Reports claim that Liverpool are interested in Aston Villa centre-back Ron Vlaar this January, but Jack Lusby believes Brendan Rodgers must aim higher.
As Liverpool’s defensive struggles have outlined this season, manager Brendan Rodgers must look to strengthen his squad with a commanding central defender in the near future.
Dejan Lovren has floundered since his £20 million summer move from Southampton, while Martin Skrtel’s ability to hold down a first-team role entirely unchallenged is becoming a hugely disappointing factor of Rodgers’ Merseyside reign.
Luckily enough, Liverpool have been linked with a move for Aston Villa man Ron Vlaar, along with midfielder Fabian Delph.
Jamie Sanderson of the Metro claims that “the Reds are on the lookout for new players ahead of the January transfer window, with Brendan Rodgers set to be given funds to spend on his squad.”
“Delph, who is also a target for Tottenham, looks certain to leave Villa in the coming months, and while Vlaar has previously hinted he’ll stay, a deal could be done for the right price.”
Sanderson plucks the sum of £15 million, presumably from the vaults of his imagination, as Villa’s value of the pair.
Liverpool fans react to being linked with John Ruddy pic.twitter.com/z0pu8WBb6M
— Tim Bolton (@timbolton1) December 16, 2014
However conspicuous the source, it is alarming how regularly Liverpool are linked with such calibre of players: Think John Ruddy and Fernando Torres, both linked to the Reds in December.
Vlaar in particularly stands out as a player Liverpool should look a level or two higher than in the upcoming transfer window.
Liverpool’s Defensive Issues
Liverpool have conceded 25 goals in 19 games so far this season, with only Newcastle United conceding more of teams currently in the top half of the table.
With a top-four finish clearly the side’s priority, compared to current incumbents Chelsea (14), Manchester City (17), Manchester United (19) and Southampton (15), Liverpool are a long way from the requisite defensive record.
This is down to several factors.
Firstly, Rodgers’ inability to establish a consistent back four.
Across this season’s 19 games we have seen six different centre-back variants, with options in that positions between Lovren, Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson and, most recently, Emre Can.
Further to this, a range of full-backs from Johnson, Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson and Lazar Markovic, and a shift in goalkeeping hierarchy between Simon Mignolet and Brad Jones have added to this inconsistency.
This could be blamed for the number of errors made by Liverpool’s centre-backs this season, with Lovren and Skrtel the prime miscreants.
Lovren has made six errors so far this season, with two leading to goals, and Skrtel has made four errors, with none leading to goals, according to Squawka.
To put this into context, of the Premier League’s centre-backs, only Gary Cahill has made as many errors as Skrtel this season; none come close to Lovren’s miserable output.
This can be attributed to a lack of authority, organisation, cohesion and confidence in Liverpool’s defence; these areas have, unsurprisingly, picked up with the introduction to of Sakho at left- centre-back of late.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 10, 2013
In steps Vlaar, of gritted teeth and shaven head.
With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, and after an impressive World Cup with the Netherlands, Vlaar has been linked with moves to Manchester United and Arsenal this season, along with Liverpool.
On paper, the 29-year-old is a ready-made option for each of these teams in January.
An aggressive aerial presence, and a real backs-to-the-wall defender, Vlaar is an ‘if in doubt, get it out’ style of centre-back.
With an average of 2.2 interceptions per game, Vlaar is also a responsive reader of the game; no Liverpool player makes more per game, with only Manquillo equalling his output.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) October 28, 2014
Furthermore, as Villa captain, Vlaar is an accomplished leader, and with his regular centre-back partners Ciaran Clark (25), Nathan Baker (23), Philippe Senderos (29) and Jores Okore (22) registering an average age of 24.75, he serves as the authoritative, organisational presence.
However, two glaring areas stand out when considering Vlaar’s defensive output.
Firstly, the Villa man has made just 0.7 tackles on average per game so far this season, and while tackling is effectively a defender’s last resort, Vlaar’s reluctance in the challenge belies his no-nonsense status.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) October 20, 2013
Furthermore, a meagre 84 per cent passing accuracy jars with Liverpool’s system of building from the back under Rodgers.
Up against teams who favour a direct approach, Vlaar is your man; but in a more cultured system, he would falter.
The True Liverpool Calibre?
— Olympique de Marseille (@OM_Officiel) December 28, 2014
It is evident that, for Liverpool to aim for the Premier League’s upper echelons, and to compete in Europe in the near future, they must look to sign higher class talents than Vlaar.
United and Arsenal, who have both been linked with Vlaar, have both also been linked with a move for the troubled Borussia Dortmund’s imperious Mats Hummels.
So far, Liverpool are yet to be linked with a sufficient replacement for Skrtel.
Liverpool need to look to this level of defender, or the level below—say, Benedikt Hoewedes or Joel Matip, both of the Bundesliga, or Marseille’s impressive Nicolas N’Koulou.
Targeting Vlaar in January would be typical of Liverpool’s transfer progress.
But Brendan Rodgers must curb his low-level ambition in the January transfer market and aim high, because Ron Vlaar would not be the solution to any of his problems.
Should Liverpool sign Ron Vlaar in January? Let us know in the comments below.