Liverpool Transfer Rumours: 5 Great Holding Midfielder Options
Liverpool for the rest of the season need a holding midfielder who can replicate the number of tackles, interceptions and passes Lucas Leiva makes—so forget Yann M'Vila, Mauricio Isla, Sandro, Seydou Keita, etc.
It was painfully evident against Bolton Wanderers when Kenny Dalglish's disinterested men not only had no main guy starting the play, but also had a lack of defensive cover for the back four when hit on the counter-attack.
It's become the story of their season, and if Liverpool are to turn around their lacklustre Premier League campaign, they could do with signing one of these guys before the January transfer window closes.
The 26 year-old often stays in front of the back four and either moves in to cut out opposition play or stops surging runs into Madrid's final third.
A very strong and accurate player in the tackle, Diarra is Liverpool's best bet of replacing Lucas' tackling ability, as he makes on average 4.4 successful tackles per game.
He's not as good as intercepting, which can make him a non-factor against great passing sides, but seen as the Reds aren't playing Arsenal or Swansea City all season, Diarra would make a great signing and has been linked with a loan move.
Lars Bender has emerged this season as one of the Bundesliga's finest midfielders, as he carries Bayer Leverkusen forward.
The 22 year-old is a holding midfielder who is starting to have a very complete game—he scores goals, he makes assists, he hits a lot of key passes, he hits the most passes overall and he makes the most tackles and interceptions.
Bender isn't as good as Lucas in the tackle, but he is the better player at intercepting and is a more forward-thinking defensive midfielder—a combination which sounds perfect given Liverpool's current predicament (just 25 league goals scored in 22 games).
Director of football Damien Comolli was said to be keen on the young midfielder, having made several personal scouting trips himself, with the Reds rumoured to be lining up a £12 million bid.
He'd be a great signing for the Reds if they could get him, or his twin brother Sven Bender, who is equally as good for Borussia Dortmund.
Maxime Gonalons has emerged this season as the finest holding midfielder in France, earning rave reviews for his performances with Lyon.
The 22 year-old, like Lars Bender in the previous slide, is a player who has got a bit of everything—he too can score a goal, make an assist, create a goalscoring chance for a teammate, hit a plethora of Xavi Hernandez-esque long balls, as well as make loads of tackles and interceptions of course.
All it needs is one look at Gonalons to see he's exactly what Liverpool need right now—a strong tackler who breaks up play and starts attacks.
The France international isn't as technically good in the tackle as Lucas Leiva (but still is great), and slightly worse at intercepting, but he's much better at spreading the play, hitting 5.7 accurate long balls per game on average compared to Lucas' 3.9 per match.
Gonalons has been linked to Premier League rivals Arsenal, but would be a much better fit at Anfield.
A less celebrated midfielder than the others on this list, Cagliari defensive midfielder Radja Nainggolan has been earning a lot of recognition for his performances in Serie A this season.
Another technically very gifted player, the Belgium international is characteristic of the talent coming out of his country at the moment—knows the art of defending, but focuses more on what can be done further up the field, being able to hit several key passes, long balls, through balls and able to make assists.
He's a strong tackler and very good at intercepting. While he's not up to Lucas' standards on that front, the Brazilian could learn a thing or two from Nainggolan about when to play out of danger and when to just clear the lines.
And the 23 year-old is another forward thinking holding midfielder who sprays the play better than Lucas, and has a better passing accuracy rate.
Javi Martinez, along with Fernando Llorente and now Iker Muniain, is always a name from Athletic Bilbao bandied about almost every transfer window.
The 23 year-old should be playing at a bigger club, that's for sure. And given their situation it should be Liverpool.
The Reds struggle against in-form sides who pass the ball around—and that's where Martinez helps. He makes 4.6 interceptions per game, almost double the amount Lucas does, and one of the best in Europe.
He's also much better at knowing when to clear his lines than most midfielders in the game, and is better at spreading the play than any outfield Liverpool player.
The Spain international has long been linked with the Reds, and would be the ideal player to thrust them back into the Champions League.