With a week off from what has been an exhausting season through the eyes of a Kopite – with boardroom warfare, the change in ownership, a squad in transition and three managerial changes since the end of last season – and with no matches to talk about, and the usual transfer rumours linking us with this winger, that full back and the next goalkeeper, I’ve had plenty of time (in-between panicking over one exam too many) to think about our squad, what we have and what we need.
If you look at the squad as a whole, and especially the ‘First Eleven’ if we have one, it’s a pretty solid spine. Pepe Reina is a top goalkeeper, you don’t need me to tell you that, our central defence of (injuries permitting) Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher is a pretty complimentary duo. Agger is generous in possession, good on the ball, has good vision and technique for a centre back and is composed on the ball, while Carragher gives the team that leadership from the back, and has done for years now, his last ditch tackles are world famous and so is his sheer determination and passion for Liverpool FC is a real credit to himself. They both work together well, they have the strengths that the other lacks, if you will. You then have Martin Skrtel who is a solid enough big guy, but a bit of a bombscare at times, and can give away needless fouls. Martin Kelly, seemingly thought of as Carraghers replacement, has been brilliant at full-back when played there this season, and I look forward to seeing how he develops. Danny Wilson, who just came in the summer, is a great acquisition. Despite being Rangers youth and my affiliations with Celtic, I can vouch for Danny in that he is a real prospect. He’s a commanding young lad and never shirked the challenge when he was up here with Rangers, and looked accomplished in the Champions League games he played, he’s again a young left footer, who’s composed on the ball and if I’m honest, should Agger get injured again I’d rather see young Wilson drafted in ahead of Skrtel. He, even at such a young age, gives me a good bit more comfort than Skrtel, who as mentioned, can go on a bit of a rampage at times and put us in bad positions.
Our midfield is such a topic for discussion. Does it work better with 3 central midfielders operating with each other, changing positions and keeping the ball ticking and moving, or does a two serve us better with two in the middle and two wide midfielders? As it stands, it must be a three in the middle, due to our lack of real quality on the wings (hence the title). Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Lucas Leiva and recently Jay Spearing(who has come into a bit of form recently by the way) all have various different ways to contribute to a match. Gerrard is a game changer, Meireles makes those fantastic, undetected runs and seems to pop up all over the pitch and is a real asset to the team. I’d agree that by a mile Meireles and a partner off Gerrard in a more attacking position seems to be our best way to go, with our lack of wide power we need to make the use of our best central midfielder (Gerrard) and have him as far up the pitch as we can get him at all times, as he really can be devastating in those areas.
Lucas and Spearing have qualities that can they can bring to the side as well, though. Lucas, a real scapegoat for the last couple of years, has really shut his critics up this season with some powerful displays, his overall game has came on leaps and bounds. He’s economical with the ball and hard working without it, he’s a real asset and at such a young age, he’s certainly worth tying down to a new deal. For me, a nail-on as the deepest of our central midfielders. Spearing does have some good qualities however, and he’s beginning to show them a bit more now. He’s tenacious, brave, and over the last few games has made some intelligent runs and his passing’s certainly improved, he’ll (all respect to him) probably never be of a level that he can start week in week out for Liverpool, but I’d certainly keep him around after the summer – he’s the type of player than can fill a gap in an injury crisis, and those type of players are quite invaluable. Overall, we have decent quality but I still think we’re a player short; we could use someone with a bit of dynamism to their game to come in should Raul or Gerrard be out. We have young Shelvey, who looks like he’s going to be a top, top player, but we need someone I feel to bring what Poulsen was meant to, a solid option in midfield that can fill a few roles and is a consistent and experienced performer. On that note, Poulsen should go in the summer, he’s had a few alright games but he’s in his 30s now and it doesn’t look like a match really.
Upfront seems to be our strongest area now I feel. We have a world class forward in Luis Suarez, a potential goal machine in big Andy Carroll, and Dirk Kuyt has certainly came onto a bit of form now. He’s scoring more often, and coupled in with his work ethic which he so noted for is, has pushed him right up there at the moment with the best performers on the pitch.
A three way attack seems our best option, with Suarez and Kuyt occupying the wider forward positions, and Carroll in the middle. This may make it sound a bit like a ‘hump it to Carroll’, but his talent in the air is invaluable to us, and he’s not too shabby with his feet either! (See the game at St.James Park earlier this season for confirmation). He can take the ball with both comfortably, can play the ball around neatly, and I can see him forming a formidable partnership with Suarez.
Then we have David N’Gog. He’s tall, and showed earlier in the season he can score goals if his confidence is up. Sadly, anytime he plays his confidence must plummet as he hasn’t had a decent game in quite some time. But, he’s still young and I’d keep him around again next season.
I feel that, our spine of Reina, Agger and Carragher, Lucas, Meireles, Gerrard and Carroll is one of the strongest in the league. It’s the, Suarez aside really (Kurt’s not a wide player), lack of power on the wings, the arms and legs of the team, that weaken us drastically.
As spoke of earlier, Martin Kelly is a good fullback, but he’s young and naturally a centre-halve. Glen Johnsons never really done ‘it’ with Liverpool, apart from his good start to his Liverpool career, and needs to up his game because he was a player at Portsmouth. Fabio Aurelio’s a sick note, and whiles a good player, is not worth keeping due to his polythene knees. Full-backs are such a huge part of football now and if we want to get on we need another couple of quality fullbacks to give us that option. Benficas Fabio Coentrao has been mentioned, but as I said earlier, anything that you read now is usually transfer gossip to sell papers, sadly. This is a big area of concern for me as we don’t have enough quality, or enough cover really, in those areas. A big need in the summer.
Wings. God we need width. Maxi Rodriguez is a good option, he’s a good player in possession of the ball and has a bit of flair about him, but he is seemingly the master of over hitting wonder shots. Joe Cole hasn’t really worked out, and with the wages he’s on, I’m not sure if he’s viable to have sitting around the squad, but I feel if he can get a bit of a run going to the end of the season, get some gametime and confidence, and get through pre-season without too many injuries, he could be a good player to have in our side. Kuyt is a natural centre forward so should only be used as a wider forward, rather than a right winger/midfielder, as he just doesn’t have the attributes needed to play that kind of role really, as a striker he’s a good player, but not as a winger. This is our biggest problem, we really need to invest in some spinach for the wings, because their biggest problem and have been years. Ashley Young is constantly brought up, and would be a great signing, but again… papers need sales. Infact, they need the sales as much as we need wingers.
Should (surely when by now?) Kenny Dalglish get the job in the summer, I’d expect him to have picked up on this, and to go out there and really bring some pace and flair onto the wings.