false hope.
However it now seems that day was the start of the rebuilding of Liverpool FC, from the ashes of despair. No promises were made and actions have spoken louder than words. The gloom surrounding the team last season was quickly lifted with the return of Kenny Dalglish. Selling Fernando Torres, an unthinkable doomsday scenario a year ago, and replacing him with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll a masterstroke for both the team and the fans optimism.
Behind the scenes the commercial side of the operation as progressed, building upon Ian Ayre’s great work to secure valued partnerships and increase commercial revenue streams. Attempts are also being made to reconnect the fans with the club they love after a turbulent few years for supports.
We are still awaiting a decision on the future of Anfield, which is severely under capacity for the club to compete financially on a regular basis under the impending Financial Fair Play regulations. Whether we relocate to a new stadium in Stanley Park or redevelop the current ground is probably the most crucial decision for FSG to make, but for now our attention has switched to a completely different rebuilding project.
FSG know the team needs to succeed on the pitch to help them attract lucrative commercial deals that will financially drive the club forward along with the riches associated with regular Champions League qualification. So money will be provided for director of football Damien Comolli to rebuild the current squad, which is severely lacking in certain areas.
Priority Positions for Squad Rebuilding
It seems like the newspapers and twitter rumor mill as recently linked LFC with almost every player currently plying his trade across Europe, so it’s not easy to fathom what Liverpool have in mind for their rebuilding plans. Here I will look at the areas of the team and squad that need improving, highlight the priority positions and the most likely players to fill them from the current crop of names linked.
Like many, I feel the priority should be a left back and two wingers/creative midfielders. These are the positions that we don’t have any natural quality in. Therefore this is where we should concentrate most of the available funds.
From the current crop of players linked I think Juan Mata & Ashley Young would be the strongest contenders, as they will add quality and pace on the wings which we have lacked for some time now. Both players can also be accommodated more centrally behind a strike or in a front three, giving Kenny greater flexibility with the team formation.
If as rumored, Ashley Young opts for Man Utd instead, we could shift focus to his Villa teammate Stuart Downing. As a more natural out and out winger with better delivery, many have suggested this could possibly prove a blessing in disguise. However he’s not as exciting or versatile as Young and wouldn’t strike fear into a defense in the same way, so I know whom I’d be pushing for.
Currently it looks like Jose Enrique as been identified for the problem left back position. Although he’s obviously a decent player I’ve got a bad feeling he’s not got the necessary quality to compete against world class wide men in the Champions League (which is ultimately the aim for next season). If we do sign him, I hope it’s not for an unreasonable fee or we could end up making a major loss as with Andrea Dossena and Paul Konchesky when they failed make the grade.
Left back is the major weak point in the squad (due largely to Fabio Aurelio’s injury record), so I would prefer us to spend big on real quality in this position. Pulling out all the stops for someone like Fabio Coentrao would make a lot of sense. He has proven quality to compete at the very top level and would provide a solid foundation in the backline for many years.
Next we need to add a centre back and a forward to compete for a starting place and add depth to the squad. I have identified these two positions as a second stage priority for back up as injury left us short of quality here for long periods last season.
Centre Back & Forward
If money wasn’t an issue then Gary Cahill and Aguero (for whom there as been many rumors) would be ideal signings, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. So quality young English players, although not cheap would be a sensible route to take. Recently Phil Jones and Conor Wickham have been strongly linked and they seem to fit this bill nicely. Both are young enough not to expect to be instant first choice regulars, but have sufficient quality to step-up and do a job from day one if required.
Once we have identified and allocated the correct funds for the above positions, if money is still available, we should move on to building a better squad that will offer a greater pool of players competing for a starting position.
Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson have been strongly linked with moves to LFC but as of now I don’t think either would be first choice in central midfield in our best eleven. Having said that Adams would certainly add a touch of creativity into the center of the park, which we’ve missed since Xabi Alonso’s exit. His delivery from set pieces would also add another dimension to the team’s attacking capabilities, especially with Andy Carroll lurking in the box! If we can pick him up for around 6 million, this would be a very worthwhile piece of business.
Henderson like Jones and Wickham is in the young English player with great potential category but unlike the other two would occupy a position that would be very congested with talent (certainly if we pick up the players outlined as priorities above, meaning our regular midfielders won’t be required to fill wide rolls).
Since the departure of Javier Mascherano I’ve felt the addition of a specialist defensive midfielder would be beneficial to the squad. However the excellent form of Lucas (who seems to be growing into this position) and more recently Jay Spearing means this isn’t a priority for this transfer window. Maybe we’d be better served waiting until the following season and target someone of Yann Mvila quality ready to play Champions League football.
With Reina having signaled his intention to stay and be part of Kenny Dalglish’s LFC revolution the priority of a new keeper is now very low, although a new back up would be a welcomed addition to the squad. In recent years we have really struggled to find an adequate back-up keeper and thankfully Pepe’s excellent fitness record as saved us from the nightmare scenario of seeing any of them in the first team for an extended run.
At the time of writing, it looks like we are going to sign Roma’s Brazilian keeper Doni for around £1 million and that a deal for Henderson is done (somewhere in the region of £16-20 million).
So it looks like Dalglish and Comolli are reading my rebuilding blueprint in reverse! I think this is why many people are so concerned about the Henderson deal. Not that he isn’t a quality player, I’m sure most fans would want him in our squad, but the worry is that the sizable fee may restrict us from buying the required quality in more important areas.
Of course Dalglish and Comolli‘s knowledge of the game far outstrips mine but I feel most fans will agree the above assessment of the squad isn’t that far from the mark, even if you disagree with the names mentioned as possible signings.
Hopefully this indicates that we are in for a very busy summer and that Comolli is working on deals for all the positions I’ve identified (with several targets for each) and Henderson is just the first of many.
Only with time will we really get a clearer picture of next season’s squad, but at the moment I get the feeling we could see 5 or 6 quality additions arriving. If FSG can provide this sort of backing for the manager, coupled with Kenny’s continued genius, next season could certainly help erase the painful memories of the previous two campaigns – both on and off the field.