Centre-backs and leftfield signings – Debating Liverpool’s January transfer window plans

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The January transfer window is upon us and Liverpool may have one or two areas to address, so what should be a priority over the next month in terms of ins and outs?

The transfer window opens on January 2 and, though it is becoming a rarity, the Reds head into the month widely seen as being in need of reinforcement.

Sporting director Michael Edwards and his recruitment staff will have been working quietly over the past months as they weigh up possible mid-season additions – though, as ever, Liverpool’s preference would be to complete deals in the summer.

Needs must, however, so this January could be an interesting one at Anfield, with the prospect of at least one player brought in and question marks over the future of others already at the club.

So what could and should we see from the Reds before the deadline on February 1?

Giving their views on the Reds’ priorities in the January window are This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_), James Nalton (@JDNalton), Matt Ladson (@mattladson) and Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett).

 

Do we need to sign a centre-back in January? And if so who?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 1, 2020: Liverpool’s Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0 to win the group and progress to the Round of 16. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

JACK: Definitely. Pushing ahead with Fabinho, Williams, Phillips and an unreliable Matip would be admirable in terms of faith in youth but potentially very costly.

Matip’s constant issues have proven the need for succession planning – the decision to give him a new five-year deal last October remains out of character, in my opinion – and the situation dictates that this may need to be sooner rather than later.

Of those linked, Dayot Upamecano would be the best fit, but that’s now unlikely in January given we play Leipzig in the Champions League, so perhaps Ozan Kabak, at 20 and not demanding a first-choice role, would be suitable.

JAMES: For sure. As admirable as some of Phillips and Williams’ performances have been since stepping in, more quality depth is required in the position.

Especially when the senior player stepping in to cover long-term injuries, Matip, regularly picks up niggling injuries of his own.

Would it be too cheeky for Liverpool to go to Leicester for Wesley Fofana already?

If so, Sven Botman and David Carmo are the other two players who seem to be attracting plenty of Premier League interest.

Both are left-footed, which none of the current centre-backs are, so this would add another dimension.

Sven Botman, Netherlands (MAURICE VAN STEEN/ANP Sport/PA Images)

MATT: The first part of this question is rhetorical, surely, but the second part is very difficult.

Arguably we need two centre backs, not necessarily both in January but in the short-term future. It’s hard to see Gomez and Van Dijk both returning as the same players and being injury-free for the next few years.

And with Matip so unreliable it skews the strength of our squad. I’d like to see two centre backs signed within the next two transfer windows, joining Van Dijk and Gomez as our four options. Those two being a youngster and a more experienced player.

The ‘dream’ one would be David Alaba but I can’t see that happening even in the summer unfortunately.

Like Jack says, Upamecano would tick some boxes but again seems highly unlikely.

Botman, of Lille, would likely be a good fit as the young signing at 20. The question there would be how quickly he can adapt to be an option for this season.

If we were to sign a player in the first week of January, they’d be available for over half of this season. It’s surely imperative.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KARL: Yes, now we do. I’m still of a mind that Liverpool will only keep to the same plan they always had and merely accelerate it: in other words, if we had already intended to buy someone in the summer, we bring forward that plan.

If it costs more, that’s now a reasonable price to pay because our needs and what it will be ‘worth’ to us have both increased.

As for who, I am in the Botman camp, but Carmo of Braga is another one to seriously consider if the idea is to look at landing a younger player who can feature now, but be a challenger or squad player to improve once everybody is fit.

I don’t see the Reds signing two, or a high-cost senior player.

 

Should we be actively looking to move any players on?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Divock Origi during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: It’s a tough one, because on face value the injury problems we’ve already suffered would suggest moving any players on would be to our detriment.

But if Divock Origi could bring in decent money, or be used as part of the Kabak deal as rumoured, it would make sense – he’s barely played this season and beyond the usual starters we’ve got Taki, Ox, Shaq and even Jones who are all able to play in attack.

Otherwise, a lot depends on the result against Villa in the FA Cup – if we’re out, loans should be sought for the likes of Leighton Clarkson, Jake Cain and Sepp van den Berg.

JAMES: The club should look to sell Origi if there is interest, as most of the other attackers can play the No. 9 role in Liverpool’s system more effectively.

This might also open up more game time for Xherdan Shaqiri and Takumi Minamino, who both seem underused for some reason.

MATT: Please just let Origi go. Put us all out of our misery.

KARL: Origi, Larouci, Van den Berg and if there are takers and he wants game time, Adrian. The likelihood of us needing to play a third goalkeeper is low and one of the other youngsters can fill the bench spot.

Nobody else!

 

Are there any other positions we should strengthen?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Georginio Wijnaldum (R) after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: Possibly midfield if Gini does decide to leave at the end of the season, but I’d assume that is more of a long-term plan that could see a successor (maybe Alaba?) brought in over the summer.

I’d feel more comfortable sticking with the same midfield options – and trusting the likes of Clarkson and Cain if required – for the rest of the season than I would be with the reduced ranks at centre-back.

JAMES: Midfield. It’s great that Fabinho has slotted in so impressively at centre-back, and at a time when defenders who can fit competently into the middle of a back four using Liverpool’s tactics will be hard to come by it’s a huge bonus that he has settled so well in the position.

But this means another defensive midfielder in his mould is needed, as he is the only one at the club and there are apparently no youth players of his ilk ready to step up.

Good luck finding a player with the combination of size, technique and intelligence of Fabinho, though. Wilfred Ndidi is probably the closest, seeing as the club refused to ever sign Steven Nzonzi…

Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City (Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport)

Maybe Leicester should be Liverpool’s new Southampton in terms of regularly buying players from one team, so may as well sign James Justin too.

MATT: I’d take Erling Haaland…!

KARL: Other than a versatile defensive performer, such as someone who can cover both sides at full-back, I don’t think additional signings are needed and wouldn’t expect us to be adding numbers for the sake of it.

 

Finally, any leftfield suggestions for targets?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 18, 2017: Olympique Lyonnais' Memphis Depay during a training session at Goodison Park ahead of the UEFA Europa League Group E match against Everton. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: I’m not sure if this even counts as leftfield but since Barca appear to be pulling out of a move for Memphis Depay, why not swoop in?

He only turns 27 in February, he’s scored 62 and assisted 47 in 155 games for Lyon, he’s a leader who is as comfortable on the left as he is up front and, into the final months of his contract, is claimed to be available for just £4.5 million in January.

Sure, he was a Manc, but given how he was treated at Old Trafford that barely counts in my eyes. Origi out, Depay in?

JAMES: William Saliba at Arsenal. A talented defender they apparently don’t want to use.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Friday, October 30, 2020: Arsenal's William Saliba during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Arsenal FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's at Meadow Park. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A centre-back who always pops up when using data to look for players similar to Van Dijk is Duje Caleta-Car of Marseille.

New work permit rules have opened up the South American market, and though it looks like Man United have already stolen a march on one of the most talented young players in that region, Moises Caicedo, the club should have scouts looking for players who now qualify for a work permit where they wouldn’t have before.

Flamengo midfielder Gerson might be worth a look, as might versatile midfielder/right-back Gabriel Menino of Palmeiras. Both would get work permits.

Also, look at cutting losses on the injury-prone Naby Keita and replace him with someone like Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from Fulham…

Another leftfield option, which I’m not 100 percent sure on myself, would be to sign a right-back, maybe Tariq Lamptey (or Justin), and shift Trent Alexander-Arnold into midfield.

MATT: I’m on board with the Depay shout from Jack, for sure. Seems a very ‘moneyball’ signing and we need the depth this season.

Also, next season isn’t all of a sudden going to be easy, the effects of this season will continue and injuries will be just as apparent. Get the depth sorted now.

Origi out and Depay in for the same money. Make it happen.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 5, 2020: Aston Villa's Ezri Konsa looks dejected as his side lose 2-0 during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KARL: I beat the Memphis drum all summer long, so I’ll happily jump on board once more!

Timing and finances make this window nothing but guesswork usually, so for a completely out-there (and probably longer-term) target, I’d like Liverpool to be watching Ezri Konsa with interest.

He has been one of the league’s best and most consistent defenders in 2020 and has many of the traits which suit our style of play. I’m happy to wait until summer to sign Nkunku, Konate and half a dozen other Leipzig players…

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