Despite a fantastic season, and an incredible rate of goalscoring, the Reds have shipped far too many goals. Following the Crystal Palace debacle at the back, Henry Jackson (@OnFootballTweet) looks at who could come in to shore up Liverpool’s rearguard next season.
If there was one thing that was always going to be the achilles heel in Liverpool’s title bid this season it was their defence.
The Reds’ astonishing attacking football this season has been so good that defensive errors have not mattered on the whole, but Monday’s 3-3 draw was finally the moment they were punished. There was an inevitability about it all once Palace made it 3-2.
Regardless of how refreshingly attacking Brendan Rodgers is as a manager, to concede 49 goals in 37 league games is simply not good enough.
While a number of defenders have played very well on a personal level this season- Martin Skrtel and Jon Flanagan are the standouts in that respect- as a unit they have been shown up time and time again.
Too often they’ve sat deep in games and been duly punished, while individual errors have been a problem all season long.
With the likes of Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure all potentially facing the exit door this summer, a number of new faces will appear ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.
Here are some potential options for Rodgers, as he looks to eradicate this season’s difficulties at the back.
Marcos Rojo (Sporting)
Rojo is predominantly a left-back, but can also happily fill in at centre-back. The 24-year-old will start for Argentina at this summer’s World Cup, and has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool in recent times.
Left-back has been a problem area since John Arne Riise left in 2008, and although Flanagan has been excellent this season, Liverpool have to bring in a top class international who won’t look out of place in the Champions League.
Micah Richards (Man City)
When it comes to Richards moving to Anfield, the Liverpool fans seem very divided. The 25-year-old may not be the greatest full-back around, but like Daniel Sturridge, you feel that Rodgers could give his career a new lease of life were he to sign him.
He is a more solid player defensively than Johnson, and offers more power and versatility too. Because he rarely starts for Manchester City people tend to write him off, but it’s worth noting that Pablo Zalaleta, one of the world’s best right-backs, is keeping him out.
Whether or not Richards would be a guaranteed starter every week remains to be seen, but he would be a potentially shrewd acquisition.
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Chances are Shaw will end up at Old Trafford next season, but the 18-year-old would be a sensational capture if Liverpool managed to pull it off.
The Southampton star is a superb footballer, and despite his tender years, he already looks like the complete left-back. Fast, strong, defensively sound- Squawka shows he hasn’t made a single defensive error all season- and terrific going forward, he will become a world-class player for years to come.
Liverpool know a substantial bid would have to be tabled, but his age and potential means he’d be worth every penny.
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Some may disagree, but assuming Cole leaves Chelsea in the summer as many ‘experts’ are predicting, a top club could still easily get a very good season or two out of the 33-year-old.
He is still extremely fit and his pace has yet to desert him, and his performances in huge games of late, including the Blues’ 2-0 win at Anfield, have been exemplary.
Some may argue Liverpool don’t need him if they sign someone like Rojo, with Flanagan as back-up, but he is a player who still has plenty to offer.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke)
The Greece international almost made the move to Liverpool last summer, but a serious knee injury made the club think again. Chances are Rodgers will be back in for the 22-year-old at the end of this season, however,
Powerful and dominant, Papadopoulos is exactly the kind of centre-back Liverpool need- although Martin Skrtel has been generally excellent, he can be guilty of lacking authority at vital times- and he would be a long-term investment too.
The Schalke star would provide great competition for Skrtel and Sakho for a starting berth, but such is his quality he would likely make the starting XI sooner rather than later.
Steven Caulker (Cardiff)
Cardiff may have been relegated, but the performances of Caulker have certainly caught the eye this season.
Were he playing for a more high-profile club, like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at Manchester United, he would be virtually guaranteed a place in England’s World Cup squad.
The 22-year-old is another centre-back with huge potential but still years from his peak, and is a player Rodgers has admired for some time now. He had him at Swansea in 2011/12, and, like Joe Allen, the Reds boss clearly believes Caulker can make the step up.
The former Tottenham man is strong, good on the ball and has great aerial presence, and he is only going to get better. Whether he would be ready to go straight into a Champions League team next season is debatable, but he would certainly be an improvement on Kolo Toure as a squad player.
Lovren has been unquestionably one of the standout defenders in the Premier League this season, and one of Southampton‘s key men since joining the club for £8.5m last summer. He would be a terrific signing for the Reds.
At 24, the 22-time capped Croatia international is approaching the peak years of his career, and his leadership qualities and level of consistency are hugely impressive.
Squawka shows that his passing accuracy suits Rodgers’ style down to the ground, while he wins more than half of his defensive duels.
Rumours of a move to Anfield have gone slightly quiet of late, but he is a player who would definitely shore up Liverpool’s leaky defence.
Which of these defenders would you like to see at Liverpool next season? Let us know in the comments section below.