Monday Feb 24Posted by: Peter Higgins Comments Off
Yesterday’s game against Swansea was exciting – there’s no doubt about that. It was the type of game neutrals will have watched and genuinely enjoyed. But if you’re following one of the teams involved, particularly the one trying to cement fourth place, who have an outside chance of winning the league, that enjoyment could easily have been snatched away in an instant.
The team came very close to drawing a game they were winning 2-0. There were so many ups and downs – I was exhausted after the game. And I was only watching. Can you imagine how that battle will have drained the Liverpool players? It’s a good job they’re only playing one game a week at the moment.
Of course, the way the team are playing is amazing. Along with Man City, Liverpool have played the best football in the Premier League this season. The 5-0 win over Spurs, the 4-0 demolition of local rivals Everton and the 5-1 hammering of Arsenal all prove this. By any standards these are fabulous results. But it is incredibly difficult to continue scoring like that. Man City are finding this out at the moment. They aren’t creating the amount of goals that they were earlier in the season. So a solid defence is important too.
Against Swansea, the way the team linked up when going forward was breathtaking at times. The back heels, flicks and through balls looked sensational. Liverpool were like Brazil going forward and like Bury at the back. But as great as that attacking prowess is, the awful defending could cost the team and that would be a shame.
I’m not suggesting for one moment that I would prefer to be watching Jose Mourinho’s brand of football – frankly, that’s a great cure for insomnia. Liverpool’s defensive play does need to improve though.
People might say the team was missing Lucas. And they would be right. But there have been errors at the back in games when he’s played this season. And anyway, who would Lucas replace? Gerrard is currently playing the CDM role. Would Rodgers really drop him? If the manager were to go with two holding players, who does he favour in front of them? The much-improved Henderson, who was the match winner yesterday, or the influential Coutinho who is amazing on his day but tends to drift in and out of games? Personally I think Gerrard can play the Alonso role where he picks up the ball and starts an attack from deep but he does need a Mascherano alongside him to break the play up. When Allen came on the team instantly looked more solid but unfortunately, in bringing him on, Rodgers was forced to sacrifice the pace and trickery of Sterling.
The bigger problem concerns the centre backs. On paper, Liverpool have four top class defenders in Agger, Sakho, Skrtel and Toure. I’m not so sure though. If you’re being brutal, and brutality is something that you need to demonstrate in the quest for perfection, each of these players has their flaws. I believe Agger is Liverpool’s best defender but he gets injured a lot and it’s hard to base the defence around him. The club’s other left-sided centre back, Sakho, has had a mixed start but that can be attributed to the fact that he has had to adapt to the Premier League. Granted, he has sustained a bad injury and only time will tell if this was a one off or if he will be the type of player who repeatedly has spells on the sidelines. But for now, I would suggest that the French international will be the future rock that the team is based on, providing he stays injury-free. Skrtel has put in some fantastic performances this season but he has also made a lot of costly mistakes. He has been unlucky to concede several own goals and despite his size and physique, he isn’t commanding in the air. The penalty he gave away yesterday might have been soft but it had been coming for a while. All season he has been grappling with forwards when defending set pieces and it finally caught up with him. Finally, Toure is great on his day and his early form for the club was brilliant, but he sometimes loses concentration, which has been demonstrated in recent weeks.
For me, the team is more balanced when it features a right and left-sided centre back together. If Liverpool could get in the region of £15m for Skrtel, I would sell him in the summer and either give Llori a chance or get someone new in. Sakho would be my first choice moving forward, with Agger as his replacement when needed, although the Dane might not settle for being second choice. The fact is though, with the extra fixtures that European football will bring, the club needs four strong centre backs with the two who are first choice perhaps being rested for the domestic cup games. Defensive stability won’t be achieved if the manager continues to chop and change in the league.
Brendan Rodgers is right to put the emphasis on attack and Liverpool should definitely keep playing the way they are. Eight times out of the last ten seasons the most prolific team has won the league so it’s no coincidence that the club is in the mix this year. If the players can just cut out some of the mistakes at the back this could be an unbelievable season.
Wednesday Feb 19Posted by: Sam Greet Comments Off
As January drew to a close and there were no new faces leaning on things around Anfield, I knew this summer would be pivotal in seizing a Champions League spot and staying there. As a rule, I would like us to bring in 2 or 3 first team players each transfer window until all the deadwood has been dropped from our team. Sadly, with all our January transfer targets such as Salah, M’Vila and Konoplyanka all falling through (largely due to our own transfer incompetence) this summer will mean bringing in a large quantity of players to the squad. This isn’t too odd, considering that we did bring in 8 players in the summer of 2013 and the same can be done again. We know the formation Rodgers prefers is 4-3-3 and the players we bring in you’d like to think will fit in according to that. We also know that Rodgers is not an advocate of stock piling players and having an overly large squad, so we will only have two players per position and use youth to supplement the rest. Bearing this in mind and using the players most frequently linked to LFC we can create a general idea of where we will hopefully stand come the end of the summer.
Players Transferred Out:
Daniel Agger – I know what you’re thinking and I feel the same, nobody wants to see Agger leave. He has been the clubs most loyal servant bar Gerrard for the past 8 years and a mainstay in the Liverpool squad. However, it is clear that Sakho is the preferred left sided centre half by the club as he has started over Agger on numerous occasions. At 29, Agger is hitting the peak of his career and I very much doubt – despite his love for the club- he would be happy to sit on the bench. He is also one of highest earners at the club and we know the club is trying to reduce the wage bill, so he would be a very expensive squad player. I would love to keep him for another season or two, but I can only see him leaving in the summer for around £15m.
Lucas Leiva – Another player that many will dispute with me on his leaving. We all love to see the story of a bad player come good, but I don’t feel he is the quality we need for the Champions League. With Gerrard taking up his role as our most defensive midfielder, Lucas becomes unnecessary. He gives away far too many fouls near our own box, his positional play needs a lot of work and he is prone to long term injuries. He offers very little going forward and only marginally betters Allen and Henderson defensively, so if we are going to be bringing in players to improve the first team Lucas in my opinion, being older and on higher wages, will be the player the club choose to make way for new players at around £9m.
Oussama Assaidi- Although he is putting in a few decent performances for Stoke, I can’t see Assaidi breaking into our team. He is fast, but often lacks the decisiveness and quality we need in the final third and his attitude was supposedly questionable whilst with LFC. With Ibe, Sterling and hopefully new wingers coming into the squad, Assaidi is a player I feel we would be better off selling. Due to the small £2.5m fee we paid for him, I think we would gain a profit from his sale and would easily get £5m for him from Stoke or another midtable club.
Aly Cissokho – The on loan Valencia man has been of an okay standard of late. This does not mean we should exercise our option to buy, as he has only appeared to improve as less is being asked of him. As a defender he is very solid and is good physically, but lacks the ability to take on a man and the technical ability to be a solution for us at left back.
Viktor Moses- I for one thought the loan signing of Moses was quite a good one until he played for us. He was great for Wigan and is good a player on his day. However, he has been lazy and reckless on the pitch for us and is not the kind of player we want at LFC. He would be best sent back to London as soon as summer arrives in my opinion.
Pepe Reina- One of the old guard of LFC. In recent interviews he has said he will not be returning to LFC next season and could be available to clubs for as little as £4m. This is astonishingly cheap for a world class goal keeper, but we would do well to sell him to get his large wages off the wage bill for good. He enjoyed some wonderful years with us but once again we must look to the present and the future and not players of the past to bring us glory.
Ricardo Rodriguez- Currently plying his trade for German side Wolfsburg, the 21 year old is a Swiss international left back with 17 caps for the national side and catching the eye of many big clubs with his performances. A strong, fast modern fullback Rodriguez could fill a problem position in the LFC side for many years. He can also cross a ball well, which is more than can be said for Enrique and Cissokho. For the right price he would be available, at hopefully around £14m, which would represent good long term business for us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIHe9by9tFA
Steven Caulker – Long term we need a replacement for Skrtel to give Sakho the partner he deserves. Caulker was sold by Spurs to premier league strugglers Cardiff and has since proven his real worth. A young player at 22, the Englishman would be a great long term option for our right centreback spot. Also, with Cardiff struggling in the league, relegation for the side could mean a price drop to make him a very cheap option too.
Nathanial Clyne- The Southampton right back is frequently finding himself on the bench behind another talented fullback in Chambers. Clyne is also what we look for in a modern fullback, with pace, athleticism and the ability to attack. With Johnson aging at 30, the 22 year old could be phased into the side as Johnson is faded out over the coming seasons. With Southampton already appearing to have Chambers as their first choice right back, they may be more inclined to let Clyne go for a reasonable price such as £10m, than those figures touted for Luke Shaw. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwhGmkLR5a0
Lars Bender- A midfielder equally adept in all areas of the field, even at right back, Lars would represent a great quality investment from LFC. The German would come at a cost due to the competition surrounding his purchase, likely at over £20m, but the 24 year old Leverkusen man would solve the concerns surrounding our midfield. Able to play in any defensive or attacking midfield role with stamina, skill and quality will be invaluable next season when we have a lot more games to play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zgh8kGeZwQ
Yevhen Konoplyanka- Much was made of the Dnipro winger’s transfer to LFC in the final days of the window that sadly never came to fruition. However, should we successfully secure Champions League football we may be glad to have waited as he supposedly has a clause that drops from €15m to €10m as of July 1st, which would make the 24 year old a bargain signing for us. He would provide quality on the left wing and reduce the reliance upon the young Raheem Sterling for a very cheap price. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0EK2LC2Jbc
Ron-Robert Zieler- An ex-Manchester United player currently in between the sticks for Hannover. He has a release clause of around £5m which terminates in the middle of the summer, so we’d have to act fast to get him. It’s clear Mignolet is doing a great job for us, but Brad Jones in my opinion isn’t a good enough back up choice. Even the likes of Swansea have better 2nd choice keepers than us in Tremmel for example, so the 25 year old would provide some real competition to keep Mignolet on his toes and also provide some better cover in cup games.
If I’m being reasonable, I know that not all these transfers will occur. They are all, however, possible and with a clinical and effective transfer team (removing Ian Ayre) we might pull of some great transfer deals come the summer. Manchester United and Spurs will be fighting us tooth and nail next season for the top four spot and if we don’t invest in quality this summer the overload of games could prove too much for our squad to handle and we could lose what we fought so hard to gain. So if next season our squad looks something like this after the summer transfer window slams shut I will be very pleased with the club and the direction in which we are going, as we cannot afford anymore transfer slip ups if we truly want to compete with the best again. By keeping the likes of Enrique, Johnson and Skrtel at least until the next January you give the new players time to adjust and settle without risking a weakness in the team appearing. These older players can be phased out of the side once players such as Rodriguez have established themselves and can be trusted to take up the mantle of their seniors. http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=2b0d
By James Giblin (@jaygiblin)
With 12 games left of the season left to play this season, talk of what Liverpool must improve on next season may sound premature. Liverpool are on fire at the moment, thrashing Swansea and Zenit at home and doing so quite comfortably. How comfortable Liverpool were against Zenit is absolutely meaningless now; it was a fruitless endeavor. We were knocked out.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. The manner in which we played football was beautiful; I was particularly pleased with Jose Enrique’s stunner against Swansea (and people are talking about Gareth Bale’s West Ham goal for goal of the season!). We must look forward to the future with eager anticipation and leave behind the cobwebs of this season. Although Champions League qualification is still mathematically possible, it is unlikely.
With all this in mind, I have written up 4 top targets for Liverpool, if they are to obtain Champions League status once again:
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