LFC Squad Review: Should They Stay or Should They Go Now?
Kopology offers his assessment of how the players have done, and whether he thinks they are likely to leave, should be retained or sold in the summer.
I’m taking into account competition for places, talents emerging from the Academy, the need to generate funds from sales and the different degree to which players suit Brendan Rodgers‘ playing philosophy. Each verdict is contingent on all these factors, and is only my personal assessment; I don’t claim to have any ‘inside knowledge’.
Early in the season it looked like Reina could be on his way, but since then the Spaniard has shown some of his best form for several seasons (although his save percentage this season was the lowest it’s been). At just 30, Reina is still at a good age for a goalkeeper, and his ability with his feet make him a good fit for Rodgers’ system on paper. Rumours persist that Barcelona are interested in him as a replacement for the departing Victor Valdes, and should a bid in excess of £10m materialise, accepting it could be a good way to generate funds by bringing in a younger keeper for a lesser fee. But now that he’s starting to look like the Reina of old, and with several other experienced players departing, if he wants to stay, Reina should be kept.
Overall Jones did pretty well this season when deputising in goal, but there were moments, especially against Oldham, when the Aussie made you glad he wasn’t our first choice. Ideally a second choice keeper is either a talented youngster happy to deputise for a few years before claiming the No.1 jersey, or a senior pro with experience at the top level. Jones is neither, so it would make sense to let him go and bring in someone with more quality.
Verdict: Sell for £1m – £2m
Now 22, if the coaching staff thought highly of Gulacsi we would surely have seen more of him by now. He wouldn’t be the first keeper with no realistic chance of becoming our first choice to linger around for several years, but if only for the sake of his own career, it would make sense to move him on and bring in another young goalkeeper who can be a genuine threat to Reina’s place.
Verdict: Sell or release for free.
In the first half of the season Johnson was arguably in the form of his life. As an attacking full-back many would prefer to see play as an out-and-out winger, Johnson is perfect for Rodgers, and remains one of the club’s most consistent performers despite a drop in form since Christmas. Ryan McLaughlin is an equally attacking right-back with bags of potential, who should make his breakthrough next season, so Glen is the ideal mentor to help nurture the talented young Northern Irishman’s ability. With Carragher retiring, Skrtel seemingly on his way and question-marks over Reina’s future, can we really afford to lose yet another of our senior players?
After suffering a horrific loss of form in the second half of last season, Enrique’s days on Merseyside seemed numbered, but taken out of his comfort zone and moved to the left wing under Rodgers, the Spaniard eventually enjoyed a new lease of life this season. Now able to do a job in two positions, Enrique has established himself as a decent squad player, even if left back remains one of the obvious areas to strengthen. There’s an outside chance that, should a new left back come in, Enrique could be sold to generate funds with Robinson and Brad Smith given chances as back-ups and Johnson able to switch flanks if needs be, but while we still need to add extra depth to the squad, Enrique’s services ought to be retained.
Big things were expected of Liverpool’s second youngest player ever, but since a bright start under Kenny Dalglish when he marked Theo Walcott out of a game, things have gone backwards slightly for Robinson. Last seen in the horror show against Oldham, the youngster has since enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Wolves. Some more experience and extra bodyweight should see Robinson secure a future with Liverpool, but for now a full season spent on loan would seem the best option for both club and player. The danger for Robbo is that another bright Academy prospect, Brad Smith, could overtake him, so next season will be an important one.
Since making an excellent start to his Liverpool career under Kenny Dalglish, Flanagan appears to have gone backwards. Last seen on Being: Liverpool getting told by Brendan Rodgers that he was the kind of defender who should do as little as possible, Flanagan has since suffered from injury, but even if fit, would appear to be nowhere near the team. Selling him would be harsh, but a year on loan to a Championship club ought to prove whether or not he has any future with the club.
Despite coming in for a fair amount of criticism this season, I still see Agger as a top-drawer defender. Considering he’s had to play alongside either a floundering Martin Skrtel or a geriatric Jamie Carragher, I actually think Agger has had a good season. If he were to go, it would mean our four most senior centre-backs all leaving the club, so the Dane should stay on the books for at the very least another year. One of Rodgers’ main priorities should be signing a partner for Agger who is dominant in the air, quick and physically imposing, which would surely give us one of the world’s best defensive partnerships.
Had he not picked up a cruciate injury early in the season, this could have been a breakthrough year for Martin Kelly. With Carragher past his best, and Skrtel falling from grace, it would have been the ideal opportunity for Kelly to get a chance in what many suspect is his best position in the centre of defence, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Hopefully he can make a return to action before the season ends, and be fit for the kick-off in August. As a player who can provide competition for Glen Johnson as well as cover at centre-back, Martin Kelly will be an important part of the squad when fully fit.
With Carragher, Skrtel and Coates all set to leave this summer, Andre Wisdom could find himself as one half of our second choice defensive pairing next season. That would probably be asking a little too much from a player who hasn’t played a single senior game at centre-back, but with some more game time at right-back next term, and possibly the odd chance in the centre in cup games, it might not be too long before we see young Andre providing the last line of defence. If two centre-backs are signed, it might be worth giving him some experience on loan, but there’s no doubt that he’s one the club will hang on to.
The Anfield legend has retired after 737 games for the Reds. Carragher didn’t embarrass himself after being thrust back into the team, but his lack of any pace whatsoever meant the defence had to sit deep, which stretched the side from front to back and opened up space in midfield. Carra’s last game was an emotional one – almost marked with what would have been an unforgettable goal – but it’s almost impossible to believe a player with ambitions to coach and manage won’t be back in some capacity at some point in the future. Thanks for the memories Jamie.
Verdict: Retiring a legend
Having lost his place to a 35-year-old in his last ever season, Martin Skrtel’s Liverpool career looks to be over. Perhaps the seeds of his downfall were sown early in the season with his calamitous back-pass against Man City, but if his name wasn’t inside one of the three envelopes then, it certainly is now. In my opinion Skrtel lacks positional strength and is poor at reading the game, so I felt he was being wildly overrated last season when many thought he was Player of the Season. I wish we’d sold him last summer when it was rumoured Man City were interested. Instead they bought Matija Nastasic, who is a fine young defender. Hopefully we will replace Skrtel with somebody similarly talented when he is moved on this summer.
Verdict: Sell for £8m
Having been given so little playing time, it’s impossible to imagine Coates will be around much longer. While he’s undoubtably a player with ability, his skill-set is a poor match with what Rodgers requires from a centre-back, and he perhaps exemplifies the difference between Rodgers’ and Dalglish’s systems. Rodgers ideal defence is one that plays with a high line comprised of defenders who are quick and comfortable on the ball. Coates lacks both pace and agility, and is no Beckenbauer, so although he will no doubt be a good player in a less expansive team that play deeper, he’s certain to be sold in the summer.
Verdict: Sell for £6m
On paper, Danny Wilson is the type of defender Rodgers might like. Mobile and decent with his feet, the young Scotsman would seem to fit the bill, but he’s never quite looked comfortable in a red shirt. Back in Scotland with Hearts, Wilson recaptured some of his early promise, and with his contract with us up, he’ll no doubt make someone a good free transfer signing.
Verdict: Leaving on a free
If it ever made sense to sell Steven Gerrard, now is clearly not that time. Having played more consecutive minutes than at any other stage of his career, Stevie G is enjoying an unexpected new lease of life just when it seemed he was melting away, but at 33, he’s in the twilight years of his career. If he goes on to emulate Gary McAllister, or even Ryan Giggs, signing Gerrard from Liverpool now for £5m would prove excellent business, but with his ample wages, it’s unlikely anyone would take the risk. As this young team develops, it will need Gerrard’s experience and leadership to guide them as they mature. It could be decades before we see another Liverpudlian player of Gerrard’s quality, so let’s enjoy him while he’s still around.
Verdict: Cryogenically Preserve
Two years ago any Liverpool fan saying we should sell Lucas would have been labelled a closet Evertonian, such was his importance to the team. Since then, long injuries have interrupted his form and perhaps shaved away a fraction of his ability, but with such long lay-offs it’s too early to say he’s not the player he was. But how good was that player anyway? In his Player of the Year season, Lucas stood out in a poor team set up to play defensively for the first five months, and it’s possible that approach suited his game. Even in Rodgers’ ultra attacking side, however, an upturn in results coincided with the Brazilian’s return, and the Ulsterman is clearly a fan. As the club’s only defensive midfielder, it’s likely competition will arrive in the form of a player more suited to a holding role come summer. Having just signed a new contract, Lucas is here to stay, but his days as a certainty in the first eleven could be coming to an end.
For the first two months of the season Joe Allen was arguably our best player. Then, although we didn’t know it until recently, he picked up a shoulder injury which hampered him until it eventually required surgery. To what extent the injury was responsible for his loss of form we can’t know, but what we do know, is that for Swansea last year and while he was injury free with us, Joe Allen looked a player. The “Welsh Xavi” is a label that, in truth, he doesn’t yet deserve, but I am convinced Allen is a player with some of the rare qualities only the classiest midfielders have: excellent technique, awareness and a quickness of mind and feet that gives him extra time on the ball when not hampered by injury. There’s no chance of Rodgers selling him, but we could see him used in a more advanced role at times next season. Many fans have written him off already, but I’m confident they will eventually have egg on their faces, and we will soon think of Allen as a key player.
Considering Hendo was allegedly offered to Fulham for just £4m last summer, this season has been a roaring success for the young Englishman. Many fans feel he should have seen even more playing time, but my feeling is that some of the praise he’s had has been an overcompensation for him having been wrongly written off last year. Don’t get me wrong: I rate Henderson, and he’s shown he can score important goals. I just don’t think his all-round game has been quite as good as some fans have made out when calling for his inclusion in the side. His versatility is a bonus, and I suspect he could do a job as a more defensive midfielder as well as central, out wide or as an attacking midfielder. There’s no doubt Hendo is one to keep, and at only 22 years old, he can have a long career with Liverpool.
Jonjo is clearly a young player with talent, but I’m not sure he is suited to the style of football Rodgers has us playing, and I’m not convinced he has the intelligence for it either. On the other hand, when he’s on form he can be reminiscent of a young Gerrard, and for the England Under-21 team he often looks like a man amongst boys, but on too many occasions this season he’s looked out of place when playing for Liverpool. Perhaps controversial, but he’s one that I’d consider letting go if a very good offer came in, but the sensible option would be to let him spend a season on loan with a mid-table Premiership side, and see how he progresses.
It’s always a shame to see a local lad leave, but having given it a good go, it’s clear Jay isn’t quite up to the standards Liverpool need to set if the club is to get back to where we want to be. He’s a had a good spell with Bolton, and will no doubt play in the Premiership again at some point. If Academy players aren’t good enough to make the grade, the aim is to get something for them, and letting Spearing go this summer should help boost the coffers a little.
Verdict: Sell for £3m
Perhaps the most clear cut decision of all, Coutinho is, Suarez aside, Liverpool’s most exciting signing in half a decade. The little Brazilian has shown pace, flair, and an ability to both score and create goals in his short time with the club, as well as an excellent attitude and work ethic. Far from selling him, the aim should be to unearth two or three more like him in the next window. At just £8m, Coutinho already looks an absolute steal.
Another youngster we were surprised to see so much of, and then surprised to see disappear, Suso looked talented if a litre raw when given opportunities earlier in the season. There may be one or two more chances for him yet before the end of the campaign, as several other first team players have been withdrawn through injury, but for now the young Spaniard remains firmly in the ‘prospect’ category. Some think a loan would be good for him, but I would rather he was retained and used as understudy to whoever is given the No.10 position. However is development is managed, he won’t be allowed to leave the club permanently when his future is so obviously bright.
Despite playing his way into Rodgers’ favour, we may still see Downing leave this summer. If he were five years younger, I’d say he’d be one to keep, but at his age he doesn’t add enough to the squad to justify his significant wages. Rodgers has apparently told him he is now part of his long-term plans, but all that could change if an offer were to come in. If he does stay it will be no bad thing, but he may have to settle for starting from the bench more often than not.
Verdict: Sell for £6m – £8m
It remains something of a mystery why Assiadi was signed in the first place, having played so little football all season. The popular theory is that he was signed against Rodgers wishes, and either the manager doesn’t fancy him or he’s left him out to make a point. This of course ignores that other such as Diomede, Gonzalez and Aquiliani to name just a few have been signed by a manager who has then elected to regularly overlook them, and at just £2.5m, Assiadi could have simply been seen as cover and a decent investment. It would make no sense to retain him beyond the summer, however, and with the club apparently targeting several Eresdivision players, the Moroccan could end up back in Holland as part of a swap deal.
Verdict: Sell for £3m
One of the highlights of the season was watching Raheem Sterling make his long awaited breakthrough into the Liverpool first team. “Long awaited” aren’t words you would usually expect to be associated with a player who was only 17 when the season began, but after scoring five goals in a game that went viral on YouTube, Sterling’s talent had already been anticipated for some time when he made his debut at the tail-end of last season. Having played a lot of football up until Christmas, the youngster was later withdrawn from the glare of the spotlight, and will return next season a little older, stronger and more mature. Raheem is going nowhere but to the top.
Having made an impressive debut in the final match of the season, Jordan Ibe can expect to be a part of the first team squad next season. He won’t get as many opportunities as Raheem Sterling did this year, but that says more about how much the squad has improved than it does about the youngster’s ability. With pace, power and a box full of tricks, Jordan Ibe is a real talent, and like Sterling, one who may not need to go out on loan to develop.
As I wrote previously, there is no way Liverpool should sell Luis Suarez if they can hold on to him. World class players are like magnets with which to attract more World class players, and there are literally only a handful on the planet of Suarez’s quality. So no matter how much we could get for him, any replacement would represent a reduction in quality in his position, even if we could strength the team with the money elsewhere. The number one transfer priority for Liverpool this summer should be to retain the services of Luis Suarez. Do that, and two or three quality additions should have us competing for the big prizes once again.
Having only recently joined the club and made a great start to his career at Anfield, there’s no question of Sturridge being sold. His pace forces defences to sit deep, which opens up space ahead of them for players like Suarez and Coutinho to exploit, and Sturridge has a brilliant goals-to-games record with Liverpool so far. Rodgers places huge importance on attitude and teamwork, though, so if Daniel is to retain his first team place, he will need to show some of the tenacity and spirit that makes Luis Suarez such a handful for defenders week-in, week-out.
Fabio is another for whom an argument for both retaining and letting go of his services can be made. There’s no doubt that we haven’t seen the best of him yet in Red, and as a young Italian international, he clearly has quality. When he has played, he’s shown good movement, work-rate and intelligence without making too much impact on games, and I get the impression that once he has a few more goals to his name, he might go on a good run. All that said, with what looks like a susceptibility to injury, and Suarez and Sturridge in his way, it might just not happen for Borini at Liverpool, so cashing in could make sense. For me it would be worth keeping him until at least next Christmas to see what he’s capable of.
There’s no doubt that Andy Carroll is a decent footballer, and he’s not only a threat in the air, either. For a big man he has good feet, and he’s not devoid of football intelligence either. But the current Liverpool team just isn’t set-up to play to the Geordie’s strengths. The attacking play under Rodgers is all about fluid movement, one-twos, turning on the ball and keeping it on the ground, and while Carroll can play a bit, our style would see his best attributes – heading and strength – go largely to waste. It would make more sense for the player and the club for him to move to a team that would make the most of him, and for Liverpool to put the money they get for him towards a player better suited to the way we play. Having done reasonably well at West Ham, we should be able to get at least £15m for him despite what newspapers might speculate.
Verdict: Sell for £15m – £18m
There will be no shortage of offers for the young striker following his successful loan spell at Hearts, and all the same rationale for letting Carroll go applies to Ngoo too. But there are also more reasons to keep him. The first, is that to sell now would only bring in a few million pounds for a player who, in another season or two, could be worth a lot more. The second reason to keep him around would be to provide some regular practice at facing a big man for our defenders in training. Ultimately, it’s unlikely Rodgers will see him in his long-term plans, but the right option and the one I expect the club to take is to loan him out again next season, perhaps to a Championship or even a Premiership club this time.
During his spell in the Championship with Norwich he looked like a decent player who was comfortable at that level, and he’s been a consistent performer when with the reserves. But having gone on loan twice since, and both times failed to establish himself, it seems as if Pacheco just doesn’t quite have what it takes. He did OK without standing out when given a run in the Europa League before being sent back to Spain, but it would appear Dani’s chances of remaining with the club beyond the summer are slim.
Verdict: Sell for £1m