In the modern game, the word squad has more significance than team. Put simply, clubs need a squad of players to challenge for honours on one front, never mind more than one.
So with that in mind, I’ve taken a look at our current crop of players and tried to name two players who I think are worthy of competing for the positions available.
This is purely my opinion.
I started by using a 4-3-3 formation as a the basis for this since that’s the formation that Brendan Rodgers often favours. I then evaluated all the players, looked at who might leave and mulled over whether this would be beneficial for them and the club.
Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet. Brad Jones. (Two players competing for one place).
Right back: Glen Johnson. Martin Kelly. (Two players competing for one place).
Centre back: Daniel Agger. Kolo Toure. (Two players for two places).
Left back: Jose Enrique. (One player for one place).
Midfield: Steven Gerrard. Lucas Leiva. Joe Allen. Jordan Henderson. Luis Alberto. (Five players competing for three places).
Forwards: Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling, Ibe. (Five players competing for three places).
In goal the experienced Reina has been replaced by Simon Mignolet. And whilst I was a big fan of the Spaniard, I think this was the right call. Reina had his heart set on a move to Barcelona and he will probably go there next summer when his loan spell ends at Napoli and Valdes departs the Catalan club. By signing the young Belgian this summer, Rodgers installs his first choice keeper now rather than waiting around for another season. I can understand the club not wanting a £110k a week player sitting on the bench but for me Jones isn’t really good enough to press for a place in the first team. He’s okay short term but, should Mignolet miss a run of games, this could be problematic. A better stand-in is eventually required.
Right back is probably our strongest position. We have Johnson who is an England international and possibly one of the top attacking full backs in Europe. Then there is Kelly. He has had injury problems but he does offer genuine competition when fully fit. And we also have the young duo, Andre Wisdom and Jon Flanagan pushing for a place. It might be a good idea to loan both of these players out for a season so they can get some first team experience. Wisdom looked quality last season, much like Flanagan the season before him. However, we must remember how Flanagan has since faded and maybe these lads would benefit from some time at a smaller club where they’ll play regularly yet not be in the spotlight so much. They are only young and defenders peak later than forward players so it would be wise not to rush their development.
In contrast, the squad currently looks a bit short at centre back. Toure and Agger are obviously class and both have bags of experience. However, Skrtel didn’t seem to suit Rodgers’ playing style last season and Coates also failed to impress when given the occasional opportunity. Despite his size, he really struggled with the physical side of the game against Oldham in the FA Cup. The rumours that Skrtel is due to go on loan to Napoli have increased and I think both these players will move on, either now or in January. Apparently the club have looked extensively at Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Toby Alderweireld. These are both quality defenders and should the club land the two of these, Rodgers would be spoilt for choice. It’s more likely that the club will only sign one of these players and although that would only be three players vying for two places, without the added fixtures of European football, this position would start to look quite strong.
At left back it would appear that Lorenzo Melgarejo is on the verge of joining. From what I’ve seen of him, he seems to do the simple things well. He has a good goal scoring record for a full back and he would surely be looking to usurp Enrique from the starting eleven. It would be interesting to see whether or not he can adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League but I would welcome his arrival as I’m unconvinced by Enrique. Too often he gets caught in possession, plays loose balls in his own half and he’s really weak with his right foot so he struggles with forwards who like to cut inside. I know Liverpool also have Jack Robinson available but like Wisdom and Flanagan, he might benefit from a loan move.
The team could do with the addition of a top creative midfielder. Gerrard is obviously still amazing but as he ages he is having to adapt his position and gradually dropping deeper, playing more of the Alonso role. He’s still the first name on the team sheet though. Alongside him, Lucas would also be a regular starter but he too sits deep. They could really do with a box to box midfielder to play in front of them. Henderson had a tough start to his Liverpool career but towards the end of last season he started to show glimpses of his potential. The jury is still out though and he by no means commands a starting place. Likewise, Allen still has to prove he belongs at a club of Liverpool’s stature. He started last season well but he admitted himself that he needs to improve. At the moment the £15 million paid for him looks steep. As well as these players, there is of course the technically gifted Alberto. He’s young but will undoubtedly add some creativity.
Should Suarez stay, he is straight in the first team – when he’s not suspended. Suarez, Coutinho and Sturridge would make up my first choice front three. That would be a forward line with creativity and goals to rival any other in the league. And to have Sterling and Ibe as back up would really demonstrate strength in depth. I personally would get rid of Borini and Downing. They just don’t add enough for me. Certainly neither player is prolific. We could do with adding one more forward though, preferably an out and out striker who could provide cover for Sturridge.
There are obviously a few other players within the squad not mentioned above. Suso and Coady are both on loan at the moment and it seems Spearing and Pacheco are out of favour. But all in all, the squad looks fairly strong and with a few more additions Liverpool will have the two players they need for each position.