Everyone knows that Liverpool need to spend money this summer.
Liverpool have a good squad but do not have enough great players and Brendan Rodgers will have to address that during this close season. The Reds will, over time, obviously look to replicate the style of play that Swansea used to such great effect last season and in order to do this, there will need to be new acquisitions. Any buys will have to tick a number of boxes before Rodgers will even consider him.
The most important factor in a player (besides ability) for Rodgers is hunger and this tends to go hand in hand with youth. Rodgers looks for players who are hungry for success, who will put in that extra shift to improve, who won’t be afraid of hard work. This is vital for the type of style Rodgers likes to play.
Rodgers likes to play a possession game, keeping the ball, being patient and stifling the opposition. This is effective for a variety of reasons. A tactic Pep Guardiola adopted last season was to field as many ball retaining players as possible for the simple reason that if you have the ball you cannot then concede, so from a defensive point of view, possession football is a very useful style to adopt.
The opposite is also true, and Rodgers says it simply:
For me it is quite logical. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the ball you can’t score.
Having the ball for long periods of time will cause the opposition to become impatient and players will then be pulled out of position as they go looking for the ball.
It is during these moments that chances will be created. This will happen increasingly more often throughout the game as having the ball is a lot less tiring than running around the pitch chasing shadows. As tiredness kicks it, concentration will drop.
Without the ball, Rodgers likes to play a high pressing game. It is not as simple as running after the ball like a headless chicken; players need to close down areas of space collectively and at the right moments. This requires tactical astuteness as well as a high work-rate and a good team mentality.
When you look at Swansea, they play with a high line and a sweeper keeper. Their midfield is packed full of players who don’t give the ball away and whose off the ball movement is very intelligent. On the wings they have direct, pacy players and up front a striker who ultimately is there to finish off the chances created—though he also needs to contribute to the pressing game.
Keeping this is mind, there are certain areas that Liverpool need to invest in if they want to replicate Swansea’s style of play to the greatest effect. If they can do this, then next season could be very interesting as Liverpool’s calibre of player is much higher than Swansea’s, both offensively and defensively so if Rodgers can impose his style of play on the team, our performances could be very exciting indeed.
Starting in defence, Liverpool have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and one whose speciality is being a sweeper-keeper. Having learnt his game at Barcelona (who Brendan Rodgers has spent a lot of time studying), there are not many keepers who are better at anticipating a ball over the top, and arguably none who have better distribution with their feet.
Clearly, despite Pepe Reina’s poor form last season, we do not need to buy a new goalkeeper. A back-up goalkeeper might have been an issue but since Doni impressed in his performances towards the end of the season and has recently claimed that he is happy at Liverpool, we probably have enough cover, especially when you consider we also have Brad Jones and Peter Gulacsi.
At full-back both Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique are good enough and will both be suited to the style of play we will look to impose.
Enrique’s form dipped halfway through the season and with the departure of Fabio Aurelio – who was a classy player but made of glass – we may need to sign competition for him to keep him on his toes. Jack Robinson might have something to say about that though, he is highly rated and will become a top full back in time, but it is down to Rodgers to decide whether next season might be a bit too soon for him or not.
With Martin Kelly, Johnson has plenty of competition for his starting place so no problem there.
In the centre of defence, Liverpool have arguably the best defensive partnership in the league. However, there is talk that Martin Skrtel has had his head turned and so if he were to leave he would need replacing. This would not be impossible, he has had a great season but there are defenders out there who could take his place. Hopefully he will stay though.
Coates looks like a huge prospect (literally, being 6’6″), and having had a season to settle in, he should be more than ready to take over from Jamie Carragher as third choice centre back.
Now to the dilemma of Carragher himself. The Liverpool legend has had a magnificant playing career but he does not have the legs anymore to be anything but a liability when playing in a high line (look at John Terry under AVB).
Carragher could stay on as fifth choice centre back, playing in the Carling Cup and Europa League games to guide the younger players through it, but we would need to sign more cover at centre back, unless Rodgers deems Kelly, Andre Wisdom or Danny Wilson ready to play at the highest level in that position.
Moving on to midfield, Liverpool have three players who would be perfect in Rodgers’ system.
Lucas could play the Leon Britton role, recycling possession and pressing quickly and intelligently. Henderson would be ready-made for Joe Allen’s role, never giving away possession, using the ball intelligently and running with high intensity throughout the game.
Gylfi Sigurdsson plays a very similar game to Steven Gerrard, and with Gerrard being Gerrard there are no reasons to worry about him. He will start when fit.
The problems begin to appear though when it comes to cover.
Lucas has missed a whole season through injury and it had a devastating effect on the team. I believe Henderson would be capable of playing the Britton role as Britton wasn’t what you would consider a defensive midfielder; however, this leaves another gaping hole in the midfield.
Charlie Adam would not be suited to playing the Joe Allen role; he is not agile enough and he too often looks for the ‘hollywood pass’, when under Rodgers the key thing would be patience. Alberto Aquilani could play this position but there are question marks over his willingness or ability to really settle on Merseyside.
Unless Aquilani were to return, Liverpool would either need to sign an upgrade on Henderson, or a player of similar ability to provide competition and cover for the role. A cheap/youthful back-up for Lucas would not go amiss either.
Steven Gerrard will not be able to play every single game next season and the closest thing we have to him is Jonjo Shelvey, who impressed towards the end of last season. He could play this role. However, the difference in quality between Steven Gerrard and Jonjo Shelvey is enormous, one is a world-class club legend and the other is a promising 20 year old still learning his trade.
Liverpool would need to sign a top player to fill in for Gerrard when he is not playing. Gerrard is irreplacable, we all know that, but there are international class players out there that we could sign that would be more than adequate at filling in for him.
Out wide Swansea have Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routedge.
Liverpool have Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing, Craig Bellamy, Raheem Sterling, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez (although the latter two are likely to be sold). Luis Suarez would be a perfect fit on the right hand side of a front three, as he combines a high work rate with a world class ability to create chances and score goals.
Downing had a poor debut season, and although is very good at retaining possession and crossing the ball, he lacks the sheer pace and end product to warrant a starting place. He could be a useful squad player but it might be a good idea to cut our losses on him whilst he still has value.
Craig Bellamy would be useful when fit but we cannot rely on him to play week in week out. Raheem Sterling has all of the attributes to play the role as left winger but having only recently turned 17, he cannot be expected to play every single week – although one would hope he will start a fair few games next season (even if it is only in the Europe League and the Carling Cup).
It is clear that Liverpool need to sign a left winger (we’ve needed a left winger since John Barnes left), who is pacy, direct, has a high work rate and has the ability to create and score goals. A player who combines both Suarez’s and Sterling’s attributes would do nicely.
Up front Swansea played with a mobile big man: Danny Graham. If you’d asked me at the start of last season I would have said that Andy Carroll would not be suited to playing this role, however his continued improvements from February onwards and his fantastic performances in the last few games of the season have changed my mind.
He looks fitter and more mobile – Damien Comolli recently stated that his work rate has doubled since his move from Newcastle. Liverpool still need a goal scorer though, someone you can rely on to bag 20 goals a season. These players aren’t easy to aquire or find but they are out there.
Liverpool need to sign competition for Andy Carroll, perhaps a player with a bit more pace so as to give us a different option.
To conclude, Liverpool need to sign cover at centre back, left back and defensive midfield. They also need to sign a top class midfielder, a quality left winger and a reliable finisher up front.
This is not an extortionate amount but at least 3 of these will not come cheap. FSG will need to back Brendan Rodgers in the transfer market and I believe they probably will do – more so than they would have backed Kenny Dalglish due to the awful business done last summer.
Let’s all get behind our new manager, and be as patient with him as our new-look midfield will be with the ball!