Liverpool Transfers: 6 Defenders Who Would Make the Reds Unbeatable Next Season
Is this topic a bit premature to debate?
Has Liverpool really lost it in the defence department, too? I’d say no.
2012 hasn’t been kind at all to the Reds. Since the turn of the New Year, Liverpool have won three, drawn three and lost nine games. That kind of record reflects the performance of a relegation-threatened club and not that of an 18-time champion.
Much of it is down to the Reds strikers failing to convert their chances—a theory which proved to be accurate against West Brom on Sunday. Liverpool, however, had maintained a tight defensive system on all teams in the Premier League.
At one point, Liverpool’s defence was letting in goals at a rate of less than one per game, a record only bettered by a then-high-flying Manchester City. The partnership of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger deserves all the praise for that.
But with Agger dropping out of the scene with an injury, Liverpool’s defence record started getting leaky. Three goals in 10 minutes versus QPR followed and pundits were quick to label Liverpool as a shaky defence.
Tough times happened and at one point even two-goal leads wouldn’t assure a Reds victory. Glen Johnson’s silly error against West Brom only asserted the obvious.
The reason for such a drastic defensive slide was of course the lack of talented backup options in the centre-half and full-back departments for Liverpool.
Consider this: Jose Enrique has practically no competition for his left-back position. Even when he was down on form, Kenny Dalglish had to play either Glen Johnson or Daniel Agger out of position to fill in for Enrique.
The centre-back problem became very clear during the absence of Agger. Carragher can’t be trusted with the job anymore. His old legs just don’t have much life left in it.
Coates’ problem has always been a lack of playing time, which he is unlikely to get unless something big goes down.
What Liverpool need then are a couple of defenders who would not only provide competition for places but also are capable of plugging the gaps during another player’s absence.
So, listed here are a bunch of top-class international talents who very much fall under the "reasonable transfer targets" category. Let’s roll…
Fabricio Coloccini, Newcastle United
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Coloccini has had an upturn of fortunes at club and personal levels.
Given the armband following Kevin Nolan’s departure to relegated West Ham United earlier in the season, Coloccini’s astute leadership and some brilliant team effort has allowed Newcastle to be active in the pursuit of Champions League dreams.
Coloccini also features in PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year alongside Man City’s Vincent Kompany.
His interception rate of two per game is one of the best in the league amongst centre-backs and his clearance rate of almost five per game is a mark of the number of times he has rescued Newcastle from direct threat.
He also wins a healthy average of two tackles every game—a figure bettered only by Vincent Kompany.
A realistic target who would come in the price range of 10 to 12 million euros, Coloccini’s age should not prove a stumbling block if Liverpool are interested in the candidate, as he fits the bill as an excellent backup option.
Raul Albiol, Real Madrid
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Raul Albiol has been in the opposite end of the spectrum. He has seen things go from good to bad and now, to worse.
How else can you describe the lack of opportunities for this 26-year-old ex-Valencianista?
Reduced to a worse than bit-part role at Madrid, Albiol has only started eight times this season for Madrid in all competitions. The versatile defender, who can slot in as a right-back and defensive mid, will definitely look for a move away from the Bernabeu.
Albiol’s most significant aspect is his passing ability but is equally notorious for his desire to clear the ball rather than produce a counterattacking situation.
In any case, Albiol’s presence in the Liverpool lineup, if bought, will ensure that screw-ups like the one that led to Nikica Jelavic scoring in the FA Cup semifinal won’t happen.
Albiol should be a good buy, especially if he is available for six to eight million euros, which he should be.
And if Liverpool manage to snatch him, then they have an able defender who is capable of holding down his fort during one-on-ones and is also a better backup option than Carragher.
Jan Vertonghen , Ajax Amsterdam
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Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen is currently the eye candy for several top clubs.
He is perhaps going through the most successful phase of his career so far. The 25-year-old skipper of Ajax rose to prominence because of his neat and solid defending style at the back.
His ability to score goals makes him a great set-piece threat as well. Other good aspects of Vertonghen’s playbook includes his ability to tackle fine.
Vertonghen’s tackle success stands at more than three a game, while his 90 percent passing success rate is definitely appealing.
His ability to play in the midfield, too, will appeal to clubs. His good passing, tackling and interception success rates makes him the able defensive mid replacement as well.
Vertonghen’s performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford during the Europa league Round of 16 came in for praise from the footballing community.
Vertonghen will be slightly expensive than the other two but significantly cheaper than what Liverpool shelled out to get Stewart Downing from Aston Villa last summer. The presence of Luis Suarez, Vertonghen’s former teammate at Ajax, at Anfield may likely be an influential factor for Liverpool if they target him.
Mehdi Benatia, Udinese
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Benatia is a 25-year-old Moroccan international defender playing for Italian Serie A side Udinese.
Benatia, like Vertonghen, is the first-choice centre-back for his club. His best attribute is his ability to read the ball well that allows him to break up opposition advances quite easily.
His tackle success rate of around four a game is quite high, even for a defensive, slow-paced league such as the Serie A. His only criticism, however, is his ability to give away a foul rather easily.
He concedes an unhealthy three fouls per game on average, but that may be down to the difference in refereeing standards of Serie A.
Benatia joined Udinese in the summer of 2010 and has quite a few years left to run on his contract, which would only mean a pricy situation.
But if Liverpool want a direct replacement for Skrtel or Agger, then Benatia is the man for them.
Adil Rami, Valencia
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Adil Rami needs no introduction.
A 26-year-old French defender with a fiery attitude who plays for Valencia C.F., Rami is quite the threat when it comes to goal-scoring situations from set pieces.
He has scored many vital goals for the teams that he has represented throughout his career. His strength in the air is perhaps his best attribute.
Rami’s style of play best suits a team that plays possession football, but that shouldn’t put off suitors.
He is very good at adapting himself to the demands of the situation and that is one vital quality which is a rare component in modern-day players.
Rami joined his current club during the summer transfer window of the 2011-12 season. And that means he has gotten a lot of years to run down on his contract and would once again represent a pricy situation.
But overall, Rami’s price range should be less than what Chelsea paid to SL Benfica for David Luiz in 2011. Liverpool can keep their tabs open on this player because he may be tempted by a switch to Merseyside.
Leighton Baines, Everton FC
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Somebody just went, “Oh, really!”
Yes, really. Leighton Baines is a reasonably unreasonable target. Let me explain that.
Baines perhaps was the first-choice left-back target for Kenny Dalglish back in the summer. He would have hoped to convince Baines to jump across Stanley Park til the very last, but he failed.
That should explain the very late signing of Jose Enrique from Newcastle.
Getting Baines from across the town is a tough task because firstly, Liverpool are behind Everton in the Premier League points table.
Secondly, the switch across town will anger fans and families alike.
Third, Baines can easily say no.
But if Dalglish does manage to pull off a coup of sorts by landing Baines, then that would not just represent competition for Jose Enrique, but it would mean more teeth to the attack.
In case you haven’t noticed, Liverpool’s full-backs hardly contribute to the scoring charts. This has been a phenomena ever since the departure of John Arne Riise.
With Baines, however, that isn’t an issue. A qualified threat when taking set pieces, Baines’ never-ending stamina and the ability to stay injury-free makes him a bargain target.
Baines also suits the pass-and-move style of play and is a better crosser of the ball than what Downing and Enrique has been so far for Liverpool.
Baines also contributes a lot to the Everton attacking system and can easily make the transition to a Liverpool squad in dire need of life down the flanks.
There is no problem in Liverpool chasing his signature, but unless the player himself lets David Moyes know that he is interested, don’t expect Everton to accept any kind of a bid for Baines.
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So then, you’ve gone through the list and now there are some questions that need answering.
What do you think of the list?
Are Liverpool’s defensive frailties the reason for the mega fail?
Do you think that Liverpool need a major overhaul for the new season?
Is Kenny Dalglish still the right man to lead the team?
Please post your views in the comments section and have a good debate on the list put up here.
Source for stats mentioned: www.whoscored.com