Recent reports suggest Liverpool could try to sign Southampton striker Shane Long this month, and while perhaps an underwhelming move it makes more sense with each disappointing result.
According to reports on Friday, Liverpool are battling with Tottenham for the signature of the Republic of Ireland international.
Long has struggled to become a permanent fixture in Southampton’s first-choice starting eleven this season, with Graziano Pelle preferred in attack for Ronald Koeman’s side – who have this weekend signed Charlie Austin too.
Eight goals in 19 appearances in all competitions still represents a solid return for the 28-year-old, however, with his double against Arsenal his standout performance of the campaign to date.
While Long would not exactly be a game-changer of a signing by Liverpool, he would prove to be a very effective purchase.
Goals have been extremely hard to come by, and barring the reinvigorated Roberto Firmino, it is hard to see who will provide them in the absence of so many strikers.
The 1-0 defeat to Man United on Sunday was just the latest show of ineptitude in front of goal, and a player of Long’s ilk could have proved priceless against the Red Devils.
The former Reading, West Brom and Hull City man is a proven Premier League goalscorer, scoring 33 goals in England’s top flight for various struggling clubs, as well as numerous others in cup competitions.
He has experience and is far more talented than many give him credit for. 14 goals for a rather limited Republic of Ireland team is not to be sniffed at either.
Style of play
An infectious player by nature, Long is not dissimilar to Ings in many ways, and has the ability to thrive under Klopp’s philosophy.
His work-rate and general team ethic from the front is admirable in its relentlessness and intelligence, which is an immediate plus point in comparison to the static, almost disinterested Benteke.
The Irishman also possesses good pace and movement, while his finishing is largely dependable.
His performances at international level outline his pedigree, with vital goals scored in recent years. World champions Germany were on the end of a ruthless Long finish back in October.
Another attribute that Long has at his disposal is his strength in the air, which comes as a surprise considering his height.
At 5’11 tall, he is far from Andy Carroll or Peter Crouch, but he has won an impressive average of 2.2 aerial duels per game this season, and 2.1 throughout his Premier League career.
While not outstanding in any part his game, it is tough to find many weaknesses to Long’s play. He is at an age where a new challenge may appeal, and he could surprise a few if given the chance at a top club.
Sign him up
Long certainly isn’t going to be the answer to Liverpool’s long-term problems in attack, with the Reds badly in need of either a fit Sturridge or a new world-class arrival.
Despite this, he is a very effective footballer who would receive far from praise were he from a more fashionable footballing nation.
His work ethic, movement, link-up play and finishing would provide Klopp with a much-needed quality option up front, and his likeable, Ings-esque nature could make him a crowd favourite.
It wouldn’t make much sense acquiring Long on a permanent basis, given the fact the likes of Sturridge, Ings and Origi will return, and Benteke could, miraculously, come good, but a loan deal feels like a no-brainer.
Much like Caulker, the Saints striker would be a good stop-gap at a time when reinforcements are needed, and should he excel at Anfield, a more long-term arrangement could then be discussed.
Long is never going to be Luis Suarez, but given his experience of English football and underrated ability, he could play a key role between now and the end of the season.
(Statistics via WhoScored)
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