The summer is looming and the transfer market beckons for Liverpool. The club and its faithful supporters are eager to put this dismal season behind them and once again challenge for top honors both domestically and in Europe. However, even the club’s newest supporters will tell you that the present squad is just not good enough to haul Liverpool out of their quagmire of misery. So, what does the club need in order to once again pose a threat to the continent’s most elite clubs?
Looking at the squad, I can tell you right away that they need proper depth. Liverpool’s squad of senior players is thread-bare. When you look at Liverpool’s bench on a matchday, you’d notice that there are more youth players than senior players. For example, you’d see the likes of El Zhar, Plessis, Spearing, Ayala and the like. What’s notable here is that these players rarely ever get playing time. Having young players is all well and good, but when a club has an injury outbreak or when starting eleven players are fatigued, a club like Liverpool is supposed to have ample, experienced backup to successfully deal with those situations. There should be a perfect blend of youth and experience. Right now, Liverpool just has youth and even those young players are quite average.
That lack of depth has hurt Liverpool all season. Fernando Torres spent most of the season on the treatment table rather than on the pitch and it’s no secret that his notable absence played a part in Liverpool’s dismal season. Torres brings goals in bunches to the team and when he couldn’t be called upon, there wasn’t a soul at the club who could step up to the plate and deputize. I’m quite sure that Liverpool fans weren’t surprised to see David Ngog fail to impress, while Kuyt and Babel also failed to deliver when deployed as the lone striker in Liverpool’s formation.
Added to that, “Captain Courageous”, Steven Gerrard, also suffered from his own injuries this season as well as a loss of form which saw him reprimanded by his own manager at an earlier stage in the season. You expect your captain to inspire and to deliver on a regular basis. Gerrard is certainly an inspirational figure for Liverpool and he brings a lot to the team- character, determination, energy, goals and a never say die attitude reminiscent of the dramatic comeback in the 2005 Champions League Final. Notably, at a time when Gerrard couldn’t bring those things to the team, there was again not a soul who could step up to deputize. Surely, when two of your club’s most peripheral figures are MIA and you don’t have suitable replacements, then you’re in for some trouble and unfortunately for Rafael Benitez and Liverpool, they learned that lesson the hard way.
So, Liverpool need to buy some decent replacements for their starting players and if recent reports are true, then they also need to ensure that their starting players remain at the club. Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun have all been linked with moves away from Anfield. Even though their sales would help the club off the pitch, it would do them no favors on it. They need to do all that they can to retain their best players and even if they lose them, then they need to ensure that they find some decent and able-bodied replacements.
Retaining the club’s best players provides a foundation on which an efficient squad can be built. My philosophy is that there should be at least two players who can cover one position in a team. So, in my opinion, based on the formation that Rafael Benitez likes to use as well as on the weaknesses I spotted in the squad, I recommend that Benitez buys a decent Left Back, especially since the injury-prone Fabio Aurelio was released. Insua, when he returns from injury, can provide cover for him. I also recommend that he buy a suitable Right Back to provide efficient cover for Glen Johnson. A defensive midfielder is also needed and if Javier Mascherano does leave, then that means that two defensive midfielders should be bought. In that way, there would be four efficient replacements in defensive midfield, including Mascherano (if he stays), Aquilani, Lucas and the purchased player. A Right Winger may not be bought as Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez can both play there, but surely, a decent, left-footed Left Winger is needed. Babel can provide the backup for him. He hasn’t impressed that much since his arrival from Ajax, but I don’t think he’ll be sold. At least, not yet.
Now for the two most important positions in the Liverpool setup- the positions held by Gerrard and Torres. For Gerrard’s position which is behind the main striker, a player has already been bought. I’m sure many are aware of Jonjo Shelvey’s transfer. There are a number of interesting similarities between him and Gerrard (Check out my article on him entitled, “Jonjo Shelvey- Liverpool’s & England’s New Steven Gerrard” in the BPL category to find out more). Shelvey, though, is a long-term option. Remember, I said that Gerrard, especially as captain, brings a lot to the team and so, his backup has to have the ability to replicate that kind of impact, especially when it is needed most. So, a proven, goal-oriented and creative box-to-box midfielder is needed to provide capable backup for Gerrard. As for Torres’ position, a goal-machine is needed. If Liverpool find themselves two goals down in a vital Premier League or Europa League match, I can’t help but think that Liverpool fans won’t break out into jubilant song at the sight of David Ngog coming onto to the pitch to try and change the game. A proven and potent goalscorer is needed.
So, that’s what Liverpool needs if they are to once again strike morbid fear into their opponents. Whether Rafael Benitez gets the funds necessary to make those purchases remains to be seen. Reports suggested that he would only have 5 million pounds at hand this summer, but recent reports have increased that transfer kitty to 15 million pounds plus whatever money is made through player sales. If those reports are true, then unfortunately, that is just not enough. What does the future hold for this club? Unfortunately for the club’s loyal supporters, they will have to wait with bated breath.