Feature Writer

Why Liverpool can cope without Konoplyanka

6 February, 2014

Jack Lusby explains why Liverpool can cope without the signing of Yevhen Konoplyanka, but does ponder whether the real failure was not signing elsewhere.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SUNDAY, APRIL 9th, 2006: The Paisley Gateway outside the Spion Kop at Liverpool Football Club's Anfield home. The gates are a tribute to the most successful manager in English football history, Bob Paisley OBE, who managed the Merseyside club from 1974-1983. (Pic by Dan Istitene/Propaganda)

The aftermath of the January transfer window for Liverpool represented a significant opportunity spurned, with the club failing to sign a single player despite very public advances on several targets.

Managing Director Ian Ayre took the brunt of the criticism during the fallout: the considerably-browed Englishman was perhaps made the scapegoat for the misgivings of the club’s transfer process in general.

Apparent attempts to low-ball Swiss club FC Basel during the negotiations to sign now-Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah, along with a bizarre focus on strengthening the squad’s attacking options despite pressing defensive issues abound, serves to underline a questionable window for the club.

With tensions mounting, the club’s failure to sign Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was the object of great frustration for many fans, and many may be somewhat relieved amid reports of a continued pursuit of the Ukrainian.

However, does not signing the winger, now or in the future, constitute a transfer disaster?

The Future of Luis Alberto

One of many in-house solutions to supplement Liverpool’s already proficient attack comes in the form of 21-year-old Spaniard Luis Alberto.

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 13, 2013: Liverpool's Luis Alberto in action against Preston North End during a preseason friendly match at Deepdale. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Since signing for the club in the summer for a considerable fee believed to be around £7m, Alberto hasn’t been offered the chances his valuation should perhaps demand.

All nine of his league appearances to date have come from the subs bench, with his longest stint lasting 28 minutes.

It can be argued that Brendan Rodgers has yet to ascertain where to most appropriately deploy Alberto, as his enduring qualities remain an enigma.

His assured ability on the ball, with a pass success rate of 85% so far according to Squawka, and reasonable physical frame could see the Spaniard vying with Joe Allen or Steven Gerrard for a deeper midfield role.

However, as Alberto is seemingly comfortable with the ball within attacking positions, with a skilful touch as evidenced by several neat flicks produced during the FA Cup win against Oldham in January, it seems most likely that he is suited in the Coutinho-role of attacking midfield.

In fact, according to Squawka, Alberto has created a chance every 48 minutes so far in the Premier League; elsewhere, the more established Coutinho has a similar rate of a chance every 44 minutes.

Naturally these figures are somewhat skewed by huge differences in game time, but they are nevertheless telling of the ability of Alberto.

In the absence of Konoplyanka, perhaps Rodgers should look towards the underused Alberto to provide competition for Coutinho in the left side of midfield.

Total Recall

Another option to provide for the failure to sign Konoplyanka would be to look at Liverpool players on spells further afield.

Several players have impressed so far on loan moves away from Anfield this season, two examples being Fabio Borini and Suso.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 11, 2013: Liverpool's Fabio Borini in action against West Bromwich Albion during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The subject of recalling loan players came to the fore during the latter stages of the transfer window following the announcement of a long-term injury to right-back Glen Johnson.

Many called for Derby’s impressive loanee Andre Wisdom to compensate for this loss, whilst left-back Jack Robinson was sighted at Melwood leading to rumours of talks to bring the temporary Blackpool charge back early.

Whilst unlikely at this juncture, legally or in the thoughts of Rodgers, Borini and Suso could be considered as figurative replacements for Konoplyanka.

20-year-old Suso is, by all accounts, impressing on his maiden loan spell at Almeria in his Spanish homeland, whilst Italian striker Borini continues to spurn Liverpool’s league rivals with his goals for Sunderland.

The initial reasoning for the loaning-out of both of these players was likely a problem with acclimatisation, along with the typical throes of youth, and what is to say that this wouldn’t happen with Konoplyanka?

The “success” rate of Ukrainian players in the Premier League is worryingly low, with ex-Liverpool misfit Andriy Voronin one example from many.

Whilst inconclusive, this may suggest that a move for Konoplyanka would be short-sighted.

Therefore rather than continue the increasingly characteristic Rodgers trend of buy, disappoint, exile, it may be more advantageous to look at those already tied to the club – be it this season with a recall, or the next.

Shuffling the Pack

As mentioned earlier, the signing of an attacking player this January would have constituted somewhat of a misguided decision.

It is widely regarded, dictated both by form and by current injuries, that positions in the midfield and defence are much more in need of reinforcing: no more pressing than at left-back, right-back, and defensive midfield.

In truth, whilst signing Konoplyanka would have significantly boosted the depth of the squad, it would likely have bent the nose of at least one current starter out of shape.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 15, 2013: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the fifth goal against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premiership match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The imperious form of Raheem Sterling, the vitality of Coutinho, and the iconic status of Steven Gerrard more or less secure their positions.

Elsewhere, the continued growth of Jordan Henderson and the mature presence of Joe Allen in the midfield offer further options to a full-strength midfield.

The natural option for the cull would be defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva, whose persistent injury issues and diminished form suggest a place on the bench at best in the future.

However, the signing of Konoplyanka would not solve this problem position.

In the seemingly unlikely event of a wholly-fit squad, Rodgers has the luxury of a competitive group without the presence of Konoplyanka.

The absence of the Ukranian can be catered for from within; the transfer disaster for the foreseeable future would be the failure to strengthen elsewhere.

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Feature writer focussing on match and player analysis for This Is Anfield. Follow @jacklusby_ on Twitter.

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  1. Luis Alberto is an interesting one. For some reason on here I see countless comments referring to him as a flop/money wasted but the fact is he’s 21 and when he has come on he’s slotted straight into the side as if he’d been playing with us for years. I’d expect more from him next season but for his first season, at his age getting used to English football I think he’s doing well, as our squad depth becomes increasingly important towards the end of the season I’d hope to see him play a bit more regularly with an eye towards challenging for starts at the beginning of next season.

  2. I am really puzzled why BR don’t use more of Alberto ? Alberto is a direct replacement for Coutinho . Can play anywhere in the attacking midfield.Its a wste of money letting him sit on the bench. I am sure he can do a better job than Moses anytime if he is given the opportunity.

    • I guess the times that BR has felt it was necessary to replace Coutinho it was to bring on a different type of player to change the game in some way, but when he has replaced Coutinho as a late sub he definitely has looked promising.

    • i think alberto is better than moses, but moses brings pace and width, alberto is more of a playmaker like coutinho, sometimes I think when BR brings moses on its to spread opponents out rather than further congest the middle.

  3. of course we can cope without kono how do you miss something you never had
    i am glad you have touched on the lowballing offers by the club for salah ,and that seems the main reason we lost him as he has stated he wanted to come but we f”cked about and disrespected him and basel ,the worse part about that deal is that we went up to the full asking price when it was to late
    alberto looks decent but why rodgers as not given him more game time is a mystery ,even when we have been cruising games he has rarely got much of a run ,we need to have a big clean out this summer and i expect a few of rodgers signings and loans to be shown the door as well as a few of the more established players
    allen needs to start performing on a regular basis as well its ok having the one good game in 10 but thats not good enough for lfc

  4. I think most of us already thought this before we “nearly signed him”.
    But I do agree Alberto should be given more of a chance, especially over moses.

  5. I just think this Summer we need to sign a few players that aren’t made out of biscuits..The injury rate with this squad is ridiculous. Suarez, Hendo, Sterling and Skrtel apart, every player seems to be injury prone..

  6. Jordan Ibe, Suso, Texeira etc. We’re okay. Let Dnipro keep him. After the BS they pulled on deadline day, I would hate to see the club go back and do any kind of business with them…

  7. The reality is that Liverpool spent the whole transfer window seeking players they didn,t need, makes you wonder what their smoking at Anfield what Ayres and everyone else involved need to realise is that the supporters have had a belly full of the overall mismanagement at Liverpool F.C.

  8. Good article, making some good points. As far as Alberto goes the few times I have seen him suggests he could play in any of the midfield positions. I would like to see Stirling on the left, where he regularly played for England under 21s. His defensive abilities would help cissoko too.
    Alberto on the right. Those two could stretch defences.

  9. Where is Kristijan Adorjan? Touted as one of the most promising at the famed Liverpool Academy, he has been farmed out on loan and has not been given a sniff of the first team even in cup games earlier. Rather than buy players for the future with the academy bursting at the seams with unbelievable talent, Rodgers should really concentrate on getting a few players who can walk into the team from Day 1. With Suso, Borini, Assaidi, Wisdom, Coady, Adorjan and a few others loaned out, are we turning into a mini-Chelsea who just buy players at a young age and then sell them for a higher fee!!!

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